says no to Indy bank plan
Community Board 6 unanimously voted down plans by DUMBO development company
Two Trees Management to build an 81-foot-tall, 80-unit luxury-apartment
complex above and adjacent to the flagship Independence Community Bank
branch on Atlantic Avenue at Court Street.
In voting to send a negative report on the proposal to the city Landmarks
Preservation Commission, the community board cited numerous reasons why
the project is an inappropriate development for the Cobble Hill Historic
The property planned for development, which includes three bank-owned
lots emanating from the bank building at the northeast corner of the historic
district, would be sold to Two Trees if the Landmarks Preservation Commission
determines that the development is appropriate for the property, said
Jed Walentas, who with his father, David Walentas, owns Two Trees.
According to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, Two Trees submitted
applications for permits to “demolish additions and a one-story building,
and construct a penthouse addition and seven-story adjacent addition.”
In order to proceed, Two Trees needs a certificate of appropriateness
from the Landmarks Preservation Commission. In the first phase of public
review, the application for that certificate was rejected by both the
Land Use committee of CB6, on March 31, with 13 opposed and two abstentions,
and the full board in a vote taken April 13
“The full board voted unanimously against the Independence Bank proposal,”
said Craig Hammerman, district manager for CB6, who said the Land Use
committee members critiqued the designs only on “how historically
appropriate it would be.”
The committee, he said, returned seven criticisms with their opposing
vote, which included: that the mass of the proposed building is too big;
that the “increased height doesn’t contribute to the character”
of the historic district; that the “design and use of the materials
are inconsistent with the district”; that “residential structures
in the district are generally 25-foot lots” (or smaller than the
three adjacent lots to be used for the new building); that the 81-foot
height would overwhelm the “gateway location” of the bank with
respect to the Cobble Hill district; that terraces on the south facade
of the building were “inconsistent with the historic district”;
and that a “glass bridge” that would connect the bank and the
new structure was “completely inconsistent with the district.”
“We came up with a scheme that we’re proud of and we think the
bank’s proud of,” said Jed Walentas, who added of the CB6 vote,
“It’s always nice to get a favorable response from the community
board,” he said. “They have their concerns. You know, we’ll
continue to go through the process, and see what the landmarks commission
has to say.”
How much Two Trees will pay Independence Bank for the property will be
influenced by the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s determination.
“Once we know what project can be built there, what will probably
happen [is] they will sell us the site, and [the cost of the property]
will be determined by what is determined can be put there,” said
“We’re still in negotiations to sell the property,” said
Mike Armstrong, a spokesman for the bank. The sale includes the bank at
130 Court St., a parking lot next to it on Atlantic Avenue, and a building
on the other side of the parking lot at 182 Atlantic Ave.
Walentas added that the development was not being built as a profit-engine
for either the developer or the bank, but that Two Trees was approached
by Independence Bank about working together.
“It’s not a moneymaker for anybody in any significant way,”
Still, rentals at the Court House, a near-completion apartment complex
built by Two Trees catty corner to the Independence Bank building across
Atlantic Avenue, go for between $1,660 and $2,021 for studios and between
$2,074 and $3,644 for one-bedrooms.
“This is not your typical transaction,” Walentas added and described
the bank’s impetus for undertaking the sale.
“You have a bank who is a major constituent in the community. They
want to do something that is right, and we’re a conduit for them
to execute that,” Walentas said. “And they want to be able to
keep the bank there and protect it.
“They’re not developers, they’re not in the development
business, so they contacted us,” he said.
One of the benefits, Walentas said, was the temporary relocation the bank
could find nearby, in another Two Trees building at 100 Court St. at State
Street, where he said the bank would “most likely” move to.
The bank will move back to its historic location after construction is
completed and buy back their portion of the building as a commercial condo.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission will consider the community board’s
recommendation against the project. The agency has not yet scheduled a
public hearing on the matter.
©2005 Community News Group