Freeze! City halts work at Brooklyn Bridge Park site over view gripes

Freeze! City halts work at Brooklyn Bridge Park site over view gripes
Photo by Jason Speakman

The city is forcing construction to stop at a Brooklyn Bridge Park housing development until bean counters can determine whether the planned building will obstruct the view of the Brooklyn Bridge.

The Department of Buildings issued a partial stop work order on Monday after park administrators asked developer Toll Brothers to make sure the new luxury building, part of the Pierhouse development on Furman Street, will not block protected views from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. The decision to double-check the blueprints follows outcry by activists over a further-along hotel-and-condo building that locals say is taller than they agreed to.

The privately run park’s president said administrators are on board with the work stoppage if it ensures the view remains intact.

“We take our responsibility to protect the Scenic View District very seriously,” said Regina Myer in a statement. “This temporary stop work order will ensure nothing is built that will impact these views until the Department of Buildings approves the filed plans.”

A group of community activists calling itself Save the View Now, has been asking public officials and the park’s board to halt construction at Pierhouse, which is set to include three buildings altogether. The group formed after the first of those buildings, near the corner of Doughty Street, topped out at a level higher than many people expected, partially obscuring views of the Brooklyn Bridge from the Promenade with its rooftop mechanical equipment and bar.

Recent Brooklyn Heights transplant Lena Dunham tweeted her support of the “Save the View Now” campaign, prompting several of her followers to fear that the popular morning talk-show starring Rosie Perez and Whoopi Goldberg was in danger of being canceled.

The Brooklyn Heights Association, a 105-year-old civic group, also raised the alarm about the height of this building, citing agreements it helped broker starting in 2006. Myer countered by claiming the building’s ultimate height was always known, and that necessary bulkhead on the roof, combined with changes in regulation resulting from the impact of Hurricane Sandy, are what led to the confusion.

She has also said that the Cold Storage Warehouses, which previously occupied the Pierhouse lots, blocked even more of the view.

The site being scrutinized by the city now, unlike the hotel-condo building, falls within a special zoning area designed to prevent the loss of vistas of the distant island of Manhattan and of the borough’s namesake bridge. Save the View Now is demanding the park clarify the height of the further-along building, and that some of the structure be lopped off if it turns out to be higher than was agreed to. Members also want assurances the other two buildings will come with no such surprises.

Park administrators seemingly heeded the latter request this week by calling on the developer to confirm that its plans stay below the sight line, though a park spokeswoman denied that the request was a direct response to the activists.

However it went down, activists praised the city’s response.

“We are relieved that the Department of Buildings has taken important steps to ensure the construction at 130 Furman will continue only after plans are submitted that show compliance,” said Steven Guterman, head of Save the View Now.

The Brooklyn Heights Association echoed the sentiment in a tweet on Wednesday.

“Construction is halted at Pierhouse! The first big ‘win!’ Change can happen. Don’t give up!” the group wrote.

The building currently rises slightly above its foundation, and the stop work order prevents it from going higher than two stories. The final building is set to be four stories with mechanical equipment on the roof, allegedly topping out at 55-feet.

Myer said the park stewards will keep an eye on the measurements throughout construction.

“We will continue to monitor construction closely to ensure all requirements are adhered to,” she said.

The park plan calls for six residential high-rises in all, fees from which are meant to fund park maintenance forever.

Toll Brothers did not respond to requests for comment.

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260–8310. E-mail him at mperl‌man@c‌ngloc‌al.com. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.