Development will bring neighboring Vinegar Hill sites to life
Two corner sites at a prime Vinegar Hill intersection have served as parking lots for decades. Now, residential development is headed their way.
The intersection is Front and Gold streets in the quirky, picturesque waterfront Brooklyn neighborhood that’s adjacent to tourist magnet DUMBO.
One of the corner lots, 251 Front St., was just sold by a property owner who withdrew his application for rezoning that would have allowed him to construct a nine-story apartment building. The other corner lot, 265 Front St., belongs to two brothers who have parked their company’s trucks on it since the 1980s.
The planned residential developments will significantly change the streetscape in this part of Vinegar Hill. Currently, both sites are surrounded by corrugated-metal fences.
When the planned developments are completed, apartment buildings will stand on three of the intersection’s four corners. The one that’s already in existence is 99 Gold St., a former industrial property that developers Harry Kotowitz and Howard Klaus of the HK Organization purchased for $4.62 million in 2003 and converted into a residential building.
St. Ann’s is long gone
The larger of the two development sites is 251 Front St. CW Realty, which bought the property for $20 million, plans to construct a five-story, 59-unit rental apartment building there, the Real Deal reported in January.
The development firm, which is headed by real estate executive Cheskie Weisz, expects to start construction in June, REBusinessOnline reported. This timetable suggests Weisz is doing an as-of-right project that conforms to the site’s existing R6B residential zoning.
He wouldn’t have time before June to rezone the property because the legally required Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, or ULURP, process is time consuming.
Weisz didn’t respond by deadline to requests for comment about his planned development.
The site’s seller was 251 Front St. Realty Inc., whose president is Paul Tocci. He dropped his plan for a nine-story development in June 2017 after it drew opposition from local City Councilmember Stephen Levin.
In zoning votes, City Councilmembers customarily defer to the wishes of their colleague who represents the area where the rezoned property is located.
The 251 Front St. site stands beside Greek Revival-style rowhouses that extend from 237 to 249 Front St, within the Vinegar Hill Historic District. These brick homes were constructed between 1834 and 1855.
The Roman Catholic Church of St. Ann, which was constructed in 1860, was still standing at 251 Front St. when Tocci bought the site from the Catholics in 1992. He paid $535,000 for it, city Finance Department records indicate.
The Gothic-style house of worship had an eye-catching 130-foot tower. The church’s designer was Patrick Charles Keely, whose nickname was the Prince of American Catholic Architects. Tocci tore down the church shortly after making the purchase.
ULURP for 265 Front St.
As for 265 Front St., a public hearing about rezoning the property for residential use is set to take place before Community Board 2’s Feb. 19 Land Use Committee meeting.
The site belongs to Michael and Tom Spinard of TS Contracting. Goldenshtein Restaurant Equipment Manufacturing Corp. sold 265 Front St. to Thomas Spinard in 1983, city Finance Department records indicate. His brother Michael Spinard became the property’s co-owner in 1992, the records show.
It is currently zoned M1-2, which means light industrial and commercial uses and some community facilities are allowed.
The Spinard brothers are seeking a change to R6A zoning — which permits medium-density residential construction — with a C2-4 commercial overlay allowing first-floor commercial space to be built. They’d also like the property to be designated as a Mandatory Inclusionary Housing area, which would allow additional development density in exchange for including affordable apartments.
The six-story development would have nine residential apartments and about 9,500 square feet of retail space, an Environmental Assessment Statement about the project says. This document has illustrations that show the proposed building’s height as 51.5 feet.
Tom Spinard told the Brooklyn Eagle he and his brother decided to propose a modestly sized building for the 265 Front St. site because of guidance from the City Planning Department.
“They sort of hinted what would work and what wouldn’t work. So if they hinted something, why give them something that’s definitely not going to pass?” he said.
Landmarked rowhouses next door
Spinard said he and his brother have hired an architect for their project, but he declined to reveal the person’s name. The architect hasn’t yet drawn up the development’s final design.
“I told the architect when it’s finally all said and done, I want something that matches the neighborhood — you know, that’ll look right, with brick and a nice finish,” Spinard said. “I don’t think I want something all glass.”
Website New York YIMBY was the first media outlet to report about the planned development at 265 Front St., with a story in late January.
Right next to 265 Front St., there are Greek Revival-style brick homes from 69 to 77 Gold St. They were built between 1841 and 1852. They are part of the Vinegar Hill Historic District.
A warehouse occupies part of the site at 265 Front St. The prefabricated steel building is a temporary structure constructed around 1985 in which the Spinard brothers parked their company’s trucks, the Environmental Assessment Statement says.
From about 1950 until 1985, a paper company located across the street used 265 Front St. as a parking lot, the assessment statement notes. There are indications that there was housing on the site before 1950.