Opponents of a controversial plan to build a garage in the courtyard of an historic Brooklyn Heights apartment complex are hoping that a blast from the past will put the brakes on the project.
Residents of the 119-year-old Riverside Apartments have long fought against the developer’s plans to build a garage topped with a garden behind their landmarked Joralemon Street building, and they say that old New York heirlooms and relics buried beneath the courtyard could be their last chance to halt the construction of the 90-car garage.
“We are hoping and praying that they find something that will stop it,” said William Ringler, chair of the Riverside Tenant’s Association, which previously opposed an above-ground incarnation of the garage that the city buried last spring.
A March 13 excavation didn’t uncover anything earth-shattering — or even identifiable, experts said.
“Our maps revealed that there might be kilns from an 18th-century distillery, but what we found is a footing — but it’s nothing that would historically knock your socks off,” said project archeologist Joan Geismar.
Mike Berfield, a representative for the landlord, Joel Weiner, told The Brooklyn Paper that the discovery of the brick foundation would not preempt excavation for the garage behind the 157-unit complex built by famed philanthropist Alfred T. White.
“Nothing has been found so far that is historically significant,” he said.
It is exceedingly rare for archeological findings to stand in the way of development projects, as they did when excavators uncovered an African burial ground on the site of a planned office building in Lower Manhattan in 1991.
The conflict over the garage stems from the 1990s, when a judge froze rents for some Riverside tenants after a previous building owner paved over much of the building’s once landscaped courtyard.
By building a garden atop the parking garage — which the builders claim is widely needed in Brooklyn Heights — the landlord might be able to abolish the discounted rents.
But some tenants say that the garage would just add pollution and noise to the neighborhood.
©2009 Community News Group
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