This morning at Borough Hall, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams announced he plans to make the 166-year-old building LEED certified by retrofitting the windows, installing solar panels, and implementing geothermal heating. “Borough Hall is going to lead by example, that’s L-E-E-D,” said Adams. “If a government building built in 1848 can be transformed into an energy efficient structure, then every building that’s built in this borough and this city can follow.”

He promised to set aside capital funding to update the Greek Revival structure, one of the borough’s oldest public buildings. On top of that, he has already pledged $1,000,000 in capital funds to repair the bluestone and courtyard behind building.

Adams also announced the first meeting of his Renewable and Sustainable Energy Task Force (ReSET), which aims to encourage green building practices in Brooklyn and the rest of the city. “I’m helping the mayor infuse the green technology concept into the [planned] 200,000 units of affordable housing,” he explained.

No word on whether he has already checked with the Landmarks Preservation Commission on his plans for Borough Hall.

03/25/14 9:30am

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The owners of 115 Lincoln Place in Park Slope have been quietly shopping the house around after neighbors successfully blocked a proposed extension. They are asking $2,300,000 to $2,500,000 for the house, a fixer-upper, according to BK to the Fullest. Owners Michael and Sarah London purchased the property in May for $2,000,000, public records show.

Meanwhile, although they haven’t sold 115 yet, they have already purchased a new home. In February, they closed on a limestone at 627 3rd Street in Park Slope, less than half a block from the park, for $3,850,000.

Built in 1910, the limestone was designed by noted architect Axel Hedman. As it happens, previous owners also proposed an extension that was opposed by neighbors and, as far as we can tell, never built. It has been an HOTD twice. Like 115 Lincoln Place, it is also landmarked.

Platinum Members Passing in Park Slope: 115 Lincoln Place [BK to the Fullest]
Landmarks Moves to Preserve Garden Core on Park Slope Block [Brownstoner]
Photo by Nicholas Strini for PropertyShark

03/20/14 9:30am

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After no activity for years, permits have recently been filed to construct a 10-unit, five-story residential building on a commercial site at 203 9th Street in Gowanus. The lot, which houses a one-story retail space that was once an auto body shop, is part of the area that local preservationists believe may be the burial ground for soldiers who died during the Battle of Brooklyn in the Revolutionary War. They have previously said they hope to get the area on the National Register of Historic Places and create a park.

We heard a rumor the property sold or was in contract in December, but no sale has appeared in public records. The most recent sale recorded is to an LLC for $1,670,000 in 2010.

That LLC’s name is on the most recent permits, dating from 2013 and 2014, as well as the original permit to change the use of the building and add more stories, which is dated 2004, well before the current LLC owned the property. The photo above shows the building in 2012.

More Momentum for Contested Park Slope Burial Site [Brownstoner]
Photo by Nicholas Strini for PropertyShark 

03/20/14 9:00am

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The naming of a new chair for the Landmarks Preservation Commission is imminent, according to Crain’s. The short list includes Kate Daly, who is currently the LPC’s executive director, and Ward Dennis, a partner at historic preservation consulting firm Higgins Quasebarth and Partners, LLC.

The Real Estate Board of New York has been fighting hard to tamp down landmarking, especially in Manhattan, arguing that it will prevent the Mayor’s administration from meeting its affordable housing goals.

In Brooklyn, development activity has picked up in the last year in Bed Stuy, along 4th Avenue, and in Prospect Lefferts Gardens. Areas in Bed Stuy and Sunset Park, among others, have been proposed for landmarking.

De Blasio Zeroes in on Landmarks Appointment [Crain's]

03/14/14 4:00pm

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The Landmarks Preservation Commission is fining Whole Foods a second time for failing to maintain the Coignet building at 3rd Avenue and 3rd Street, Brooklyn Paper reported. The $3,000 fine issued in December was dismissed because the city forgot to bring a piece of paper to court. Grocery store spokesman Michael Sinatra told the paper that restoration began Monday, as we noted. The project is supposed to wrap late this year.

City to Cite Whole Foods Second Time for “Neglecting” Old Building [Brooklyn Paper]
Coignet Building Coverage [Brownstoner]

03/11/14 4:00pm

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Scaffolding has gone up on the side of the Coignet Building next to Whole Foods, above, where it appears the grocer is finally making good on its obligation to repair the landmark, Gowanus Your Face Off reported.

As we noted previously, in December a renovation permit was approved and Whole Foods was fined $3,000 by the city for failing to maintain the structure (after complaints to the DOB that construction on its new building had caused structural cracks in the facade).

The scaffolding is in the tiny alleyway between the two buildings. A construction sign at the site says the restoration will finish in “late 2014,” said GYFO.

Coignet Building Restoration Has Begun, Anticipated Completion in 2014 [GYFO]
Look Inside the Crumbling Coignet Building [Brownstoner]
City Approves Permits for Whole Foods to Restore Coignet Building [Brownstoner]
Coignet Building in Bad Shape [Brownstoner]
Photo by GYFO

03/11/14 10:00am

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As we reported last summer, the Friends of Greater Gowanus (FROGG) has been urging the New York State Board for Historic Preservation, a division of the the State’s Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation (OPRHP), to create a historic district around the Gowanus Canal for some time now. In the past, FROGG has also advocated for the canal’s designation as a Superfund site and successfully got the area included on last year’s Historic Districts Council list of Six to Celebrate. (The idea of protecting the area goes back even further: In 2008 we wrote about the Gowanus Canal Conservancy’s efforts to get the waterway itself declared a national monument.)

There was a community meeting at the Can Factory last month to discuss the creation of the New York State Historic District but we hadn’t realized how imminent the vote was (it’s Thursday) or how large the footprint is (it extends from Baltic Street to the end of Smith Street) until a reader sent along information, including the above map, yesterday.

As part of its decision process leading up to Thursday’s vote, the State must weigh the community group’s interest in preservation against any “adverse effect” on property owners that the designation might have. More specifically, in a document forwarded to us, the State describes how “maintenance, renovations and restorations that involve federal or state approval can become significantly more complicated and expensive, while simultaneously depriving the owner and local government of their discretion in the event a property is subject to OPRHP consultation.” The same document notes that, “While New York City’s listing process is separate from OPRHP’s, the proposed listing of the Gowanus Canal Historic District could make a LPC designation more likely.”

What do you think? Is this area deserving of Historic District designation? Letters seeking input were sent out to owners of the more than 400 properties in the 53 blocks of the proposed area asking just that question. Notarized owner objection letters along with general comments from the public are due by mail to the Historic Preservation Board by the end of the day tomorrow to be considered for Thursday’s meeting. Mailing instructions are included below.
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03/07/14 10:45am

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Newly appointed Chairman of the City Council’s Land Use Committee, Brooklyn Councilman David Greenfield, who represents Bensonhurst, Borough Park, and Midwood, came out against landmarking Thursday, saying it reduces affordable housing, Crain’s reported.

“None of us exists in a vacuum,” he said to Robert Tierney, chairman of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, at a hearing. “In the grand scheme of the city we are very focused on affordable housing … those are two competing interests.”

As of March 2013, 2 percent of the city is protected by landmarking, according to the story, which cited a Wall Street Journal report.

At the same event, Brooklyn Council Member Jumaane Williams also called for a slow down in landmarking, saying the lack of affordable housing in historic districts is “appalling.”

We respectfully disagree: Continuing to protect the city’s architectural heritage is not at odds with the Mayor’s laudable effort to increase affordable housing. Merely limiting landmarking will do nothing to increase affordable housing, as development in non-landmarked areas of Brooklyn such as Williamsburg and 4th Avenue has shown. We call on Mayor de Blasio and the City Council to step up the pace of landmarking in Brooklyn, particularly in Bedford Stuyvesant, an architecturally remarkable but largely unprotected area where developers have become very active lately.

If the proposed areas up before Landmarks were to be landmarked today there would still be huge sections of these neighborhoods where new affordable housing can be built, as well as many other means of increasing affordable housing in Brooklyn. It’s not a zero-sum game. Great architecture should be preserved for all to enjoy.

02/28/14 4:00pm

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Brooklyn is transforming from the borough of churches into the borough of condos. Yet another church property is up for sale as a development site, this one at 519 Vanderbilt Avenue, BuzzBuzzHome reported.

The prominent Clinton Hill Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew, where Tish James has been known to attend services, is asking $8,600,000 for its excess FAR. It’s not clear if the offer includes the church or not, but it does include a parking lot and rectory that wrap around the church. The Halstead listing says: “The Church itself is landmarked and will NOT be demolished. Can be sold for development or as transferable air rights.”

The Romanesque Revival church was built in 1891 and designed by John Welch, according to Wikipedia. Its address is 520 Clinton Avenue. In 2012, an arson fire damaged the church, which was used as a homeless shelter and hub for Occupy Sandy relief efforts.

The development property, just down the street from Atlantic Avenue and the Atlantic Yards rail site, has 100 feet of frontage on Vanderbilt and a total of 43,000 buildable square feet.

Click through to the jump for lots more photos.

Clinton Hill Church Site on Market for $8.6 Million [BuzzBuzz Home]

Update: We heard from the agent, who said the church “is absolutely NOT for sale. The church remains in place and the active congregation remains.” They are looking to sell their FAR, which can be sold as air rights and transferred to a nearby site. Or the FAR can be sold in the form of land on the Vanderbilt side of the site, she told us.
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02/24/14 10:45am

If you’re ever wondered what the interior of Bushwick’s landmarked Cook Mansion looks like, we have the answer. Bushwick Daily spotted this one-bedroom for rent on Craigslist last week and surprisingly, the ad is still up.

Well, the 546-square-foot pad at 670 Bushwick Avenue (on the corner of Willoughby) has been completely gutted and looks like any new (or not so new) rental. It’s on the second floor with a balcony — presumably the one over the front door. There is baseboard heating, replacement floors, vinyl flooring in the kitchen, and what looks to be plenty of drywall. On the plus side, the replacement doors are solid wood and there seems to be tons of windows and light all around.

Also known as the Catherina Lipsius House, the American Round Arch style mansion was completed in 1890 and commissioned by Catherina, who owned the Claus Lipsius Brewing Company. It’s right next to KFC and the elevated track, and down the street from two apartment buildings under construction. Wonder how loud the train is.

Click through the jump to see a few more photos of the apartment.

Cook Mansion Is Advertising One-Bedroom Apartment for $1,750 on Craigslist [Bushwick Daily] GMAP
Building of the Day: 670 Bushwick Avenue [Brownstoner]
More Brooklyn Buildings on Road for Landmarking [Brownstoner]

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As REBNY fights landmarking across the city, The New York Times looked at the arguments pro and con for landmarking the proposed Bedford Historic District in Bed Stuy. For those who’ve been following the landmarking fight all along, there isn’t anything new here. But there are some fantastic quotes from our columnist Montrose Morris and reader and preservationist Claudette Brady, a founder of the Bedford Stuyvesant Society for Historic Preservation.

“Bedford Stuyvesant is a hard-working community of proud people who, when the city and government failed them, took back the streets, one block at a time,” said preservationist and Montrose Morris columnist Suzanne Spellen. “We swept our sidewalks, planted flowers in our yards and watched everyone else’s children as if they were our own. Landmarking is an affirmation of that struggle, a reward for holding on tight to something of great value, and that is this remarkable community of brick and mortar, tradition and pride, flesh and bone. It will protect what has been preserved for the last 150 years so that it can be handed down for those who will come after us, without the dangers of overdevelopment or arbitrary tear-downs and alterations.”

Those quoted against it say it will usher in gentrification and force renters and owners to move because they won’t be able to afford to maintain their buildings. Yet Crown Heights and other parts of Bed Stuy were landmarked by enthusiastic black homeowners well before gentrification, which has now arrived in the not landmarked Bedford area with a vengeance. Now that gentrification is here, we would argue that landmarking is needed even more urgently. Developers — who have been fighting landmarking as far back as the late 1950s in Brooklyn Heights — are putting up inappropriate buildings and Fedders specials in formerly pristine blocks.

In fact, this section is arguably the most architecturally significant in Bed Stuy. (Above, a few houses on Halsey Street close to the famed Alhambra Apartments.) If Stuyvevsant Heights and Park Slope deserve landmarking, then this area is even more worthy, in our opinion. In fact, we can’t understand why it wasn’t landmarked first.

What’s your opinion?

Argument Over a Brownstone Neighborhood [NY Times]

02/19/14 9:30am

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It appears the townhouse at 149 Bergen — the one with the controversial backyard addition that helped introduce the term “green doughnut” — didn’t sell last year and now it’s back on the market. The price is slightly higher and the interior has been reconfigured, according to the listing.

The listing mentions the extension and now has a floor plan on which it is clearly shown. Besides doubling the space of the formerly tiny house, the remodel brought light into the first floor with a skylight over the stair, and the owner’s triplex has a double height living room.

The broker is one of the owners. The ask is $4,600,000. Think they’ll get it now? If they do, it could set a record for Boerum Hill.

Boerum Hill House With Controversial Reno Now for Sale [Brownstoner]
Photo by Corcoran