City chops Two Trees

The Brooklyn Paper
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The city has halted construction of an Atlantic Avenue apartment building, saying it violated the Cobble Hill Historic District’s height limit.

In a battle that centered more on semantics than zoning, the Department of Buildings told DUMBO kingpin David Walentas he must remove rooftop structures that he calls “stairway bulkheads,” but the city decided were residential spaces that violate the district’s 50-foot limit.

Several city agencies had agreed with Walentas and his Two Trees Management that the building met city code.

Now the Department of Buildings disagrees with that assessment, nullifying the initial clearances and saying that it has “objections to the plans, such as … the use of the stair bulkheads at the roof.”

Two Trees “must begin addressing the objections [by May 30] or the permit for the new building will be revoked,” the Department of Buildings said.

In spite of the city order to reconfigure the bulkheads on the partially constructed building, Two Trees maintains its controversial rooftop should be in the clear.

“The bulkheads are not in any way ‘habitable’ space,” the company said in a statement.

Walentas, who earned his nickname “Cabana Boy” by adding the luxury amenity to many of his projects, had unsuccessfully tried to skirt the neighborhood’s maximum height last year, asking permission from the city to construct a 60-foot building. He said the extra height was needed so his company could make enough money to continue costly maintenance on the neighboring landmark Independence Bank building, which is slated to be the future home of Brooklyn’s first Trader Joe’s grocery. The City Council rejected the 60-foot exemption in November.

Opponents of Walentas’s project were crowing about his latest setback.

“[The rule is] that you can’t build anything inhabitable or residential above 50 feet,” said Jeff Strabone, president of the Cobble Hill Association. But Two Trees was “trying to do it through chicanery.”

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