Too high? Brooklyn Judge mulling Pierhouse penthouse arguments
At issue is 20-foot wedge of $6 million penthouse
The Brooklyn Heights Association (BHA) and the preservationist group Save The View Now (STVN) were in state Supreme Court again on Thursday to argue that a section of the Pierhouse hotel/residential complex under construction at Pier 1 in Brooklyn Bridge Park juts into the protected Scenic View District, and that SV-1 zoning rules have been incorrectly applied.
The SV-1 district extends over an area west of the Brooklyn Heights Promenade to protect the views of the Lower Manhattan skyline, Governors Island, the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge.
State Supreme Court Justice Lawrence Knipel heard both side’s arguments – which he described as “zealous and eloquent” — and reserved his decision. His judgement is expected within several weeks.
STVN and BHA contend that a survey commissioned by STVN found that the $6 million penthouse apartment extends almost 20 feet into the protected Scenic View District, blocking iconic views of parts of the Brooklyn Bridge.
The penthouse sits atop the shorter section of the complex at 130 Furman St.
BHA and STVN 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.
Stephen Guterman, founder of Save The View Now, told the Brooklyn Eagle in December 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.”
Attorneys from the park, the city and Toll Brothers are arguing that the community groups 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.
The community’s attorney, Jeffrey Baker from Young/Sommer LLC, said that information that would have allowed the groups to contest the development’s height was not available at the time.
In an affidavit, Councilmember Stephen Levin, who sits on the board of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation, said that board members were never given important information about decisions made by the developer regarding how the Scenic View District sightlines were calculated.
He said he was “very dismayed” that the Department of Buildings and the park staff would, in his opinion, “misinterpret the clear language of the Zoning Resolution that mandates that Point A be located along the face of the [Brooklyn Heights] Promenade and instead did not object when the developer chose to locate that point hanging in mid-air.”
An attorney for the park objected to the last-minute affidavit.
“It’s late, what’s the harm?” Justice Knipel asked.
“In this heavily-litigated case, now the councilman comes up with an affidavit when you walk into the courthouse . . . There is no opportunity to rectify any of these statements for accuracy,” the park attorney said.
Justice Knipel allowed the affidavit to be introduced and said he would not rule from the bench. “Give me three weeks to put [my decision] into print,” he said.
A spokesperson for the park said in a statement, “Brooklyn Bridge Park takes its responsibility to protect the Special Scenic View District seriously, and we’ve worked to ensure that the Pier 1 development, which will provide essential park funding, is in compliance with the District’s restrictions.”
Last September, Justice Knipel dismissed an earlier lawsuit against the Pierhouse, marking the second loss for STVN in court.
State Sen. Daniel Squadron and Councilmember Levin issued a joint statement last Thursday saying that, at the request of constituents, they had reviewed the Zoning Resolution establishing the Scenic View District and the SV-1, as well as calculations from the developer and city pertaining to the Pier 1 project.
“It is our view that SV-1 zoning rules have been incorrectly applied,” they wrote. “This incorrect application should be addressed, and compliance with the SV-1 zoning rules should be ensured.”
On Tuesday, BHA and STVN, in a joint statement, denied that the lawsuit was brought too late.
“Indeed, when the BHA and STVN’s attorney informed the city on November 25, 2015 that we would commence legal action, Sarah Kogel-Smucker, a Corporation Counsel attorney, responded: ‘I see this is your final notice but urge against rushing to court next week as it is unripe.’”
BHA and STVN’s statement continues, “First the city states that it is too early to bring our lawsuit, then it argues before the court that it is too late. The defendants are simply hoping that their illegal changes to the project plans for Brooklyn Bridge Park will go unnoticed.”
STVN said in June that the park failed to enforce agreements made in 2005 and 2006 with the public “to protect and improve the view of the Brooklyn Bridge from the Promenade.”
In September, Brooklyn Bridge Park President Regina Myer said in a statement, “Since Brooklyn Bridge Park’s inception in 2002, its funding plan has been straightforward: revenue from development sites within the project’s footprint supports the park’s long-term maintenance and operations.” She added, “Without those sites, there would be no Brooklyn Bridge Park.”
At court on Thursday, Sadelle Hershey-Miller, a Brooklyn Heights resident for more than 60 years, told the Eagle that she felt the developer would get his way.
“I just deplore what’s happening in this city, this state and this country. The love of money has overtaken everything else, unfortunately.”
She added, “There’s not enough teeth in the law, or interest in the neighborhood, to stop them.”
Update: This article was updated on Feb. 9 with a quote from a joint statement issued by BHA and STVN on Tuesday.
Update: An earlier version of this story listed the price of the penthouse condo at $11 million, which is incorrect. The condo has not yet sold, according to the developer. The asking price is $6,050,000.