Broken Angel: DOB Overzealous or Just Doing Its Job?


    We haven’t heard much on the Broken Angel front since late May when the DOB was trying to force the demolition of the masonry walls constructed by Arthur Wood, despite having signed off on earlier plans that showed them being left in place. Since then, the only major development has been the Stop Work Order placed on the building for “additional work outside the scope of the permits.” In a recent email, Arthur’s son Chris writes that the SWO came suspiciously on the heels of his father’s refusal to drop his lawsuit against the city for abusing his civil rights. This part of his email hints at what Arthur comes right out and says in a recent video: That the city is carrying out a “sick vendetta” against him. Recent examples he points to are the revocation of his Veteran’s Tax Exempt Status by the Department of Buildings and its failure to lift the stop work order after more than five weeks. It’s impossible to know how much of Arthur’s position is conspiracy theory and how much is fact, but it’s certainly worth the time to listen to him make his case. While we can’t begrudge DOB doing its job to make sure this is a safe and by-the-book project (especially since we spend so much time urging it to be more vigilant), it’s impossible not to sympathize with Arthur and Shahn Andersen, the developer working with him, over the intense level of scrutiny and apparent lack of straight dealing they’ve received from both DOB and the courts, especially in light of how many real dirtbags are out there evading enforcement every day. It seems unfortunate that DOB and the city in general aren’t working more in partnership, rather than in opposition, with Arthur and Shahn’s efforts to do this project responsibly while trying to salvage as much of the neighborhood landmark’s design and spirit as possible. We’ll be interested to see what readers think when they’ve watched Arthur’s video and read Chris’ email which is pasted on the jump. You can also check out Chris’ collection of Broken Angel photos and archives here.
    Broken Angel Video July 2007 [] GMAP
    The Lowest Point [Broken Angel Reno]

    It has been a while since I have posted any information about Broken Angel. I wanted to put out a public statement about the removal of the top of the building.
    Prior to any court orders we removed all burnt and dangerous structures from Broken Angel. However this was not enough for the Department of Buildings, we were brought back to court repeatedly so that they could attempt to get us to remove as much of the building as possible. Initially we were hesitant to remove the entire top of the structure because we were afraid that they would not allow us to re-build up to the height in the Brooklyn skyline that Broken Angel has occupied for the last 20 years. Our fears have been realized and the DOB has so far successfully blocked any plans to rebuild the structure to its original height. What follows is a description of the events leading up to the demolition of the top structure of Broken Angel.
    On May 2, 2007 Judge Sylvia Hinds-Radix ordered the removal of the fire damaged portion of Broken Angel. The order was loosely termed and left it up to the city to determine the extent of the demolition. Prior to this order the Department of buildings had signed a court agreement to require demolition of the wooden structure down to the fifth floor. We felt it was in the best interest of Broken Angel to comply with the new order thus keeping the city from demolishing at their whim the irreplaceable artistic structures which give the building its unique character. We were only given 10 days to finish all demolition and comply with the order. Thanks to Action Construction we were able to meet this deadline on such short notice. We were then brought back to court by the DOB because they accused us of not complying as they wanted all masonry created by my father removed and the building returned to its original plain box like structure. The Judge ruled against them because the original plans on which they had signed off included preserving all additional masonry incorporated into the building during the past 27 years. Now the DOB has blocked additional work on the building because again they are accusing us of not complying with the original plans. In this particular case the dangerous offense was that we filled in an arch with concrete and replaced part of an existing fire escape. Suspiciously, this recent stop work order was placed on the building shortly after my father refused to drop a pending law suit that he has against the city of NY for abusing his civil rights. Through out this entire process we have attempted to comply with the DOBs demands. Originally the DOB spokesperson Jennifer Givner made statements to Brooklyn Review on BCAT and the Daily News that my parents would be allowed to occupy the building once the structural dangers were dealt with. Now the very look of the building is being dictated by the DOB and no willingness has been shown to lift the vacate order even though the building has been deemed structurally sound.
    With the help of a growing community of architects, activists, politicians and engineers we have worked hard to meet the demands of the Department of Buildings. These people have generously donated their time and energy to this cause because they were all in some way touched by the creativity and beauty of this unusual Brooklyn landmark. The department of Buildings and the City of New York should drop their campaign of harassment and recognize that Brooklyn wants the building that Arthur Wood envisioned, not another boring box of bricks. Why is our building under such scrutiny while other buildings in NY have actually collapsed? To this day people from all over the world still come to view the shell that was once Broken Angel. We are returning to court with a new Judge. Broken Angel needs public support more than ever. Hopefully in court we can get the Department of Buildings to allow us to rebuild our home, if so someday there will really be something there for people to see.
    – Chris Wood, 7/18/07

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