Cobble Hill couple is Jonesing for Norah’s windows

Windows 7 was Norah Jones’s idea
Danny Clinch

A Cobble Hill couple wants to “pull a Norah” and add four windows to the side of their austere brownstone — and preservationists are howling once again.

The proposed renovations to the Clinton Street crib echo the controversial seven windows that singer Norah Jones’s had punched into a blank wall on the side of her Amity Street house, which is only one block away.

Jones managed to get city approval for her renovations without presenting them to the local community board late last year — and, as a result, many Cobble Hill preservationists feared that the neighborhood’s aesthetic would soon be under assault.
“Jones’s windows established a precedent,” said Roy Sloane, the president of the Cobble Hill association and a passionate preservationist. “Our fears have been realized.”

In addition to the four windows, the couple that is moving into the 170-year-old residence between Amity and Congress streets want to add a swimming pool, an enclosed glass porch in the back and one story to a portion of the building.

When the design was presented to Community Board 6 by architects Andrew Bernheimer and Jared Della Valle, board members reacted with skepticism and pledged to oppose the renovations.

Sloane and others in the neighborhood believe that windows on the side of residences in Cobble Hill contradict the 19th-century Greek Revival style, which dominates the neighborhood.

Residents of this Clinton Street brownstone wanted to punch some windows through their side wall — a Norah Jones-style renovation that has preservations in Cobble Hill freaking out (literally).
Community Newspaper Group / Stephen Brown

“It’s a very egalitarian style — [original residents] tried not to overawe their neighbors,” said Sloane. “This low-key character affords privacy. [It’s] the same character that makes people want to move to Cobble Hill in the first place!”

Sloane said the owners of 60 similar houses with blank facades in the historic district now have a “window of opportunity” should they decide to pursue Jones-like renovations.

Still, the new proposal is not as major an overhaul as Jones’s, given that the Clinton Street brownstone already features two windows towards the rear of the building.

Bernheimer referred inquiries to Della Valle, who did not return a phone call. A message left with building owners Joe Schottland and Monia Dini was also not returned before The Brooklyn Paper’s architecturally sound online deadline.

Songbird Norah Jones — a Brooklyn native through and through — has irked some of her Cobble Hill neighbors with a plan to punch more than 10 windows in this wall, an offense to historic preservation, some say.
The Brooklyn Paper / Stephen Brown

The renovations to the Clinton Street brownstone will go before the Landmarks Preservation Commission (1 Centre St. at Chambers Street in Manahattan) on July 13 at 9:30 am. For info, visit www.nyc.gov/html/lpc.