Brooklyn Heights

Heights group fighting to ‘Save the View’ of the Brooklyn Bridge loses its appeal

Decision based on timing, not merit

December 28, 2017 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Pierhouse hotel/residential complex in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

A community group fighting to preserve the iconic view of the Brooklyn Bridge from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade lost its appeal in court on Wednesday.

The NY State Appeals Court in Brooklyn made no decision on the merits of the lawsuit, but simply upheld the original decision. State Supreme Court Justice Lawrence Knipel decided in September 2015 that Save The View Now (STVN), co-founded by Brooklyn Heights resident Steven Guterman, filed its lawsuit past the four month Article 78 Statute of Limitations.

The lawsuit complains that the hotel section of the Pierhouse hotel/residential complex in Brooklyn Bridge Park is 30 feet taller than the 100 foot height limit agreed to after lengthy negotiations with the community in 2005. Now completed, the building partially blocks historic views of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Article 78 proceedings are the procedure for suing city and state agencies and governing bodies. They must be filed within four months of the date that the agency’s position on the issue becomes “readily ascertainable” to the complaining party, according to the court paperwork.

The four-judge Court of Appeals said that STVN was correct in stating that the park failed to submit proof establishing the dates of the agency approvals of rooftop structures over the height and baseline limitations. But they agreed with Knipel that STVN could have reasonably ascertained that the building height blew past the agreed-upon height limitation sooner than it apparently did — or, at the latest, by September 10, 2014, when the northern building reached its maximum height.

STVN filed their lawsuit on April 21, 2015.

“We’re pleased with yesterday’s decision which affirms Justice Knipel’s dismissal of the Pierhouse case. Like the other development projects in Brooklyn Bridge Park, this project generates much needed revenue to maintain and operate the Park,” a park spokesperson told the Brooklyn Eagle on Thursday.

STVN’s Guterman says politics played a role in allowing the oversized building.

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“We are disappointed in the decision by the appeals court.  It is a sad commentary when it is clear to Court and anybody that reads the planning documents that what Toll Brothers built is significantly larger and more obstructive than what was promised to the community in 2005, and nothing can be done,” he told the Eagle on Friday.

Guterman added, “This is a conflict of interest case that is permitted due to very weak anti-corruption legislation in New York.  It is well known that Toll Brothers is a major contributor to Mayor de Blasio’s election campaign, and the mayor’s offer helped Toll Brothers violate the promises made to the public.  The citizens of New York will continue to get ignored as long as the real estate developers are allowed to provide major funding to our politicians.  It is time for either the state or city government to place people before money and pass strict anti-corruption laws.”

Pierhouse timeline

– In 2005, Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation (BBPD) and Empire State Development Corporation (ESD) adopted a General Project Plan for the park. The final environmental impact statement (FEIS) limited the northern building to a height of 100 feet, and the southern building to a height of 55 feet. The FEIS provided that any required parapet and mechanical equipment “would be included in the proposed building envelope.”

– Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation (BBP) was established to assume responsibility for the planning, construction, maintenance and operation of the park.

– In 2011, BBP released a request for proposals (RFP) for the buildings, and then issued an amendment to the RFP stating that the height limitations would be measured from the base plane and additional height from rooftop mechanical equipment and other obstructions “will be treated in a manner consistent with the NYC Zoning Resolution,” which generally allows bulkheads and mechanical equipment to be built on top of maximum height limits.

– On June 19, 2012, the BBP board selected a developer and approved the execution of development leases.

– Presentations of the working designs, which showed various rooftop structures extending over the height limitations of the modified General Project Plan, were made to community groups.

– Following Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, the designs were amended to reflect a higher base plane. Measurement of the buildings was made from the new base plane, thereby raising the height of the buildings an additional approximate four feet.

– Building plans were filed with the Department of Buildings (DOB) in March 2013, which showed a roughly 30-foot-tall bulkhead atop the northern hotel building.

– Construction commenced in July 2013. In September 2013, the project architect presented the final designs to community groups, although revised plans were filed with the DOB thereafter.

– On September 10, 2014, the northern hotel building reached its maximum height.

– STVN filed their lawsuit on April 21, 2015, seeking to stop the construction of any portion of the building that violated the agreement, and remove it if it was already built.

–  Justice Knipel denied the motion on June 10, 2015, saying, among other things, that the group filed too late. In another action, Knipel again decided against STVN on September 21, 2015. (The Appeals Court decided on this judgement, saying it largely superseded the June decision.)

– STVN filed an appeal on October 20, 2017.

– The Appeals Court ruled against the group on December 27, 2017.

 

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