A proposal for a new four-story, single-family house to be constructed on an empty lot in Brooklyn Heights was temporarily shot down by the Landmarks Preservation Commission Tuesday afternoon.
The LPC had already seen a version of the project before. A four-story building was previously approved for the site, located at 27 Cranberry Street, in August 2011. The certificate of appropriateness, as well as a subsequent amendment in 2015, expired in June 2017. Some foundation work has already been done at the site but otherwise construction has yet to begin.
But commissioners said they feel that, despite the previous approval and the minimal changes in the new plan, they have to approach the project as if it were new. “Our obligation is to start from square one,” said Commissioner John Gustafsson. The proposal is for a brick townhouse that combines modern and traditional elements.
Starting from scratch, commissioners found, was difficult. While they vaguely addressed some issues with the proposal—mainly in the back of the home, which in renderings appear to “overwhelm the neighborhood,” commissioner Anne Holford-Smith said, as well as the visibility of the rooftop penthouse—there was an overall sense that what they had in front of them was not a complete proposal.
“There are a lot of documents that are missing,” Holford-Smith added, regarding the project presented by David Freire of NY3 Design Group, the architect on the project. “I’m not sure what I’m looking at.” The remaining commissioners unanimously agreed.
Neighbors who provided testimony had their own issues. Elizabeth Cunnick, a writer and curator who lives next door at 25 Cranberry Street, claimed that damage had been done to her home during foundation work on the site, and brought an engineer, who also testified, to verify her comments. Based on prior dealings with the owner, she said, she warned the commission to be “cautious about everything presented in this plan.” Cunnick, along with five others—including representatives from the Brooklyn Heights Association and Historic Districts Council—all testified against the proposal, primarily questioning its size.
The architect, in response, said the previous construction problems were being addressed by the owner, Louis Greco of Brooklyn Heights-based Second Development Services, who picked up the property for $1.5 million in 2010. Formerly there was a wood-frame house on the site, which was demolished in the mid-1920s. Since then, it has been a vacant lot.
The developer’s other Brooklyn projects include the Richard Meier condo building On Prospect Park at 1 Grand Army Plaza in Prospect Heights and the 2007 BE@Schermerhorn at 189 Schermerhorn Street in Downtown Brooklyn.
Others said they felt the architects were piggybacking on the previous approval, which commissioner Michael Goldblum said was ultimately a “self-inflicted wound.” The block, he added, was varied. There is an argument to be made about the volume in the backyard they are proposing. But “given the reaction from both neighbors and commissioners,” he said, the team needed to come back and “make a stronger argument for its appropriateness.”
[Renderings by NY3 Design Group and Charles Schmitt, Architects via NY Landmarks Commission]
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