That metal facade’s got to go, Greenpoint neighbors tell the Landmarks Preservation Commission
City Landmarks Preservation Commissioners rejected a design for the largest new-construction project ever proposed in the Greenpoint Historic District.
At a Tuesday hearing, they told architect Sherida Paulsen the proposed seven-story, 33-unit apartment building with ground floor shops at 171 Calyer St. was too tall and too massive for the landmarked neighborhood — and the metal facade on the building’s top two floors was all wrong.
They instructed her to devise a new design and come back to the commission with it.
A one-story commercial building that housed a supermarket and later a gym currently stands on the development site. The property is on the opposite side of Calyer Street from the 1950s annex to the landmarked former Green Point Savings Bank, a domed granite building constructed in 1906 and designed by important architecture firm Helmle & Huberty.
PKSB Architects designed a residential conversion of the bank annex that involves enlarging it from a three-story to a five-story building.
At Tuesday’s hearing, a dozen Greenpoint residents and elected officials’ reps voiced their opposition to 171 Calyer St.’s design in passionate testimony.
“The visual impact of this uninteresting building is exacerbated by the stark grayness of the metal facade at its sixth and seventh stories,” Greenpoint Historic District resident and community activist Sante Miceli said.
Ben Dietz called the proposed development “a stark mismatch for the historic profile of Greenpoint as a neighborhood of low-rising family homes.” His house is located across the street from 171 Calyer St.
The project as designed “would create a gateway for the erosion of a New York City Landmarks designation, undermining the fundamental purpose of the Landmarks agency,” said Maria Kura, who won the New York Landmarks Conservancy’s Lucy G. Moses Preservation Award for the restoration of her Greenpoint Historic District home.
“If the proposal for the development of 171 Calyer St. is allowed to proceed, it will fundamentally change the character of our neighborhood and set a dangerous precedent for future developers seeking to maximize their financial gain at the expense of this area’s history and of their neighbors,” Noble-Lorimer Historic Block Association Vice Chairperson Lawrence Drucker said, speaking on behalf of several neighborhood block associations.
Community Board 1 Chairperson Dealice Fuller said in a letter that was read into the public record that the organization voted unanimously to oppose the project’s design.
A representative for State Assemblymember Joseph Lentol, whose district includes the area, read a letter from the politician that called the Greenpoint Historic District “a rare treasure in Brooklyn that should be preserved, not endangered.”
After a representative for City Councilmember Stephen Levin read a letter expressing his opposition to the project’s design, Levin arrived at the hearing. “The community takes their landmark district very seriously,” he testified.
A utilitarian brick building that served as a vaudeville house and then a movie theater stood at 171 Calyer St. from 1908 to 1965. Before the Greenpoint Theater was constructed, there were three-story wood-frame buildings on the property, which were similar in style and scale to the homes that populate the historic district.
In her presentation to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, Paulsen pointed to the existence of the Greenpoint Theater — which was demolished decades before the Greenpoint Historic District was designated — as a justification for the height and bulk of her apartment building design.
In her testimony, Brittney Thomas of the Historic Districts Council called the premise of Paulsen’s argument “slightly absurd.”
Salomon Cojab bought 171 Calyer St. in 1978, city Finance Department records indicate. It currently belongs to an LLC with Cojab as a member, the records show.
To increase the size of the building that can be constructed at 171 Calyer St., last year the LLC bought air rights from the owner of the adjacent property for $2,266,550, Finance Department records indicate.
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