No love for Oliver House at CB Six

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Time, so far, is not on William Stein’s side.

Community Board 6 last week narrowly defeated a request by the developer for an extension to complete construction at 360 Smith Street/131 Second Place in the heart of Carroll Gardens.

The developer is hoping to exempt the controversial project from new zoning regulations which render its construction illegal without special approval.

The board voted 17-0 with 13 abstentions without cause, and 1 abstention with cause, to reject the developer’s request. Its vote is simply advisory. The matter will be reviewed later this month by the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA), a panel with official say on the matter.

Abstaining board members were apparently swayed by fellow member Judith Thompson and a statement read by member Mark Shames for member Deborah Scotto, a local developer. Both urged members to abstain without cause.

“Across the street from this is land zoned for a 70-foot height. It’s not really out of character to have this building there,” Thompson said.

She said it was strange that Stein is being “attacked” when nearby, the Clarett Group is constructing an even larger project at 340 Court Street.

“The building pays due respect to the character of Second Place,” Scotto’s statement read. “I urge you to abstain without cause, thus allowing the BSA to make an unfettered technical judgment.”

Board chair Richard Bashner clarified that members were only being asked to determined whether an extension of time should be granted and not whether a significant enough amount of the foundation was to be poured.

The city’s Department of Buildings has already determined that at the time the Carroll Gardens Zoning Text Amendment was passed this summer, Stein only completed 20 percent of the work needed to be considered vested under the old zoning regulations.

The majority was not swayed by Stein supporters. “Why should we vote to change the rules?” wondered member Jeff Strabone. “Those rules seem fairly precise.”

“Let’s just uphold the law and let the applicant uphold the law. Rules are rules,” He continued.

The project, dubbed “Oliver House,” for the developer’s father, calls for a 70-foot, 48-unit, luxury condominium complex at the corner of Smith Street and 2nd Place under older, less restrictive zoning regulations.

The new zoning regulations limit the height of construction on Second Place to 55 feet.

At a late August Landmarks/Land Use Committee meeting on the matter, Stein’s attorney Deirdre Carson said her client has already performed work totaling in excess of $3 million, including the installation of 90 pilings, proof, she said, that enough has been done to exempt the development from the new zoning rules.

At press time, Carson did not return a call for comment.

“We worked hard for the text amendment,” said Robert Levine, co-chair of the Landmarks/Land Use Committee. “It is in for exactly this reason. I see no reason to look at this as a hardship,” he said.

At the committee meeting, those opposed to the project came out in force, arguing that its arrival is anathema to the low-rise nature of surrounding blocks.

Stein has said that under the existing rules, a 12-story tower was possible, but that he had no intention of building such a structure.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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