Brooklyn Heights

Brooklyn Heights neighbors furious over unpermitted work at former LICH property

December 23, 2015 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
This photo shows some of the illegal demolition at the rear of 43 Columbia Pl. in Brooklyn Heights, one of 20 former LICH properties. Neighbors are upset that the new owner, who shares an address with the former owner, continues to do work despite numerous violations. Photo courtesy of a community member

Fortis sold Willowtown building, but current ownership murky

Neighbors are fuming that the owner of a multifamily building in the Willowtown section of Brooklyn Heights has continued demolition work despite numerous violations reported to the Department of Buildings over more than a month.

Real estate websites have already listed apartments at 43 Columbia Pl., one of the 20 former Long Island College Hospital (LICH) properties bought by developer Fortis Property Group.

Members of the community as well as the Willowtown Association, however, say they have called in numerous complaints about unpermitted work there, and are pushing to have the work halted.

Despite the violations and a Partial Stop Work order, the work has continued unabated, says Linda DeRosa, president of the Willowtown Association.

“At this point they have completely destroyed the rear façade of the building and are doing roof work including installing AC units without approvals,” she said in a letter of complaint to local officials last week.

Neighbors said that the new owner appeared to be adding an illegal penthouse or other roof structure.

Last week, the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) issued a violation for unpermitted work on the front façade and roof, and another for the ongoing alterations to the rear façade, including enlarging openings, installing doors and constructing terraces. A third violation was issued for the removal of windows.

Representatives of Councilmember Stephen Levin’s office told the Brooklyn Eagle that they have reached out to the Department of Buildings (DOB) and the LPC.

“DOB and LPC were on-site yesterday with our staff and DOB is planning to do a full audit of the building plans to assess the work being done,” Casey Adams, Levin’s deputy chief of staff, said on Tuesday. “We will continue to monitor the situation and facilitate communication between concerned constituents and agencies as the issue is being reviewed.”

Peter Bray, executive director for the Brooklyn Heights Association, told the Eagle that the building’s owner has retained Brooklyn Heights architect Tom van den Bout, “which seems to indicate that they are no longer ignoring the warnings they have received and are prepared to remedy the illegal work.”

Whether the unpermitted work would be able to stand is unclear, but would be subject to LPC review and approval.

Ownership of building is unclear

The ownership of 43 Columbia Pl. is murky. Numerous city records indicate that the new owner shares an address with a former owner.

According to documents filed with the City Register, Fortis Property Group, under the name of FPG Ch 43 Columbia, LLC, bought the property from SUNY via the Downstate at LICH Holding Company on Sept. 1, 2015 for just over $5 million.

FPG Ch 43 Columbia, LLC sold the property nine days later, on Sept. 10, 2015, for roughly $2.6 million to a company with a similar name: FPG Ch 43 Columbia Holdings LLC. This company’s address is listed as 5308 13th Ave. #165 in Brooklyn.

Applications to the LPC to do work in a historic district must be signed by the owner of the property, according to LPC rules. For interior renovations at 43 Columbia Pl., the LPC in August issued a permit to a Charles Wurzburger of Marion Holdings 201 LLC, also listed at 5308 13th Ave. #165 in Brooklyn.

In a superseding letter regarding a contractor, filed with DOB on Oct. 30, 2015, the owner/manager was listed as a David Sinai (also spelled Sinay). City documents list his address as 5308 13th Ave. #165 as well.

A search on Google found that 5308 13th Ave. is a cell phone store that rents mailboxes in Borough Park.

 

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