Clinton Hill

Landmarks Preservation Commission calls for tweaks to plan for Clinton Hill church repairs

Facade restoration for Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew is linked to nearby apartment-development project

January 9, 2018 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Hope Street Capital plans to build an apartment tower that would be visible on the Clinton Avenue block where the Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew is located. Rendering by Morris Adjmi Architects via the Landmarks Preservation Commission
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Jeffrey Gershon’s Hope Street Capital is seeking a special zoning permit to build a 29-story apartment tower in Clinton Hill.

And restoring the nearby Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew is a crucial part of the development plan.

The firm is seeking the permit under Section 74-711 of the city Zoning Resolution. It allows the city Planning Commission to modify a development’s use and bulk regulations if a continuing maintenance program is set up for a landmark on the same zoning lot.

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As part of Hope Street Capital’s permit application, it must get the city Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) to sign off on the landmark-maintenance plan.

The site where Hope Street Capital wants to build the apartment tower is at 550 Clinton Ave.

The landmark that will get repaired and maintained is the Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew, whose address is 520 Clinton Ave.

The development site and the church are on the same block.

The developer and the church intend to combine their properties into a single zoning lot so that 60,000 square feet of air rights from the church could be transferred to the development. Two small buildings that stand between the development site and the church would also be included in the zoning lot, and would contribute air rights.

At a public hearing at the LPC’s Lower Manhattan headquarters on Tuesday, a lawyer and three architects presented Hope Street Capital’s apartment-tower design and a facade-restoration plan for the Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew.      

The pre-cast concrete and glass apartment-building design by project architect Morris Adjmi consists of a 312-foot-tall tower and a 52-foot-tall base.

At the hearing, Commissioners Diana Chapin and Jeanne Lutfy expressed concern about the quality of the construction materials that Li/Saltzman Architects, the firm in charge of the church’s restoration, plans to use for facade repairs.

One particular point of concern was a plan to do composite patch repair of deteriorating brownstone instead of replacing it in kind.

Composite lasts only 25 years, Commissioner Michael Devonshire pointed out. When it gets old, it could fall off the church facade and injure passersby.

The commission decided not to vote on the residential-development and church-repair plans. Instead, Chairwoman Meenakshi Srinivasan instructed Li/Saltzman Architects to tweak its renovation plans and then return to the commission.


The church is a disaster relief center

At the hearing, the Episcopal church’s rector, the Rev. Julie Hoplamazian, said the cost of maintaining the aging property would be unaffordable without the developer’s help.

“We have our share of building woes,” she said.  

The Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew is Northern-Italian Romanesque in style. It was designed by architect John Welch and built between 1888 and 1891. It was designated as an individual city landmark in 1981.

The back of the church is on Vanderbilt Avenue.

At the hearing, the church rector also spoke about the Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew’s deep community involvement.

It was the headquarters for Occupy Sandy hurricane cleanup efforts and continues to serve as a disaster relief center.

It has hosted a homeless shelter for 25 years.

And it serves as a “patron of the arts,” she said, by hosting the Gallim Dance Company.   


Apartment design is ‘stark to a fault,’ a critic says  

In testimony at the hearing, Patrick Waldo of the Historic Districts Council said 550 Clinton Ave.’s proposed design “echoes that of the Brutalist FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C. and appears severe in its context.”

The Clinton Avenue development’s pre-cast concrete facade is out of place on a block where sandstone and brick predominate as building materials. And the design “comes across as stark to a fault,” he said.

Hope Street Capital’s L-shaped development site stretches across an entire block of Atlantic Avenue from the corner of Clinton Avenue to the corner of Vanderbilt Avenue and extends partway up the block on Vanderbilt Avenue.

The development site is made up of several small properties that belong to two landlords. Hope Street Capital rents the properties from them through 99-year leases, city Finance Department records indicate.

The owner of part of the site is Superior Associates, with Anthony Musto as managing member, Finance Department records show. The rest of the site belongs to the Clarence A. Greifinger Declaration of Trust.

Hot Bird, a bar with an outdoor beer garden, is a tenant of one of the buildings currently standing on the development site. Other buildings on the site have a car wash and auto-repair businesses as tenants.

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