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‘Intrusive land-grab’: Fort Greene residents sue city for approving 23-story tower

The revised proposal for 130 Saint Felix St.
Courtesy of FXCollaborative

Dozens of Fort Greene locals sued the city’s Landmarks Preservation Committee on Dec. 3 for green-lighting a 23-story condo tower at 130 St. Felix St., saying the body was improperly influenced by the developer’s promise to include public benefits — such as affordable housing units and an expansion for the nearby Brooklyn Music School. 

“This is nothing less than an intrusive land-grab in which the rationale for modernizing the adjacent Brooklyn Music School and alleged ‘affordable’ condominiums are matters that are not permitted to influence the LPC’s consideration,” wrote the group under the moniker Preserve BAMs Historic District in a Dec. 11 release. “These are not within their purview – but seemingly have been leveraged politically as justifications for ratifying the plans as ‘appropriate’ when there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary.”

Most of the group’s 52 members live in the adjacent 37-story Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower, which is currently significantly taller than any surrounding structure — meaning the new 23-story condo could block cityscape views from some of the plaintiffs’ residencies. 

Because the proposed tower falls within the Brooklyn Academy of Music Historic District, Manhattan-based builder Gotham Development needed special permission to erect the tall structure between Hanson Place and Lafayette Avenue, which LPC granted on Aug. 4. 

But in court, as The Real Deal first reported, the group argued that the LPC improperly approved the building by taking into consideration the plan for a 20,000 square-foot expansion of the Brooklyn Music School, along with roughly 36 out of the 120 apartments that would be earmarked for below-market-rate rent. 

Doing so would violate the purview of the LPC, which is supposed to consider only the historical and architectural worthiness of proposed buildings. 

The Commission at first sent the developers back to the drawing board at a June hearing, citing concerns from some panelists that the building’s glass facade was too imposing on the mostly low-rise brownstone block between Hanson Place and Lafayette Avenue, and that its height made it look like an extension of the iconic Art Deco clock tower. 

The architects returned to an Aug. 4 virtual hearing with plans that reduced the height 20 feet by shrinking from 24 to 23 stories, making it visibly lower than the main shoulder of the 512-foot former-bank tower, which the 11-member panel approved. 

The plaintiffs argue that these changes were only minor and surmise that LPC was actually swayed by the developer’s sweeteners for the neighborhood, not their redesign of the building. 

The opponents said the new building would still “substantially hide” street views of the 1929 skyscraper from the south and west, while “obliterating all window views for some occupants” of the historic tower-cum-luxury-apartments.

“The proposed new construction would be devastating and, to use the key word of the Landmarks Preservation Law, entirely ‘[in]appropriate,'” the suit reads. 

In addition to the LPC approval, the developers will still need to get their scheme through the city’s lengthy Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, which they previously said they expect to start some time in 2021.

The city’s Law Department did not return a request for comment by press time.

Gotham Development, via a spokeswoman, declined to comment.

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