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BSA defers Oliver decision - Stein attorney seeks more time to review challenges

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A Department of Buildings Stop Work Order against William Stein’s Oliver House development in Carroll Gardens remains in effect this week after the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) decided to punt on a ruling that will ultimately determine the project’s fate.

On Wednesday morning, the BSA set a new hearing date for Oct. 26 after Stein’s attorney requested more time to review newly submitted information potentially damaging to their case.

Stein is seeking to continue construction of his 48-unit Oliver House condo development at the corner of 2nd Place and Smith Street under looser zoning regulations in place prior to the July 23 ratification of the Carroll Gardens Zoning Text Amendment.

Architect and Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association member John Hatheway submitted evidence challenging Stein’s contention that he already had enough of the new building’s foundation in place prior to enactment of the amendment to be vested under the old zoning rules.

At issue is whether or not the Carroll Street subway structure found underneath the Oliver House development can be considered part of the development’s foundation.

Hatheway calls that argument “a bunch of baloney.”

The Department of Buildings has already determined that Stein had only 20 percent of his foundation in place at the time the Carroll Gardens Zoning Text Amendment was enacted.

Stein’s attorneys dispute the city’s findings.

Hatheway further contends that court space outlined in Stein’s designs does not conform to zoning regulations, and he has written to the Department of Buildings requesting an official review.

Stein, meanwhile, is employing a double-barrel strategy to get what he wants. If his foundation argument fails to sway the BSA, it’s still possible that the developer could convince the board that he has a “common law vested right” to continue construction under old zoning regulations because of the amount of money he’s already sunken into the project.

Opponents say that the developer shouldn’t be given any such hardship consideration because he knew that the neighborhood’s zoning rules were about to be reformed, capping the height of new construction at 55 feet.

But on that score, Hatheway isn’t overly optimistic that opponents of out-of-scale development will ultimately carry the day.

“Even if we prove that he knew what was coming, I still don’t think that puts us in a fantastic position,” Hatheway said.

Both State Senate candidate Daniel Squadron as well as an aide to State Assemblywoman Joan Millman attended the BSA meeting and testified against Stein’s application.

City Councilman Bill de Blasio – who has come under fire for not being more forceful in opposing Stein’s campaign to build big – was notably absent.

“I don’t have a problem with it,” Hatheway told the Courier. “Bill has been very supportive of the text amendment and downzoning efforts. I didn’t expect him to be involved in trying to hash out the legal details of this particular project. I think he’s probably right that this is a matter about an assessment of fact as opposed to an elected official getting up there and speaking out.”

Hatheway describes the fight from this point on as a “real uphill battle” that largely depends on further findings by the Department of Buildings.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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