Brooklyn Heights

Brooklyn Heights residents blast 4-story-high “McMansion”

October 9, 2019 Lore Croghan
Fenced-in development site 27 Cranberry St. is flanked by the wooden house at 25 Cranberry St. and the brick rowhouse at 31 Cranberry St. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

Lou Greco wants permission from the city Landmarks Preservation Commission to build a new single-family house at 27 Cranberry St., one of the only empty lots in the Brooklyn Heights Historic District.

If this piece of news gives you a sense of déjà vu, you’re not alone.

The developer went through the approval process already — in 2011. After initially turning down a house design by architect and former Brooklyn Heights Association President Tom van den Bout, commissioners okayed a revised version later that year.

But in the intervening years, Greco let the development site between Hicks and Willow streets sit idle, except for a short period of time during which workers poured the house’s foundations.

The commission’s approval of van den Bout’s design expired in 2017 — which is why 27 Cranberry St. was on the preservation agency’s hearing docket on Tuesday.

A different architect, David Freire of Brooklyn Heights-based NY3 Design Group, presented a new design at the hearing.

This is the house design for 27 Cranberry St. that the Landmarks Preservation Commission rejected. Rendering by NY3 Design Group via the Landmarks Preservation Commission
This is the house design for 27 Cranberry St. that the Landmarks Preservation Commission rejected. Rendering by NY3 Design Group via the Landmarks Preservation Commission

Commissioners gave it a thumbs-down and told him to assemble a presentation with more information in it. The presentation needs to more effectively show how visible 27 Cranberry St.’s penthouse would be to the neighbors. And it needs to show how much the new house would encroach on the “donut” — meaning the green space in the interior of the block — compared with other houses there.

Greco did not respond to a call and email from the Brooklyn Eagle asking why development at the site has been stalled for such a long time.

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He’s a principal of real estate firm Second Development Services and the managing member of the LLC that bought 27 Cranberry St. for $1.5 million in 2010, city Finance Department records indicate.

Freire’s six-level house design has three above-ground floors plus a penthouse and also a sub-cellar and cellar. The building’s facade is orangey-red brick and the penthouse is clad in grayish-blue zinc. There are big picture windows on the front of the house.

The back of the house “overwhelms its adjacent neighbors,” Commissioner Anne Holford-Smith said at the hearing.

“I don’t feel we have all the materials we need” to judge the design, Commissioner John Gustafsson said.

“The documentation needs to be as thorough as possible,” Commissioner Jeanne Lutfy said.

Public testimony about Freire’s 27 Cranberry St. was uniformly negative.

This drawing is a design for the back of the house at 27 Cranberry St. Rendering by NY3 Design Group via the Landmarks Preservation Commission
This drawing is a design for the back of the house at 27 Cranberry St. Rendering by NY3 Design Group via the Landmarks Preservation Commission

The new house would be “a peacock coming to rest on a block of modest sparrows,” Elisabeth Cunnick said. She lives next door to the site, in a two-story wood-frame house at 25 Cranberry St., built in 1829.

Construction crews at 27 Cranberry St. damaged her home in the brief time they were onsite, she said in her testimony.

Laura Winner, whose home at 30 Middagh St. sits behind 27 Cranberry St., said the scale of the proposed house was “not in character” with the rest of the block. Winner’s house was built in 1824.

Judy Stanton of the Brooklyn Heights Association said 27 Cranberry St. would be a “McMansion” and her organization has “serious objections” to its design.

The Cranberry Street property isn’t the only empty Brooklyn Heights site that Greco has left undeveloped.

Almost five years ago, he received the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s approval for a design for three rowhouses he plans to construct at 295-299 Hicks St. The fenced-in asphalt lot was being used as an open-air parking facility.

Just last month, the Buildings Department issued construction permits for the site. No work has been done there, though.

Follow reporter Lore Croghan on Twitter.

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  1. Andrew Porter

    A quick Google Search finds numerous articles about Louis Greco, also including the words “controversial” and “litigation”. He is known for his many contested developments.