City rejects a brownstone — in brownstone Brooklyn

City rejects a brownstone — in brownstone Brooklyn
Courtesy of NV/da Design

So much for the “brownstone Brownstone”!

A city panel that had blocked a developer from building a true brownstone in the heart of brownstone Brooklyn now says that a red brick house is just fine.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously approved architect Tom van den Bout’s new design for a Brooklyn Heights townhouse last Tuesday — two months after rejecting his original plan as a “McMansion” that clashed with surrounding homes.

The result will be a scaled-down and quirkier house on the long-vacant lot on 27 Cranberry St. rather than the architect’s novel plans to use actual brownstone imported from a century-plus-old quarry — a proposal that would have resulted in the first real “Brooklyn brownstone” in decades.

“It was difficult to abandon that material,” van den Bout said. “At the same time, what we’ve designed is a different house that we’re very happy with.”

In a rapid turnaround, van den Bout worked with the city to create what he calls “a more natural and humble” single-family, four-story home with several revisions to appease worked-up neighbors.

Van den Bout will use dark red brick rather than brownstone to harmonize with a wooden house next door, and zinc instead of bronze for window frames.

Other revisions will make the building, which is between Hicks and Willow streets, slimmer and shorter, and have a top floor that’s not as visible from the front.

Some community members appreciated the revisions, but said the building’s scale was still too grand.

“We wished he would build a small house instead of what he’s entitled to build — but it’s still impressive,” said Judy Stanton, executive director of the Brooklyn Heights Association, which unsurprisingly supported van den Bout’s original plans. He is a former president of the association, after all.

Simeon Bankoff of the Historic Districts Council, who opposed the townhouse from the start, said he’s resigned to the new plans.

“It’s too big,” Bankoff said. “Cranberry Street is specifically low scale so it’s a tough site. This might have worked if it was on another block in Brooklyn Heights.”