The New York Times is first on the Scene for Reporting illegal DUMBO demolition
July 27, 2007, 10:16 am
A Wall Is Torn Down in Dumbo, Prompting City to Halt Work
By David W. Dunlap
Never mind the Bugaboo baby strollers and Danish modern furniture. Dumbo can still have the edge of a tough industrial precinct on the Brooklyn waterfront. And that means not everything is done by the book.
So City Room wasn’t entirely surprised by the distress call we received Wednesday afternoon while taking pictures of Dumbo’s hard-edged architecture for a photo essay on the proposed historic district there.
Driving along Bridge Street, Julia Ryan, a member of the steering committee of the Dumbo Neighborhood Association, spotted our camera and pulled her car over. “Are you a reporter?” she asked (a deduction made easier by our Jimmy Olsen bow tie). When we said yes, she asked if we would hurry over to 215 Plymouth Street, where workers were demolishing part of a brick wall.
The building, she explained, was included in the proposed historic district. (Like numerous structures around Dumbo, it retains a hand-painted sign on the brickwork, badly faded but still legible: “Peerless Paint and Varnish.”) Ms. Ryan said she suspected the owners were trying to get a step ahead of regulation by doing the work before the historic district isformally established by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
Sure enough, at 215 Plymouth, two workers were jackhammering a small area of the ground-floor facade. They kept at it while City Room snapped away. A front-loader appeared to cart the pile of rubble from the sidewalk.
Back at the office on Thursday, we sent the pictures to the landmarks commission, asking if the agency knew about this alteration project. It did not. The commission forwarded the pictures to the Department of Buildings, which sent out its own inspector.
At 3:45, the city inspector issued a stop-work order to the Sheva Realty Corporation, the owner of 215 Plymouth Street, charging “work without permit at first floor”; in particular, “bricks being removed to increase window and door openings.”
Kate Lindquist, the press secretary of the buildings agency, said on Thursday night, “Buildings inspectors will be proactively monitoring the site with Department of Finance sheriffs to ensure the workers abide by the stop-work order.”
The Dumbo Neighborhood Association has been fighting for historic district status. “A lot of developers think they just don’t have to follow the rules,” Ms. Ryan said. “They just tear stuff down without permits. That’s what we’re combating. That’s why we’re on high alert.”