State blocks higher rents for garage at Riverside Apartments

The Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Get our stories in your inbox, free.

Like The Brooklyn Paper on Facebook.

A state agency has sunk a landlord’s plans to construct an underground garage topped with a garden behind an historic Joralemon Street apartment complex.

The Division of Housing and Community Renewal objected to building owner Joel Weiner’s request for the 90-car garage because it called for unfreezing rents in the 119-year-old Riverside Apartments — where rents have been locked since a previous landlord paved over a portion of the courtyard and play area for parking spaces more than a decade ago.

The state ruled last Tuesday that erecting a green-roofed garage behind the Alfred T. White–designed buildings wouldn’t fully restore the courtyard and play area, so the restoration of the original rents could not be justified.

“The courtyard/play area was meant for recreational use by the tenants,” rent administrator Lilia Albano wrote in a document obtained by The Brooklyn Paper.

“The proposed plan does not ameliorate the situation,” she continued. “This proposal is in direct conflict with the intended use of this area.”

The state’s decision also emphasized the importance of several mature trees that survived the 1950s construction of the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway, which leveled about half of the apartment complex, and the 1990s construction of parking spaces in the courtyard, which claimed much of the greenspace.

Residents of the building complex were pleased — and shocked — by the state’s decision.

“This is stunning,” said Riverside Tenant Association Chairman William Ringler. “This is not only a victory for the Riverside Tenants, but it’s a victory for tenants in the entire city. This proves that tenants have a right to a healthy living environment, and owners don’t have a carte blanche.”

Early plans to construct an above-grade garage with a garden met harsh resistance over environmental and aesthetic concerns — though the Landmarks Preservation Commission later approved the current design.

After the Landmarks approval, tenants feared that their only hope to halt the project would be the discovery of architectural relics in the soil beneath the courtyard that. No relics were found.

The state’s decision is a blow to the garage proposal, but the door hasn’t closed on the project entirely, said Weiner’s attorney, Ken Fisher — a former Brooklyn Heights councilman.

“Obviously, we are disappointed at this initial determination, but there are other levels of review at the agency, which we will be pursuing,” Fisher said. “Ultimately, we are confident that our Landmarks Commission-approved project will move forward and the meet the needs of both community residents for parking as well as for tenants of the building.”

Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Get our stories in your inbox, free.

Like The Brooklyn Paper on Facebook.

Reader Feedback

Doug Biviano from Brooklyn Heights says:
Congratulations on your victory Chairman William Ringler and Riverside Tenants!

It was great to meet you all at your meeting last night. As promised, I will be there to support you in this fight for your affordable housing and to protect our historic architecture, mature trees and open spaces. As a member of the community, I have personally wandered in your courtyard several times over the years so I truly appreciate the magnificent and precious canopy of these trees in this special space. I hope you don't mind...

Feel free to reach out to me anytime.

Doug Biviano
Candidate in 33rd District
NYC City Council
July 17, 2009, 12:14 pm

Enter your comment below

By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:

You agree that you, and not or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.