Community Reaction to Press Praise of South Slope Blockbuster

From Aaron Brashear, Concerned Citizens of Greenwood Hts.
aaron@ccgreenwoodhts.com

To the Editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle,

While I can appreciate your paper’s want to highlight new residential development in the borough of Brooklyn, I feel you have made a grave mistake in publishing what reads as a complete shilling for 162 16th Street, aka “The Vue,” in your article “Views at ‘The Vue’ in South Slope Will Never be Obstructed,” by Linda Collins, published online 10-30-2007 ( http://www.brooklyneagle.com/categories/category.php?category_id=5&id=16399).

Shame on you!

Ms. Collins did get one fact right when she interviewed developing partner Barry Katz: “A new 10-story condominium building that may have contributed to the downzoning of the side streets in Park Slope and South Slope.” Yes, out-of-scale buildings such as this were the impetus of the South Slope/Greenwood Heights rezoning in November 2005. Grandfathered in under old zoning, however, 162 16th St. has been and is the poster child for development gone wrong in Brooklyn.

This particular structure has plagued the residents of 16th Street and Prospect Avenue in South Park Slope with a myriad of Department of Buildings and Environmental Control Board violations that have directly affected their, and the surrounding area’s, quality of life. Even though this article appears to be an advertorial, I’d like to point out a few facts in this article that are incorrect or misleading:

1. “ . . . 162 16th St. is set back to match the line of adjacent homes . . . ” This is not true. The building is not aligned with the street wall. It is considerably set back from adjoining properties on the block. This tactic, lessening bulk to gain height, is what the developer employed to acquire those “views.” While allowed under building code, the decision to set the building back from the street wall was not made for any contextual or aesthetic reason, but solely to maximize the building’s Floor Area Ratio in a way to get as much height as possible.

2. “ . . . the developers have created off-street parking with 37 spaces for 45 units, greatly lessening the impact tenants’ cars would have on the street and neighborhood.” New York City building code REQUIRES off-site accessory parking for any building over 10 units. Mr. Katz and his partners are giving no benefit to the community; these parking spaces are a requirement. It should be noted that the developer does not have to allocate these parking spaces for the residents of the building. They may be rented or sold to outside parties, in effect worsening the parking congestion for the residents in the area, not improving it.

3. “And the views will not change. The aforementioned downzoning will ensure a lifetime of unobstructed views.” Mr. Katz’s observation, “The views. We are sitting at the top of the slope and from the third floor up, the views are incredible,” underlines Ms. Collins’s statement. But let’s consider the veracity of these statements.

The rezoning of 2005 mandated lower density on side streets of South Park Slope while deeming the major avenues suitable for higher density, especially Fourth Avenue, with an allowable maximum height of 12 stories. As of this writing, a proposed 12-story building is planned right down the street from the “The Vue” on Fourth Avenue, between 16th Street and Prospect Avenue, which would block the view from “The Vue.” Perhaps Mr. Katz and Aguayo & Huebener Realty, the real estate firm representing “The Vue,” should explain that to potential buyers. There are many more proposed “as-of-right” 12-story building projects on Fourth Avenue, any of which may block those “unobstructed views.”

4. “Designed by Karl Fischer Architects . . .” This is incorrect. The architect of record for the entire project is renowned “bad-boy” architect Henry Radusky of Bricolage Designs. After repeatedly and grievously breaking building and zoning code, Mr. Radusky lost his right to professionally certify in New York City in 2003. With 162 16th St., Mr. Radusky and his firm have not only produced another cookie cutter Bricolage building, but have created countless wasted hours of work at the Department of Buildings with multiple plan exams, refillings and repeat inspections for building and zoning violations, dating back to the summer of 2005. In fact, the property was found to have deficient plans as recently as July 2007 and the DOB’s Stop Work Order in response to this recent plan review was only recently lifted. Reviews are still pending.

Any affiliation with Karl Fischer Architects is a ruse and, in my personal opinion, adds no cache to the condos’ sale value, in the fact that Karl Fischer Architects has its share of controversial projects, many of which blight the South Slope along with those of Bricolage Designs.

5. “The building should be ready for occupancy in late 2007 or early 2008.” The building has yet to obtain a temporary certificate of occupancy and very well may not receive one if its multitude of building and zoning code infractions are not addressed by the development team and approved by the DOB.

In closing, as a community activist who fought this building and ones like it at 182 15th Street (a failed 12-story “sister” project of Mr. Katan’s, which lost its vesting appeal at the Board of Standards and Appeals in 2006) during the rezoning and to this day and now as chair of Brooklyn Community Board 7’s Buildings & Construction Sub-committee, I find it abhorrent that Ms. Collins and this paper’s editorial staff did not do proper research into this controversial project before publishing a one-sided shill of an article on behalf of this development team. It is the written equivalent of spitting in the face of this community and its long-suffering residents.

I encourage you to do further and responsible research on this property and write a more factual and well-rounded article on 162 16th Street, which presents all sides of “The Vue,” not just the view to the bank seen by the development team and real estate agency.

Sincerely,

Aaron Brashear
Chair, Buildings & Construction Sub-Committee, Brooklyn Community Board 7
Co-Founder, The Concerned Citizens of Greenwood Heights

*****************
The offending article….

It Looms Large But Was Built As-of-Right
By Linda Collins
Brooklyn Daily Eagle

SOUTH SLOPE — A new 10-story condominium building that may have contributed to the downzoning of the side streets in Park Slope and South Slope, has risen on 16th Street near 5th Avenue, a block comprised of low-rise mostly three-story, two- and three-family homes.

It stands out on the street, but it was all built as of right, according to Barry Katz of Fairmont Capital, one of the developers. And Katz and partner Isaac Katan of The Katan Group — known for a multitude of new condominium projects in the Park Slope area in recent years and a partner in the Domino Sugar development in Williamsburg — have made an effort to blend in.

For one thing, the building, at 162 16th St., is set back to match the line of adjacent homes and has landscaped gardens and seating areas out front, again to match the gardens and seating areas of the row of homes.

For another, the developers have created off-street parking with 37 spaces for 45 units, greatly lessening the impact tenants’ cars would have on the street and neighborhood.

Asked what he thought is unique about the building, however, Katz promptly replied, “The views. We are sitting at the top of the slope and from the third floor up, the views are incredible.”
Indeed, a
recent tour of the building proved this to be so. And the views were in all directions: from the Verrazano Bridge, New Jersey and Staten Island to New York Harbor and Statue of Liberty and the entire New York City skyline. In the completed model units — designed by Apherea, a Brooklyn-based interior design and home staging firm — one could just imagine what it would be like going to sleep and waking up to those views, especially with the floor-to-ceiling windows and balconies in every unit.

And the views will not change. The aforementioned downzoning will ensure a lifetime of unobstructed views.

Designed by Karl Fischer Architects and Lessard Design Associates, the new building will include a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units ranging in size from 671 square feet to 1,168 square feet, with prices ranging from approximately $380,000 to more than $900,000. The units are being sold by Peggy Aguayo at Aguayo & Huebener Realty, who reports that of 25 units released by the owners, 15 are in contract.

Completion is 90 percent complete, according to Katz, who said other amenities include a fitness center, fully equipped children’s playroom and an intercom system with a camera. The building should be ready for occupancy in late 2007 or early 2008.

The property was previously occupied by a plumbing supply company (although Katz believes it may originally have been a movie theater ) and a vacant townhouse.

The plumbing company had owned a swath of land running behind the backyards of several of the neighboring houses, which Katz and Katan also acquired and which will provide the off-street parking.

© Brooklyn Daily Eagle 2007

Posted Under: Brooklyn, New Construction, South Park Slope, Tower

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