City kills brownstone brownstone

Bklyn Heights builder plans something novel — a brownstone actually made of brownstone
Courtesy of NV/da Design

A plan to build a townhouse in historic Brooklyn Heights made of actual brownstone quarried from its original source has been stopped in its tracks by the Landmarks Preservation Commission because it thinks the retro-chic design is a “McMansion” in disguise.

On Tuesday, architect Tom van den Bout was literally sent back to the drawing board after the nine-member panel ruled that his plan for the brownstone on Cranberry Street between Hicks and Willow streets is out of context with surrounding structures.

“It’s wholly inappropriate on this block and in this setting,” said Commissioner Frederick Bland. “It’s muscular in every way. It’s almost like a McMansion is wedging its way into this enclave in the Heights.”

Van den Bout, the former president of the Brooklyn Heights Association, designed the townhouse for developer Louis Greco, who bought the long-vacant lot on Cranberry Street for $1.5 million last year.

The three-story townhouse would have had a raised basement and utilize original brownstone — a material that the borough has made famous, but one that does not appear elsewhere on the block.

In fact, most houses there are made of brick, with one two-story wood frame house located next door.

Seven residents who turned out for Tuesday’s mandatory public hearing on the plan added that the townhouse would also be too big compared to the surrounding homes, and a letter from the Historic District Council, a landmarks watchdog group, asked the architect to design something that looks more like nearby building — and is built out of the same materials.

The only voice of support came from van den Bout’s pals at the Brooklyn Heights Association, which called the design “thoughtful and original.”

Van den Bout, who did not return calls for comment told us in April that the classic brownstone would win over the neighborhood naysayers.

But that didn’t happen, and now he’s headed back to the drawing board.

“It’s time for a major rethinking,” said Landmarks Chairman Robert Tierney.