Fort Greene community group sues Landmarks Preservation Commission

December 16, 2020 Editorial Staff
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Preserve BAMs Historic District (PBHD) attorney Michael Gruen recently filed a petition in New York State Supreme Court on behalf of 52 plaintiffs against the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission.

The issue, according to PBHD, was the decision by the LPC to permit the construction of a 24-story skyscraper on a street comprised of mostly three- and four-story 19th century rowhouses.

The site in question, at 130 St. Felix St., is within the BAM Historic District, which was established in 1978. “The commission’s own Designation Report stresses that the essential character of the district rests on its mid-19th century modest row housing,” a statement by PBHD says.

“There are exceptions, most notably the 1929 Williamsburg Bank Building, a “sky scraper” at the time at a height of 512 feet, much of that in its narrow and graceful clock tower. It is uniquely high for the district, but it also occupies a most extreme corner of the District bordering Downtown Brooklyn.

“It had already been designated an individual landmark when the BAM district was designated, so it was protected against demolition or remodeling,” the PBHD statement continues.

The community group alleges that the construction of the new tower would partially block the view of the bank building from the south and west and would “drastically overwhelm the narrow St. Felix Street, where three- and four-story homes and their residents will be towered over and shadowed over by a 24 story massive structure.”

The Gotham Organization is the developer and has engaged architectural firm FX Collaborative to design this skyscraper. FX and Gotham’s original drawings for 130 St. Felix were criticized by the commissioners for being too tall and massive, according to the Architect’s Newspaper, a trade publication.

“However, a mere six weeks later, on August 4., the FX Collective architects’ ‘repurposed’ plan submission, allegedly intended to comport with the LPC’s original admonitions — barely altered much of anything (‘shortened ‘ from 285’ to 265’ and ‘lessened’ by a mere 3 percent in bulk from 159,000 gross square feet to 153,300 square feet)” was approved as acceptable by the LPC,” the community group said.

The website for 130 St. Felix St. says that the building, on the current site of a vacant lot, would create mixed-income homeownership as well as more space for the nearby Brooklyn Music School, now located in several row houses, and would allow the Music School to expand its programming and activities.

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