Demo Starts, Fence Goes Up for Controversial Alteration of 19th Century School in Williamsburg

The building Friday. Photo by Craig Hubert

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A green construction fence is up and demolition work appears to have began on a controversial redevelopment of a picturesque 1892 red brick and brownstone Romanesque Revival building, a former school, in Williamsburg.

Located at 70 Havemeyer Street, on the corner of North 5th Street, the project involves removing the historic roof and bell tower and adding a modern structure on top that resembles textured black stucco. Windows and other historic detail will also be modernized.

70 havemeyer

Rendering by Albo Liberis

Part of the back of the building appears to have recently been removed, a visit last week revealed. The space behind that, formerly a parking lot wrapping around a house, is currently being excavated as part of a project to build a small apartment building. While public records give no indication the two projects share a developer, zoning diagrams and a rendering appear to show the two projects are related.

A green construction fence surrounds the ground floor and scaffolding has been erected around the building at 70 Havemeyer. The bell tower still stands.

A portion of the rear of the building at 70 Havemeyer is gone

Excavation next door at 243 North 5th Street for a new seven-unit apartment building

The alteration plans have frustrated many neighbors. One, in particular, told Brownstoner that she was especially saddened by the plans to remove the bell tower.

The alteration will add 48 units and three stories to the building, bumping it up from four to seven, according to a March building permit application. The development will borrow floor area from “affordable housing constructed off site,” the application says. The address of the affordable housing is not specified.

The rear of the building visible from North 5th Street in June 2018. Photo by Google Maps

However, a look at the construction plans for the apartment house behind the school show it will leave some development rights unused, and perhaps they could be applied to the development at 70 Havemeyer Street.

Two permits for 70 Havemeyer were posted on the job site when Brownstoner stopped by, both dated Friday, November 8. One is for “partial demolition and new structural infill steel to support existing structure” and the other for the construction fence. The Alt-1 renovation permit has not yet been issued; the period to challenge the zoning ends in December, according to the DOB website.

In October, a violation was issued for a complaint that demolition was proceeding at 70 Havemeyer without a safety net.

Partial permits have been issued for the adjacent property at 243 North 5th Street, where seven units spread over four stories, including a penthouse, are planned. Workers were excavating the foundation when Brownstoner stopped by.

The former school was last occupied by the Williamsburg Northside School Infant and Toddler Center. It was designed by architect P.J. Berlenbach and is part of a collection of three buildings that all at one point were owned by the Roman Catholic Church of the Annunciation.

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The building in April 2019. Photo by Susan De Vries

Double U Real Estate is the developer. They leased the building for 99 years from the owner, Roman Catholic Church of the Annunciation, in May for $6 million, public records show. The developer did not respond for a request for comment.

David Salamon of Salamon Engineering Group is the applicant of record. They have worked on the Williamsburg Hotel at 96 Wythe Street in Williamsburg and a colorful “boutique” hotel located at 1107 Dekalb Avenue in Bed Stuy, as well as multiple projects in Manhattan. The rendering is by Albo Liberis, according to a tipster, a firm that designed the retro-futuristic William Vale Hotel at 55 Wythe Avenue in Williamsburg.

The church, which stands directly across the street at 65 Havemeyer, reopened in March 2019 after a year-long renovation. The church’s former convent at 64 Havemeyer was built in 1889 and converted to co-ops a century later in 1989.

70 havemeyer street

A lot behind the former school

243 north 5th street

A rendering for 243 North 5th Street posted on the construction fence

70 havemeyer street

Permit posted at 70 Havemeyer Street

70 Havemeyer Street

Permit posted at 70 Havemeyer Street

[Photos by Craig Hubert unless otherwise noted]

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