Like so many Park Slopers shedding their winter skins, the black shrouds are coming down on Fourth Avenue’s newest high-rises, giving locals a tantalizing first glimpse of real-estate mogul Shaya Boymelgreen’s vision for a thoroughfare he has dubbed the Park Avenue of Brooklyn.
The two most-recently unveiled luxury high-rises — tall amid the flat-fix shops, gas stations, and four-story rowhouses — are the Crest and NOVO, both drawing reactions ranging from condemnation to plaudits, and averaging something in between.
“It’s not particularly attractive, but it’s not as ugly as others,” said Sloper Dan Morgenroth of the Crest, the 12-story tower at Second Street whose sales office opened in May.
Besides, added Morgenroth, what matters most is on the inside, particularly when on a fairly unattractive avenue that he actually called “a bleeding eyesore.”
“I don’t think the attractiveness is the most important factor. It’s a question of what people in the buildings bring to the neighborhood.”
The Crest, built by Boymelgreen and the Katan Group, another Fourth Avenue heavyweight, has 68 one- and two-bedroom condos and a lobby designed by Andres Escobar. Prices range from $355,000 to $751,000. From the outside, the yellow-brick building tops off in a tuft of curved balconies.
“I’ve seen worse,” said Doug Ruhn, another Sloper.
The only onlooker who could bring herself to express a strong opinion lives next door to the Crest. She’s not impressed.
“The windows look they belong on a school,” complained the woman, who, apparently fearful of retribution, would only identity herself as “G.P.” “I don’t like it at all.”
Then again, Alex Gerrero, who sells fruit across the street from the Crest, called it a “good building. Everything new is good.”
Park Slopers also could not reach unanimity on the NOVO, Boymelgreen’s other new tower three blocks away.
The NOVO is constructed of a similar yellow brick, with a setback on top and, at least according to renderings, greenery streaming down the front. Its 113 units went on the market in February — and are believed to be the first luxury units for sale since the 2004 upzoning.
Nestor Saturne, who works across the street from NOVO, said, “This isn’t something you want in front of your house.” Saturne lives in Canarsie.
Slopers have had a fraught relationship with Boymelgreen’s aesthetic ever since he first saw the potential for development on the west side of Park Slope.
“You know, when I came to Park Slope [about eight years ago], Fifth Avenue was the border,” recollected Boymelgreen during a March interview with The Brooklyn Paper. “And we started buying property between Fifth and Fourth avenues. We didn’t think about Fourth Avenue then. A few years later, the city said they wanted to downzone Park Slope and upzone Fourth Avenue. And so I thought, ‘Fourth Avenue can be like Park Avenue.’”
Boymelgreen’s first major foray in the direction of the Slope was his conversion of a former Daily News plant into a luxury loft building dubbed NewsWalk. The well-received Prospect Heights conversion, on Pacific Street, between Carlton and S. Portland avenues, was completed in 2002.
Next in the pipeline was City View Gardens, completed in 2004 at 308 Second St., between Fourth and Fifth avenues. The following year Park Slope Gardens took shape on the same block.
Boymelgreen’s interest in Fourth Avenue kept stride with the city’s decision to upzone the thoroughfare in 2004 — and to downzone the rest of Park Slope. The idea was to turn Fourth Avenue into a release valve for the intense development pressures on the rest of the neighborhood, giving builders a place where they could construct tall, dense buildings and opening the door for the transformation of the avenue from low-scale industrial to luxury residential.
Along the way, Boymelgreen and his frequent partner, the Katan Group, have changed the face of Fourth Avenue. But some area residents have grumbled about what they described as “ugly”and “out of context” buildings. Some use the epithet-euphemism “fugly” to describe Boymelgreen’s work.
The developer understands such reactions. In fact, he told The Brooklyn Paper that his designs don’t always turn out as well as they look on paper.
“Sometimes, I see something in my head that I think will be beautiful. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t come out like I want, because of the zoning, because of the architect, because of the finishing,” said Boymelgreen at the time. “You’re not 100 percent in control.”
Shaya Boymelgreen has come a long way … or has he? Here is how two prominent architects (Bill Menking, a professor at Pratt Institute, and Dmitriy Shenker) view some of his Park Slope projects.
“[It has] almost no architectural detail,” said Menking. “But in a way, I sort of like it better. It’s sort of more honest.” Shenker added: “I don’t think this is because of the architect, but because zoning prescribes this box, and the owner encouraged the architect to stay in the box.”
“It’s anything but hip.” said Menking. “It’s fuddy-duddy.” Shenker added: “Maybe I wouldn’t vote for it in a competition, but at least I would say, ‘Thank you for trying.’”
“At least this has usable terraces, but in terms of style, it’s … just so bad,” said Menking. Shenker disagreed: “This is a quality job [with] good details.”
“They’re trying to be arty, but it’s really lame, it’s really terrible. They took a nice industrial building and just screwed it up,” said Menking. But Shenker called it, “controversial.”
“It’s always amazed me what passes for luxury in New York,” said Menking. “It certainly doesn’t give anything back to the city.” Shenker agreed: “Again, this is a box.”
©2007 Community Newspaper Group
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