Brooklyn Heights

Lawsuit over Pierhouse height filed against Brooklyn Bridge Park, city, Toll Brothers

December 4, 2015 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
On Thursday, the Brooklyn Heights Association and the preservationist group Save The View Now filed a joint lawsuit over the height of a section of the Pierhouse complex under construction in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Photo by Kevin Jones

On Thursday, the Brooklyn Heights Association (BHA) and the preservationist group Save The View Now (STVN) filed a joint lawsuit over the height of a section of the Pierhouse hotel/residential complex under construction at Pier 1 in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

The groups say the Department of Buildings is failing to enforce Brooklyn Heights Scenic View District (SV-1) regulations, designed to protect the view from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.

They want the court to order the developer, Toll Brothers, to halt construction of the allegedly illegal construction, and remove any portion of the building that doesn’t comply with the regulations.

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In a complaint submitted to DOB in October, STVN submitted the results of a survey (which they commissioned) which found that the luxury penthouse apartment atop the shorter section of the complex at 130 Furman St. extends almost 20 feet into the protected Scenic View Plane, blocking iconic views of parts of the Brooklyn Bridge.

On Wednesday, DOB told STVN that it had determined that no action was warranted, infuriating advocates who say the view of the Brooklyn Bridge from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade is a scenic treasure belonging to all.

“This violation of SV-1 is another example of Toll Brothers’ overbuilding of Pierhouse in disregard of the project plans,” BHA and STVN said in a joint statement. “It also exemplifies BBPC’s failure to properly oversee the project and uphold the commitments it made to the community.”

Stephen Guterman, founder of Save The View Now, told the Brooklyn Eagle that Toll Brothers had submitted papers to DOB claiming the Scenic View Plane “starts in mid-air over the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, and DOB is not contesting it.”

Toll Brothers declined to comment on the decision and lawsuit


A DOB spokesperson told the Eagle on Friday, “In coordination with the Law Department, DOB will assist in the review of any court filings regarding this site. We cannot comment on any potential litigation.”

The park has consistently maintained that the Pierhouse project is in complete compliance with regulations.

Belinda Cape, park spokesperson, told the Eagle, “We cannot comment on any pending litigation. As with all projects at Brooklyn Bridge Park, the Pier 1 development will comply with the scenic view zoning requirements.”

Squadron: Raises serious concerns

State Sen. Daniel Squadron, who had hand-delivered the complaint to DOB in October, said on Friday, “STVN and BHA’s filings raise serious concerns. Everyone agrees that the buildings must conform to the Scenic View Plane, and it’s critical [that] compliance occur. Along with colleagues, I’ll continue to raise these concerns with the city.”

The Pierhouse height limits were negotiated by the Brooklyn Heights Association and preservationist Otis Pearsall, among others, in 2005.

STVN said in June that the park “failed to enforce the agreements made in 2005 and 2006 with the public to protect and improve the view of the Brooklyn Bridge from the Promenade.”

Judi Francis, president of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense Fund, a coalition of surrounding community organizations advocating for parks, commented that Brooklyn Bridge Park, a public authority, “should be responsible to city laws and they should be required to take down whatever obstructions are there. Too bad — it is a violation of the view plane and they should abide by those laws, at whatever cost.”

Two previous suits dismissed

Pierhouse as seen from the park. Photo by Mary FrostIn September of this year, state Supreme Court Justice Lawrence Knipel dismissed an earlier lawsuit against the Pierhouse, marking the second loss for STVN in court. Justice Knipel had previously ruled against the group in June, noting that the plaintiffs waited too long to sue, pursuant to Article 78, which covers challenges to government actions. The statute of limitations for Article 78 proceedings is four months.

STVN’s survey was carried out by Arek Surveying PC in Valley Stream. In the conclusion of his report, surveyor Arek Jusiega writes:

“As shown on the survey, it is my professional opinion that the penthouse wall encroaches 19.25 [feet] inside the Scenic View Reference Line and intrudes upon the Brooklyn Bridge Scenic View Plane for a total area of 381.4 square feet at a height of 11.9 [feet] to 12.9 feet.”

BHA and STVN filed the suit against the park, New York City, the Department of Buildings and the developer Toll Brothers and others.

 


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