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This forum contains 167 topics and 755 replies, and was last updated by  kslcb 1 week, 1 day ago.

Brownstoner July 31, 2013 at 10:53 am

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*Two, Forum users now have the ability to mark spam when they see it. If enough users mark a post as spam, it will automatically disappear.

Very sorry for all the spam lately. We hope this puts a lid on it.

Building Code March 29, 2014 at 5:01 pm

Confused: Cellar or Basement?

My husband inherited this low-stoop townhouse in Brooklyn from his grandfather few years ago. Recently We’ve been thinking about renovating what we call the “garden level” apartment. However, our architect told us since this is a pre-1938 building, there’s no C of O for it, except an I-card which can be used as substitute. But according to this I-card which was issued in 1911, the garden apartment is labeled as “cellar” and what we call “cellar” a “subcellar”. The space in question has a big window above grade on the front and fully to the grade on the back with full size windows and doors to the backyard.

I know you need to have at least 50% of the space height above curb level in order to qualify as a basement. But in our case, although it seems the space is more below than above, we feel it might be a borderline basement because the front walkway is so pitched. My questions are:

1-How accurate are those old I-card assessment on this space? If it says “cellar”, should I even bother to hire a land surveyor to find out the exact elevation?

2-Should we apply for a C of O from DOB or this I-card is sufficient?

3-If it IS a cellar, does that mean the kitchen and bathroom his grandfather added to this space for convenience after he got sick and handicapped in the 80′s all illegal and need to be removed? (obviously no permits filed in those days). BTW, this cellar IS categorized as “living space” according to the I-card. Ceiling height is 7′.

Thank you for your advise.

Building Code March 19, 2014 at 11:45 am

city chaning the c of o for no apparent reason?

we are closing on a 2 family in bushwick and the attorneys told us that the seller received a notice from the city that the building classification will be changing to a commercial property in july.
the seller said that this will actually save us $ on taxes but it sounds strange and neither attorney has encountered this before and they are unable to answer our questions as to how what, why etc….?
has anyone ever come across this before?

Building Code March 4, 2014 at 2:41 pm

Do I need a second exit on the ground floor of a duplex?

We occupy the duplex of our 3 family brownstone (ground & parlor floor). Parlor floor has front door exit to street and back door exit to backyard. Currently ground floor also has two ways in and out, same as parlor. We’re thinking about eliminating the back door on the ground floor to accommodate a a new bathroom which means our duplex will now have three different ways in and out. Is there anything illegal about getting rid of the backyard exit on the ground floor?

Building Code February 28, 2014 at 9:58 am

Common Hallway When Combining Two Units in a Brownstone

We live in a four unit brownstone. Unit 1 is a ground floor + basement duplex. Unit 2 is a parlor floor + second floor duplex. Unit 3 is the third floor. Unit 4 is the fourth floor.

If unit 3 and 4 were combined into one apartment, would the renovation be allowed to take over and enclose the common hallway on the third floor and the common staircase up to the fourth floor? Unit 1 has no access to the main part of the building. Unit 2 has their own exist out the back into the garden.

Where can I research building codes to find out if incorporating the common hall and stairs would be permitted?

Building Code February 27, 2014 at 11:33 am

Certificate of Occupancy

Hi All, i’m interested in a townhouse in Brooklyn that i saw. The house is listed as a “2 family setup as a 3″. The seller said they have the Certificate of Occupancy as a legal 2 family but the layout of the home was built such that it is a 3 family. On the DOB website the building class is “D0″ which is a three unit walkup and it states that there is no C of O on file. This difference in the DOB building class vs the C of O boggles me. If i were to purchase the house and use it as a three unit home would i run into any issues here?

Building Code February 24, 2014 at 6:52 pm

Will my taxes go up? Cellar allowed as "rec room" ?

Hello Brownstoner,

We are thinking about reconfiguring the occupancy of a brownstone we are in contract on.
This will be a gut reno, and the property is currently a 3 family. Ideally we would like to take the two middle floors and rent out the very top floor, and the ground floor.

Additionally, I have been reading up on turning the cellar space into a “rec room”.
I have seen this done before and the results are fantastic. The Cellar is currently 7 feet tall so if we did have to dig, I would imagine it wouldn’t be that deep and we could probably get away with not messing with any underpinning. Take a look at the pic. Im being told that the reason for leaving the “ledge” is because they didn’t underpin?

So, bottom line is, its a 3 family now, and will remain a 3 family.
1. Will this trigger sprinklers?
2. If it requires a CO change because of a reconfiguring the occupancy, will our taxes increase?

I saw Jims post on 1-2 families but i didn’t see anything about a 3.

Building Code February 3, 2014 at 9:35 pm

ECB Hearing…Do I Need a Lawyer?

I just got a summons for ECB hearing, a result of a DOB inspection of my sprinkler system related to how it was installed 75 years ago! The inspector said the Court will probably kick it out but the DOB prefers if the judge handle it. Do people need legal representation at these hearings?

Building Code January 29, 2014 at 1:59 pm

Change Dept of Finance assessment of units in property?

My house has no C of O (pre-dates). Dept of Finance classifies our house as a two-family but it’s configured as a one family. Was trying to get a loan on the house but the bank denied due to the discrepancy. Was thinking we should request Finance to change the designation but don’t want a can of worms where we have to get a C of O and convert with Buildings… or do the two city agencies even speak to each other?
Does anyone have any experience changing classification with Finance?

Building Code January 29, 2014 at 9:37 am

Expidator Question

Expidator Question

If a home I am interested in purchasing had plans approved in 2006, expired in 2007, and the job was never completed, what happens? ALTERATION TYPE 2 – GEN CONST was filed.
After the filing, the job turned pretty much into a gut.

I am hearing different things from different people, so I wanted to post this question here on the forum to get some clarity on it.


Use: RES – RESID. BLDG – OLD CODE Landmark: NO Stories: 0
Review is requested under Building Code: Prior-to-1968

It is to my understanding (and I hope I am saying this correctly) That the building was self certified by the previous architect in 2005/2006

I have been told that once it has been started and filed with self certification, it must close self certification. Therefore if I were to hire a new architect, he would basically be “taking over” if you will… Do I have this correct?

I have also been told that “ I have never heard of a new architect taking over an old architect’s self-cert. My understanding is the expeditor would just close out any loose ends on the previous filing and we would start a new.

Can someone clarify this for me please? And most importantly, the plans were approved back then with no sprinklers needed, with the fire escape remaining. I am hoping to change the 2005/06 plans a bit, re-file, and still not need sprinklers.

Your help is appreciated.

Building Code January 9, 2014 at 1:08 pm

ECB Violations — Gas Line and Horizontal Balusters; SEP unit in Queens

We had an inspection on a self-certified type 2 alteration last week and have two issues that I’d appreciate advice on. First, the easy one. My GC installed our deck (off the parlor floor) and stair balusters horizontally rather than vertically, contrary to our plan. The inspector said that these are getting approved in Brooklyn so they might get approved. Has anyone had horizontal balusters on an outside deck/stair approved in Brooklyn? Are there any fixes apart from replacement with vertical balusters — I’m thinking plexiglass panels? I’d appreciate any tips on how to fix and referrals for such a fix.
Second, more complicated. We added a gas line for a grill (sits on the deck) and the gas line was not on the approved plan. We discussed amending the plan before the plumbing inspection but decided to wait to see if any other issues came up. We passed the plumbing inspection by virtue of the inspector not showing up and then forgot to file the amendment. The plumbing job has been signed off. I am trying to decide whether we have the plumber file an LAA to legalize the gas line. My concern is whether doing that is going to result in a full blown plumbing inspection which will be a problem because the walls are all closed up. The other alternative is to remove the gas line and show pictures proving the same. If this is the recommended route, do we still need to file an LAA/get a permit to do the removal? We would rather keep the gas line, obviously.
Our review is with the SEP unit in Queens. Any intel on this group would be appreciated.
Many thanks in advance.

Building Code December 17, 2013 at 11:31 am

lender demanding deck match CofO

Recently purchased a brownstone. When lender attorney reviewed file, they complained that the deck doesn’t match the CofO.

As a condition of closing, we were required to put money in escrow, and they want the issue “resolved” within 6 months (with option to extend).

What are the possible outcomes of calling Dept of Buildings to have them inspect this deck?

My fear is inspectors come to review the deck and find some other issues while they’re walking around opening a can of worms, causing financial headache for ensuing months.

The former owner says deck was there in the 70′s when they bought it. I would believe it, it is a very solid metal 2nd story deck attached to that unit by a full standing door. It looks industrial in construction. Though the deck has a bit of rust, it is otherwise in good condition.

Any thoughts?


Building Code December 9, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Hole in the side of our building for a bath vent?

…so our building is at the end of a block which means the back yards of the buildings on the main street run perpendicular into the side of our building.

We’re moving a bathroom on one of our floors, (and yes, it will all be filed properly), but a big difficultly for us will be running the exhaust vent (not the plumbing vent stack) to the outside. The thought crossed my mind that it would be so easy to simply vent it out the side of the building through the brick. Given the fact that the hole would only be 4″ diameter or so, I cant imagine it would cause any structural issues, and we would of course talk to our neighbors about it (we’d probably need access to their back yard, unless the guys went down from the roof on ropes). It would probably be about 10′ high, so not in a sight line. In fact, the neighbors have a big ugly telephone pole in their backyard next to our building, and we could probably put the vent right behind it :)

I’m imagining that such shenanigans are not allowed, but I was wondering if anyone could confirm or deny it?

The building is not landmarked, FWIW.


Building Code November 27, 2013 at 9:04 pm

Convert former garage to residential use – is it possible?

Is it possible to convert a former garage (I believe that is what it is – behind a brownstone – or maybe former stables?) to residential use? (install insulation, plumbing etc). Does anyone know of other examples? are there specific fire code issues to be concerned about? Thanks

Building Code October 28, 2013 at 9:43 am

Old Extension and DOB records and Sign off.

Hi Folks, We are looking to buy a property in Brooklyn that has an old extension that was built in the 50’s the house itself was built before 1938. It seems 30 years after the extension was built it was “signed off”. Is the signing off of the extension sufficient to set our minds at ease so that it won’t cause problems in the future? I am finding that when buying in Brooklyn there is Brooklyn way of doing things and people are not that concerned about a building not having a CO but the extension does concern me.
Another question tied to this. Since the records are so old I cant get info from DOB BIS. Can I, as a non-owner, just walk into DOB and get the property records?

Thanks! This is a great community.

Building Code October 26, 2013 at 12:03 am

Cellar used for Storage or Rec Room in a Multiple Unit Dwelling Building

Hi there.

Does anyone know if there are any different building requirements for a cellar in a multiple unit dwelling to be used as merely storage vs. a rec room / recreation room? If so, what are those differences? Must there be a different notation on the building C of O for each different use?

Thanks so much in advance.

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