Finger fate in city hands

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A city panel says it needs to know that construction on Williamsburg’s notorious “finger building” will be safe and secure before it can allow the developer to complete the project or leave it where it is today: at the middle knuckle.

The fate of that half-finished building on North Eighth Street will be up for more public debate before the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals on Tuesday.

The BSA had a hearing on the issue last month, but asked the Department of Buildings to make sure that the site, at 144 N. Eighth St., was safe and secure before ruling on whether to give developer Mendel Brach more time to complete the planned 16-story sliver.

“We asked [DOB] to do an inspection because there had been some violations for safety and security at the site, which the developer said had been cured, and the board wanted to make sure that was true,” said BSA Executive Director Jeff Mulligan.

Brach is asking for more time to finish the building because he didn’t get it done by the deadline set by the city whenever there is a change in the zoning rules after construction starts.

In this case, the area was downzoned in 2005 to limit the size and density of new construction. If Brach were forced to build under the new zoning rules, he would only be allowed to go to five stories, not 16 stories. So far, he’s built up to 10 stories of the Robert Scarano-designed tower. The controversial architect bemoaned his fate in a recent interview with the real-estate magazine, the Real Deal.

“The Finger Building is a tragedy,” he said. “It was vested under the old zoning … it’s professionally certified and in compliance.”

The DUMBO-based architect also dismissed naysayers of his design, saying that just because a building is out of context with the surrounding area doesn’t necessarily make it bad.

“Should the Williamsburgh Savings Bank never have been built because it’s completely out of place? Is having a ‘finger building’ in the middle of Greenpoint so terrible?” he asked.

Board of Standards and Appeals “Finger Building” hearing. BSA offices (40 Rector St., between Washington and West streets, in Manhattan), Nov. 20, 10 am. For info, call (212) 788-8500.

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