City rejects ‘brownstone of the future’

City rejects ‘brownstone of the future’

Architects want to build the brownstone of the future in Red Hook, but the city is stuck in the past.

The Department of Buildings killed plans for a local businessman’s zero-energy building last week, citing zoning regulations.

“They could have just as easily ruled the other way,” said Jay Amato, who owns the Conover Street lot where he hoped to build the energy-efficient structure as a model for the future. “There was nothing in the regulations.”

Amato hired Garrison Architects to design the building, called Red Hook Green, more than a year ago. It generated such a buzz that it was named “The Brownstone of the Future” in our yearly forward-looking magazine, “Brooklyn Tomorrow,” which is included in this week’s newspaper.

But now it may not be built at all.

The problem is that the brownstone-sized lot is zoned for manufacturing — so Amato can’t simply build a house on it unless the city allowed him to invoke a zoning rule that allows for a small residence, called a caretaker’s residence, inside a manufacturing building.

Such residences can’t exceed 15 percent of the total square footage. Amato said the residential portion of his structure comprises only 12 percent.

Yet the city still denied the permit.

“[The department] felt the building was too small to support the customary size of a caretaker’s residence,” said Jim Garrison, the lead architect of the project. “But this is something that has been granted in the past.”

Garrison saw his defeat as part of an ongoing conflict in Red Hook between residential and manufacturing.

“It’s been a battleground,” Garrison said because industrial businesses do not want Red Hook to become residential.

So Garrison’s lot remains zoned for manufacturing, even though it is actually too small to be used for anything except residential.

“Common sense is not prevailing here,” Garrison said.

Now, Amato said he has three options: switch the design to an office building, find another lot, or file for a variance, which is a gamble that could cost $50,000 and a year of paperwork.

It looks like Red Hook isn’t going green any time soon.