Senesh courtyard to get city eye

The city is vowing to take a closer look at cars parked in the courtyard of a Carroll Gardens private school, a situation that has long vexed some in the neighborhood.

While the Hannah Senesh Community Day School is not the first entity to use the First Street courtyard adjacent to 342 Smith Street as a parking lot, the matter gained renewed attention when the private school said it plans to construct a two-story building in the space.

The school was hoping to have a city code amended so that it could proceed with its plan, but after strident community outcry, the entire matter was postponed so that the land use changes the school is requesting can receive a full public review this year.

To local preservationists, courtyards are a sacrosanct element of the Carroll Gardens aesthetic, and any encroachment represents a threat to the neighborhood’s unique character. A parking lot therefore, is bad enough critics said — a two story building is catalyzing strong and growing opposition.

The courtyard area is city owned, and the Department of Buildings has enforcement over any zoning violations seen on the property. Carly Sullivan, an agency spokesperson, said inspectors were dispatched to the site on Dec. 30 — during a vacation week for the school— and did not observe any cars in the courtyard. “In the future, if residents see parked cars there, they should call 311,” she said, saying the agency will be keeping its eye on the courtyard. Meanwhile, she added, the agency has received no complaints about the matter since July 2008.

Amy Glosser, vice president of the school’s board of directors,said the school simply inherited a parking lot. “As far as we know, it has been that way a long time, and we don’t have plans to change the use of the space at this time.”

The property was formerly home to the headquarters of School District 15, whose employees also parked their cars in the courtyard.

Maria Pagano, president of the Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association, said she’s been hearing complaints about the use of this courtyard for the past 20 years. “When the district office used it they said it was just temporary, and that it would be converted back to a garden,” she recalled. “You have to understand, there are people fighting for the restoration of the original gardens who see this every day.”