No love loft! G’point warehouse tenants get the boot ahead of hotel conversion by fallen starchitect

Checkin’ in with…Robert Scarano, Brooklyn’s ‘bad boy’ architect

Tenants of a Greenpoint warehouse are getting the boot to make room for a hotel designed by an architecture firm with a long history of pushing the limits of legality, according to plans filed with the city.

Artists and business owners who rent loft space in the three-story industrial building at 233 Norman Ave. say that word of their imminent eviction to make way for camera-toting tourists has them scrambling to find a new place, never mind the fact that the guy responsible for the hotel’s blueprints is a “bad boy” architect who a judge in 2010 said nearly committed “out-and-out fraud.” To avoid having to ply their crafts on street corners, some tenants are considering taking drastic measures — such as moving to a less-hip borough.

“It looks likely that we will have to go to Queens,” said Adam Sliwanski, a member of the quartet So Percussion, which spent seven years practicing in a studio in the top floor of the building between N. Henry and Russell streets.

Scarano Architects filed plans with the city proposing adding another story to the building for the hotel, a plan which, because the changes fall within the current zoning, does not require city approval. The big-name firm is run by fallen starchitect Robert Scarano, who a judge attempted to take down a peg three years ago by stripping him of his ability to certify his own work in a ruling that detailed a long list of sketchy-but-legal dealings, including installing easily removable building plywood stages to skirt floor area limits. Scarano’s firm made headlines more recently for failing to mention in construction paperwork that pizza giant Grimaldi’s, famed for its coal oven, was going to burn the black rock at its new location.

Building owner Joe Torres originally had the hotel plans drawn up in 2006, but put them on hold until shortly before the approval earlier this month. Tenants on the top two floors at 233 Norman Ave. say they were given a month’s notice to clear out, but ground-floor dwellers say they are facing even more uncertainty, having not heard a word about their future from Torres.

Torres has not given everyone the silent treatment, though. One tenant said that not only is he in touch with Torres, but the landlord has gone so far as to offer a place to land in another one of his buildings.

“He has helped out a little bit,” said artist Joseph Bone, who has worked out of 233 Norman Ave. for six years. “He seems to have a heart buried in there somewhere.”

The landlord also owns the Box House Hotel, a mile away from the warehouse on Norman Avenue in a similarly industrial (or, if the hotel’s web site is to be believed, “industrial chic) part of Greenpoint, where guests are shuttled to the nearest G train station in private, 1970s checker cabs.

A clerk at the Box House Hotel said she did not know Torres’s plans for 233 Norman Ave., but that he does plan to expand the Box House Hotel by adding more rooms and a restaurant.

“We are always expanding,” clerk Jennica Hernandez said.

Both Scarano’s office and Torres did not return repeated calls and emails for comment.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.
Warehouse clearance: Owner Joe Torres is kicking out his artist tenants and turning 233 Norman Ave. into a boutique hotel, according to plans filed with the city.