Strange real estate happenings in Williamsburg: A contractor has discovered the Department of Buildings has no plans on file for the luxury rental at 120 South 4th Street that experienced an emergency vacate order last month because of structural problems. Or, to be more precise, the DOB does have plans on file — but they are for another building.


As any Brooklyn homeowner set on a major renovation knows, the City’s Department of Buildings permitting process is expensive, time consuming, and opaque. And it has only gotten worse in the last year or so, as we experience a building boom and the City has increased requirements for such things as sprinklers, according to what we hear from readers on the Forum and elsewhere.

Last month the City’s Department of Buildings announced a major reform initiative. This followed 50 arrests in a massive bribery scandal that erupted earlier this year.

Reform strategies include spending $120 million, eliminating in-person visits with an entirely virtual process, hiring an additional 320 employees over four years, a new fee structure, and creating one building code to speed up the permitting process.


What did your Brooklyn row house look like originally? What year was it built? Who was the architect? Was it a two-family, one-family or something else? These are all questions original blueprints can answer. You may want to know because you are renovating, you have a passion for old houses, you are a new owner or you’re just curious.

Finding your original blueprints requires some legwork, ingenuity and persistence, as Brownstoner reader chemosphere recently discovered when researching his house in Flatbush.

He posted about the process, what he found and questions about the 100-year-old shorthand he was trying to decipher in a few separate posts in the forum. He has kindly allowed us to use those posts and the pictures of the blueprints he found to discuss in more detail how to find and read your original blueprints.