Neighbors Unhappy With Montgomery Penthouse Proposal

The new owners of 19 Montgomery Place, who bought the home this summer for over $5 million, have big reno plans in store. They are heading to Landmarks later this month with a proposal to “construct a rooftop addition, install mechanical equipment, and modify a window opening.” They also presented their proposal to Community Board Six last month. Some neighbors have taken issue with the penthouse addition, which will not be visible from Montgomery Place. According to the plans presented to CB6, the architects will raise the parapet wall and set the addition back 13 feet. There will be a deck in front of the penthouse addition. At the CB6 meeting, a next-door neighbor expressed concern about the addition blocking out the light for her garden. She noted that the penthouse will also be visible from the sidewalk of Carroll Street. “There are only two homes like this in all of New York City,” she said, referring also to the identical home next door. “Why would you want to add these changes?” The committee did not have a quorum and ultimately did not vote on the matter. Since the meeting, some concerned locals have sent emails around and it definitely looks like there will be some opposition at the LPC hearing. Is the LPC particularly strict about approving rooftop additions mostly not visible from the street?

55 Comment

  • “Is the LPC particularly strict about approving rooftop additions mostly not visible from the street?”

    They shouldn’t be. I sense these owners unfortunately have a group of busy body neighbors.

    • Busybodies? In Park Slope? Well, I never.

    • Adding the weight of a masonry addition on top of the party walls can cause subsidence and this may result in cracks in the facades of the adjoining structures. You can see this in many sites where it has been done.
      Shoring up the footing of the party walls is required; however, the underlying soil here is sandy and apt to compress over time, if not during the construction,under this great added weight.
      Landmarks will probably require independent monitoring. Take lots of pictures inside and out.
      Good luck.

    • The “busy body neighbor” was simply protecting the integrity of their own house since the new owner actually began construction for the new addition without even waiting for permits to be approved. In addition, the new rooftop addition to #19 was being built atop of the party wall of the two buildings, something that would alarm any neighbor. The coda to this situation was a big Stop Work order slapped on the renovation last week.

  • It sounds as if the architects are very concerned about not altering the look of the home from Montgomery St? Jeez, what a nosy, too-much-time-on-your-hands neighbor. This dope is probably going door to door in the CB6 district. My goodness, I understand the Landmarks agenda—and somewhat agree with many of the things they do—but who gives a f**k if it’s visible from Carroll St? It’s 2013, not 1900.

  • Manhattanization of Brooklyn continue: rich people want their rooftop decks and backs of townhouses blown out and replaced by glass.

  • raise the parapets? I don’t think that will fly. If the penthouse is set back enough so as to be invisible from the sidewalk, the LPC will approve it but they will not approve any changes to the front facade including the parapet unless there is proof that it was historically higher and what exists is an alteration.
    I assume the new owners are gutting the interior down to the brick and building a new white box inside. Who would have guessed that excessive money will do more to harm these houses than the days of redlining and disinvestment?

  • How big is the ego of these buyers? They buy what is probably one of the largest brownstones in Park Slope, and it’s not good enough.

    I don’t know if this should be approved or rejected. I’m just commenting on the fact that the owners and I live on a completely different planet.

  • If Minard is correct (I hope not) about the new owners intending to gut the interior it’s a shame and (IMO) a dereliction of their moral duty to preserve an irreplaceable historic interior BUT they’re (unfortunately, again IMO) entirely within their rights and nothing much can be done. In that event, lets hope they salvage interior features instead of smashing and discarding them. This would somewhat mitigate their (anticipated) vandalism.

    However, an addition VISIBLE FROM THE STREET is another matter and clearly within LPC’s purview. Is Carroll Street somehow less worthy than Montgomery Place?

  • What Bob said.

    Also, what makes this block so expensive and desirable is the wealth of preserved buildings, thanks to landmarking in 1973, well before the neighborhood was “discovered” again. Part of that protection may now be a PITA to adding more room to these houses, but that’s what comes with the package.

  • Except for the stair and some paneling in corridors (prolly on parlor floor), there’s not much historic architectural interior detail to preserve.

  • And it’s impossible to see a one story roof top addition from the street behind the house. in this case carroll street

  • I certainly do but neither one of you have any evidence that they are going to gut this, so it’s a moot point.

    • Dave, chances are pretty good that they will gut this. That’s what people with too much money do.
      In the old days, when normal people bought these houses, they would call in a plumber and an electrician and a painter. Today, the mega-wealthy hire architects who redo the entire house from top to bottom. These designers often cannot stand to see a single old piece remain in the house as it may pollute their flawless vision. That’s the way it is sadly. The very rich get no pleasure from keeping historic finishes and details, they can afford nicer ones. Or so they think.

      • Perhaps, but you asre still speculating and assuming. On top of that it’s really none of your business what anyone does inside their home, with architectural details or in the bedroom!!!!.

        Like ET said, the details are not extrordinary and are likely not original to the house from the looks of them…nice woodwork but not original.

      • So, is a concern for historic preservation a middle class virtue that the very rich have transcended? If so I’m glad to be middle class, even though “that’s SO middle class” was a put-down in my semi-hippie-ish youth :-)

  • Pics in the link, bob…..

    “The parlor floor has a spacious entryway, paneled in light quarter-sawn oak and with simple details. The lovely staircase ascends from here, and a full closet and powder room are behind another door. The formal parlor has a majestic arched window with leaded glass detail and a gas fireplace. Behind that is a family parlor, leading through French doors to the kitchen. This is contained in a new extension added to the house in 1999 and has a vast wall of windows looking over the landscaped garden and a copper cupola. The formal dining room is also paneled, has an octagon shape, and overlooks the garden. (The Venetian glass chandelier is not included in the sale.) A deck off the kitchen connects the parlor floor to the garden. ”

    I think the panelling and the staircase look new….

    • Oh, I see. Thanks Dave. It does look like this house has been much altered. The woodwork is nice, but nothing like what must have been originally there. Even my house, which must have cost 1/5th as much to build, has far more original detail. I guess the current 1% don’t have a monopoly on vandalism.

  • Well, if the proposed addition will minimally visible from Montgomery Place only because the house’s parapet wall will be raised, then I would expect some LPC objection.

    As to why the owners want to do this, they paid FIVE MILLION DOLLARS for that house. They obviously have the resources to make their home exactly as they want it–and they are doing so.

    • Exactly emily. But it would seem subrbandude (what is he doing here anyway???? :) thinks that people shouldn’t be allowed to have what they can afford!!!!

      • I don’t know what subrbandude thinks but FWIW I don’t agree that “people shouldn’t be allowed to have what they can afford” EXCEPT where it is proscribed by the landmarks law. I DO think that people should exercise self-restraint and remember their responsibility to future generations. Sometimes I think that despite my left-liberal social and political views, in the broader sense, I’m one of the most conservative people here.

  • Yes, you are bob, but that’s a good thing. I even allow myself some liberal thinking on many social issues. I think the ONLY thing though where I agree with Obama is on the use of the drones…as long as they aren’t used to target the 1% sipping martinis on their roofdecks

  • I did not say that they did not have the right to do whatever they want on the inside, I just think it’s a pity when beautiful historic houses are gutted. Hopefully that will not be the case here.
    The penthouse addition is a different story. They will need to follow the landmark rules governing those sorts of additions like everyone else in the historic district.

  • And, they should be allowed to do so as long as it conforms to the Landmarks rules, WITHOUT the objection of the neighbors who just don’t want it done despite not being able to see it from the front.

    Adding another storey onto the top of the roof for approximatley half the depth of the building isn’t going to block that neighbor’s sun, at least through all of the Summer when the sun is high

  • If these people have pull with Obama maybe they can get drone strikes against the complaining busy body neighbors.

  • Some of you people are really nuts….
    It is a landmarked property so external renovations will go through the LPC process just like if the house cost 50k 500k or 5M.
    As for the inside, ignoring the fact that the interior isnt even close to historic, its there f’ing house.
    It almost seems like some of you are saying that a quasi-government entity should be deciding if a person’s interior alteration is ‘acceptable’ from a public trust point of view.
    Frankly I find that very frightening.
    As for some sort of ‘moral’ obligation, based on what? New owners are morally obligated to keep the renovations of the prior owner???

    Last let me say there is so much envy/animus here simply because the home is more $ than most here could spend…”more money than they know what to do with”, “rich vandals”, “how big are their egos”
    – I hope ALL of you realize that everyone here is so far up the economic ladder (on a global basis) that there are billions of people who could say the exact same thing about you, your renovations and spending habits..

    Its private property, its a (mostly) free country, and all of you throwing insults and moral judgements are hypocrites and busy bodies.

  • I was glad my house didn’t have a lot of detail so I could change things I wanted w/o destroying anything – I passed on several places that had so many beautiful built-ins that you couldn’t have your own furniture. But I was very sad when a house up the street from me that had been meticulously restored by 2 fine artists who put scaffolding up so they could stencil the ceilings & who had found door hinges, etc. that were historically accurate, was gutted & turned into a Vermont-style ski chalet.

  • As usual, jaguar and I are in agreement!!!

  • Jumping in late here, but the stairs and paneling are not new. Many of the Gilbert houses on Montgomery were built with arts and crafts interior details — very spare and streamlined by the standards of the day. More like shingle-style country houses than typical brownstones. A number of the houses were gussied up later on with intricate beaux arts details, but those finishes are not original.

    • I didn’t know that. While I have no reason to think you’re wrong, would a Romanesque-revival house like this one also have had an arts and crafts interior?

      • Yes. Despite the Romanesque revival exteriors, most of the houses by Gilbert on Montgomery, Carroll and Garfield had arts and crafts interiors, often with some colonial revival details mixed in for good measure. In fact, there’s another house by Gilbert up the street on Montgomery that has a staircase with the exact same newel posts, spindles, stringers and banisters.

        I actually don’t think it’s that odd for a Romanesque revival house to have an arts and crafts interior. It was very common for shingle style houses to be outfitted this way, and someone once said that shingle style houses are just Romanesque revival houses rendered in wood. Both styles are rooted in medieval precedents, and medieval interiors were simple and rustic — like arts and crafts.

        My own personal theory is that because sophisticated home buyers in the late 1880s were starting to reject the sometimes ponderous interior details of the last wave of brownstones (i.e., the neo-Grecs), Harvey Murdock, who developed the block and commissioned Gilbert to design about half of the houses on the street, tried to attract wealthy buyers by offering simple interiors with volumes reminiscent of their country houses. The rooms were more square than in earlier brownstones and had lower ceilings, resulting in more pleasing proportions (almost approaching golden rectangles). The wider and shorter rooms also allowed for greater light penetration — you’re never very far from a window. This was in sharp contrast to the 11Wx28Lx12H parlors typical of 1880s brownstones, which impress with their ceiling heights but often feel like long, dark tunnels.

        As an example of Gilbert’s original interiors, I’ve attached two photos showing before and after images of a dining room in a Montgomery Place house by Gilbert (with a Romanesque revival facade). The before photo shows the original architectural details — paneling half way up the wall and a simple three-part crown molding. The after shows the results of an early 20th century renovation — more paneling, more plaster work and definitely more fussy.

  • Sorry Bob – but I do disagree. You are taking social responsibility really far afield.
    I certainly agree we have a responsibility to our community, nation and earth. But I am sorry I do not consider the owners of this or any other old home “merely a caretaker”for future generations.
    Its just a house, its frankly not that old, not original, not individually historic, nor interior landmarked. The buyers didn’t get a break on the house because their ownership interest would be limited, and their taxes wont be abated because there is a ‘public trust.’
    I am pretty liberal, I think the ‘rugged individualism’ of today’s GOP is inane in a modern world, but I think that putting legal or even moral obligations on how people decorate/renovate their own private property really is way out there on the spectrum of ‘social responsibility’ (and a slippery slope that is definitely too difficult to stake out a coherent place on)
    But Bob I do appreciate your acknowledgement that you might be a bit ‘nuts’ on this topic – rare around here.

    • While I might be a bit nuts, err eccentric, about this, I should stress that whatever moral obligation I think is there, it’s in no way enforceable. I’d say that there’s a special place in Hell for those who destroy an historic interior, IF I believed in Hell. As to the decoration of private property, I don’t believe in any obligation, moral or otherwise, despite what the old queen might have thought about the propriety of a mantel without a lamberkin, or an un-skirted furniture leg, err limb :-)

      BTW, I don’t think my nuttiness on this subject involves any actual psychopathology–just too much time spent reading the Old House Journal in my youth.

  • All this talk of interiors, while it makes for a nice spat, is really off the point here. Landmarks will decide what can be done with the exterior. I don’t know what the rules are about seeing a roof addition from an adjacent landmarked street – I would hope that it matters as much as seeing it from the street the house is on. It may not come up so often, as these blocks are more narrow than most in depth here, with the insertion of one-block Montgomery between Carroll and Garfield. If they can’t add a penthouse, but want a roof deck, it would be easier, I would think, to add a simple bulkhead and deck that wouldn’t be visible from either street.

    And a raised parapet would change the very nice orignal proportions of the exterior front of the house – but if they can’t add a penthouse, it may then not be necessary to raise the parapet. I would think they could add some sort of low railing to the deck to make it safe to use without raising the parapet wall.