Panorama drama! Bridge Park condo back in court over view-blocking claims

Panorama drama! Bridge Park condo back in court over view-blocking claims
Photo by Louise Wateridge

This case really depends on your point of view!

A condominium building rising in Brooklyn Bridge Park is blocking protected vistas of the historic bridge — and its developer secured the city’s okay to do so by using sketchy measurements in its plans, alleges a new lawsuit from local preservationists backed by Councilman Steve Levin (D–Boerum Hill).

“We’re accusing them of improperly drawing the lines and mistaking the law and regulations,” said Jeffrey Baker, attorney for local civic group the Brooklyn Heights Association and activists Save the View Now, which already lost a suit arguing a different part of development is too tall last year.

The rabble-rousers now allege Toll Brothers Real Estate filed plans for its controversial Pierhouse complex on Furman Street that put the so-called Brooklyn Heights Scenic View District — a vantage of the Brooklyn Bridge from the Heights Promenade that has to be kept clear — in the wrong place, allowing it to build a penthouse that actually protrudes 20 feet into the sacred spectacle.

The critics claim they didn’t notice the issue until recently because the developer’s original plans from 2012 start measuring the view from the correct spot — the Promenade’s railing at Orange Street, according to a surveyor they hired to examine the allegedly offending building.

They claim the most recent blueprints — which only came to light in March after park honchos asked the Department of Buildings to check on the height of the buildings — however, begin measuring 20 feet closer to the waterfront, placing the starting point mid-air over the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.

“They changed it and they forgot to tell anybody else they were changing it,” said Save the View Now president Steve Guterman.

But Pierhouse architect Jonathan Marvel provided a sworn statement to the court insisting his interpretation of the view is the correct one, and the group’s surveyor has it wrong — and a rep for the project agrees.

Original mission: This 2012 survey shows the view plane along the railing of the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.
Marvel Architects

“Any allegation that the architect working on behalf of Toll Brothers and Starwood Capital Group moved [the view] in 2015 to accommodate its Pierhouse buildings is false,” said spokesman Bud Perrone.

At least one of the park’s board members agrees the measurements are wonky, though — Levin wrote an affidavit for the suit accusing city and park officials of misinterpreting “clear language” on where the view begins, and saying he was “dismayed” they didn’t object “when the developer chose to locate that point hanging in mid-air.”

The park’s operators, who are using funds from the development to finance the green space, called any allegations the plans were altered — or that they were aware of the changes — “absurd.”

“It would’ve been hard for us to know about something that, to our knowledge, never occurred,” said spokeswoman Belinda Cape.

A Department of Buildings rep said it stands by its assesment that the plans comply with the view restrictions.

State Supreme Court Justice Lawrence Knipel — who dismissed the activists’ last lawsuit against Pierhouse — heard the case on Thursday, and will now take around three weeks to look over it.

If he rules in favor of Guterman and his allies, Toll Brothers will have to halt construction on the building — where Jay Z and Beyonce are rumored to have claimed a unit — and rebuild so it fits within their interpretation of the regulations.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Take two: Critics say this plan, which the Department of Buildings approved in 2015, shows the view starting 20 feet west of the Promenade, over the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.
Marvel Architects