Going up! ‘Finger’ building will keep rising

‘Finger’ stretching upwards
Richard Femia

The new owners of Williamsburg’s so-called “Finger Building” have agreed to amputate the controversial North Eighth Street tower, but the size of the cut remains in question.

The unfinished 10-story building — which earned its moniker because opponents say it looks like it’s flipping the bird at its low-rise neighbors — won’t rise to its permitted height of 16 stories, the developers of the property told The Brooklyn Paper.

But it could still grow taller than its current 110 feet, said Andrew Zobler of G.F.I. Capital, countering previous reports on the Williamsburg Greenpoint News and Arts Web site that claimed that the new builders have agreed to cap the structure at 10 stories.

“We have agreed that we are not going to build to the maximum permitted legal height — that much we have committed to,” said Zobler, whose company acquired the building late last year from the original developer, Mendel Brach. “But we haven’t committed to exactly what we are going to do with it. We are looking at a few different options.”

G.F.I. Capital is attempting to salvage the shell of the uncompleted building, where construction has been stalled for three years due to legal squabbles regarding zoning regulations, open space requirements, and air rights.

But last December, the powerful Board of Standards and Appeals voted 4–0 (with one abstention) to allow the tower between Bedford Avenue and Berry Street to rise to 16 stories, despite a 2005 rezoning that capped area buildings at 10.

The new owners are planning to finish the long-abandoned building by mid-2010 — but before they get to work on the infamous edifice, they hope to win over the community.

“As opposed to the prior developer, we want to be receptive and open — and liked by the community,” said Zobler. “We’re more conscientious developers.”

Turning the much-maligned tower — which was originally designed by embattled architect Robert Scarano — into a successful building will also take some serious re-branding.

In an attempt to distance the project at 144 North Eighth St. from the “Finger Building” nickname, the development will be dubbed “The Albero,” which means “the tree” in Italian, according to Zobler.

“I thought the image of a tree is a little bit more appropriate than the image of a finger,” he said. “You might stumble on a tree in a forest that is a bit taller than it’s neighbors — but it might not jar you as much.”