Brooklyn Heights

Design for rare new house in Brooklyn Heights rejected

January 16, 2020 Lore Croghan
This is another version of the rejected design for a new house (the building at right) at 56 Middagh St. Rendering by Pratt + Black Architects via the Landmarks Preservation Commission
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The Landmarks Preservation Commission rejected a plan for new-house construction in the Brooklyn Heights Historic District.

Commission Chairperson Sarah Carroll on Tuesday instructed architect Elizabeth Pratt to come up with a different design for a proposed house with a built-in two-car garage, which property owner Tara Comonte wants to build on outdoor space at 56 Middagh St. where she parks her cars.

The parking spaces are next door to a house Comonte owns, a Federal-style clapboard building with Greek Revival-style details that was constructed in 1829.

The architect had tried to make the new four-story house look like it was a historic home by giving it a facade covered with faux clapboard and making the garage doors look similar to carriage-house doors in Brooklyn Heights.

Commissioners did not hold a vote on Pratt’s design. Instead, they discussed their objections to it during Tuesday’s hearing.

Here’s the parking area at 56 Middagh St. where new-house construction is planned. Photo: Lore Croghan/Brooklyn Eagle
Here’s the parking area at 56 Middagh St. where new-house construction is planned. Photo: Lore Croghan/Brooklyn Eagle

Commissioners Diana Chapin and Anne Holford-Smith both suggested if the property owner wants to construct a home with a garage, a design that’s similar to a carriage house might be workable.

The design Pratt showed the Landmarks Preservation Commission is a “muddle” and the faux clapboard is a “mistake,” LPC Commissioner Michael Goldblum said.

“At one time, there were objections to new buildings in historic districts imitating historic styles. An earlier version of the Secretary of the Interior’s Guidelines took that position. One has only to look at a proposal like this to see why,” Christabel Gough of the Society for the Architecture of the City said in testimony at the hearing.

Gough called the design “fake in every respect, an impossibility historically.”

Brooklyn Heights Association representative Judy Stanton said in testimony that her organization did not support the new-house design.

Community Board 2’s Land Use Committee and Executive Committee both gave Pratt’s Middagh Street house design a thumbs-up in November.

Comonte, who owns 56 Middagh St., is Shake Shack’s president and chief financial officer.

Vacant sites for new houses are relatively rare in numerous Brooklyn historic districts, where buildings cannot be demolished without the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s permission. Development sites are especially noteworthy in the landmarked section of Brooklyn Heights, which was designated in 1965 and is New York City’s oldest historic district.

Developer Lou Greco owns two vacant sites in the Brooklyn Heights Historic District where he plans to build homes. One is 27 Cranberry St. The other is 295-299 Hicks St.

Follow reporter Lore Croghan on Twitter.

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  1. Ridiculous that they are saying clapboard is a mistake when its matching the building next door.
    Also saying “only carriage house designs can have garages……” what a joke when there is a similar design less than a block away.

    LPC yet again getting it wrong.

    • Christabel Gough

      Did you click the link? This was not a proposal to use clapboard. That would be impossible. Clapboard does not meet fire resistance standards of the NYC Building Code. The house was to be built in cement board, which might look the same in a small scale rendering, but not so much in reality.

    • Andrew Porter

      If you think they’re some secret cabal, you’re totally wrong. Do some research before you leap to conclusions. From Wikipedia:

      “The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) is the New York City agency charged with administering the city’s Landmarks Preservation Law. The Commission was created in April 1965 by Mayor Robert F. Wagner Jr.”

      • Douglas Ennis

        Still elitist snobbery and I’ll leap(life long opinion) any time I want to.. So go back to your rules and regulations bucko. It’s a fine looking structure that certainly would not offend… Well except for you and the we know better than you crowd. ijs