Bill-der-dash! DeBlasio backtracks on exemption for private school

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Outgoing Councilman Bill DeBlasio has backtracked on his secretive effort to allow a politically connected private school to move ahead with a two-story extension atop of the courtyards that give Carroll Gardens is very character.

DeBlasio’s initial effort to insert an exemption for the Hannah Senesh School into a city administrative code was immediately discovered by local preservationists and bloggers last week, prompting the kind of outrage typically reserved for large-scale development projects, not a two-story addition atop a school parking lot.

But the parking lot in question, along First Place at the corner of Smith Street, is not merely a piece of city-owned land, but an architectural feature that is fundamental to the neighborhood. Indeed, such deep lots along First though Fourth places are what give Carroll Gardens its name.

After widespread complaints that DeBlasio’s exception would set a dangerous precedent, the Councilman, who becomes the public advocate on Jan. 1, withdrew his amendment.

“I’m pleased to report that Councilman DeBlasio agreed to hold off on the amendment,” DeBlasio’s successor, Councilman-elect Brad Lander, announced at a meeting at the Hannah Senesh School on Monday night, winning one of his first semi-official rounds of applause from the crowd of 50.

The exemption that would have laid the groundwork for an extension at the school will now be taken up as part of the normal public process that accompanies any request for a land-use change.

Former Councilman Ken Fisher, now a lobbyist, estimated that the new proposal would be prepared within three months.

Lander said that he supported that approach.

“I believe that the Council should not remove the courtyard requirement in the next few weeks, in a process that would not include community hearings, a vote of the Community Board, or the disclosure of [the land-use review procedure,” he said. “Instead, the proposed actions should be considered together through the [procedure], which provides a full public-review process with full disclosure, review of environmental impact, community hearings, and recommendations the community board, Borough President, and City Planning Commission before a vote by the City Council.”

But winning the battle did not calm many angry locals at Monday night’s meeting. After all, the “battle” has only begun.

That much was clear as architect Larry Horowitz passed around a rendering of the proposed addition. Many in the audience did not bother to hide their revulsion.

“The proposed building is hideous,” said Barbara Brookhart, a member of the Carroll Garden Neighborhood Association. “We’re all pretty upset by this.”

Ever the old hand, Fisher directly addressed the most-irritated in the audience, denying that DeBlasio’s amendment or that the development itself would set a precedent that would lead to further developments on residential courtyards, which are zoned as part of the street due to an odd regulation signed into law in the mid-19th century.

“If DeBlasio believed this would have opened the gates of hell, he wouldn’t have considered it,” Fisher said, hailing DeBlasio’s leadership last year in fighting for the protection of the neighborhood’s unique streets.

Since then, however, Fisher was hired by the school and DeBlasio collected nearly $700 in campaign contributions for his public advocate run from an official with the institution — further fueling some audience members’ feeling of a “betrayal” as Brookhart called it.

On Monday night, officials from the school mostly let Fisher do the talking, but Amy Glosser, vice chair of the board, emphasized her Jewish school’s connection to the community and the need for more space in its two-year-old building.

“We need room for a full-sized gym, a computer room, or a theater,” she said. “We certainly need more classrooms.”

Later, she added, “This is about getting better, not getting bigger.”

Updated 5:15 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

scared no from CG says:
Amy Glosser will remember that when they bought the lot to billy Stein in 2005, Hannah Senesh Community Day School sold the air-right to the adjacent lot ( a.k.a 360 Smith ) resulting an higher building at 360 Smith and extension limitations for the school. ( ref: the project DOB# 302290777)
After 2 years of operations, she claims more surface for the school. It looks like either she is not able to manage a school or she his trying to fool the residents of Carroll Gardens. In both case this school shows a bad example to their students.

Why don't she go to 360 Smith?
Dec. 8, 2009, 12:10 pm
al pankin from downtown says:
the real question here is how did this group get their hands on this once former public school property. it was the office space for the district. the city could have built their own public school. why is the city giving away their school buildings to private groups?
Dec. 8, 2009, 12:55 pm
fg from ps says:
The courtyard belongs to the school, not the city. Let the school build an educational institution that will improve our society and let the reactionaries move to Conn or elsewhere.
Let progress move on. DiBlasio should continue to seek the exemption for the benefit of our neighborhood. He no longer needs the vote of foolish reactionaries.
Dec. 9, 2009, 6:29 pm
CG from CG says:

Amy Glasser is speaking "spin" probably coached by the "old hat", Fischer. The gardens are public land not the property of the school! Shall we all expand onto our front gardens ruining CArroll GArdens collectively or shall we all make sacrifices for the betterment of the whole? Hannah Senesh just got here: surely they thought this move through before moving here.
Dec. 10, 2009, 1:07 pm
Ruth Marchese from Carroll Gardens says:
This school is only two years old and did they not know when they started building that they would so soon need more classrooms, a bigger gym, a theater, more computer rooms? Smells awfully fishy. And to have the Public Advocate elect trying to slip this in before he exits from the City Council makes me fear about what is in store for us in the next 4 years of his advocacy.
Dec. 10, 2009, 3:27 pm
Tony S. from CG says:
This is more than just a little fishy. Plus, the rumor on the street is that the 360 smith street building can get more floors too (read: TALLER!) if this Hannah Senesh land grab goes through, which it will cause it has Bill DeB's kisses all over it. The two building projects above are in bed together even though Hannah Senesh says it "aint so". Yeah right. These are cowardly and secretive shenanigans and Bill DeBlasio as the next "public" "advocate" (cough cough, keel over now) should have stayed clear of this mess cause this stuff is all gonna catch up to him one day. Hey, Councilman Bill: I wanna buy my front garden for a dollar too! Can u get it for me?
Dec. 10, 2009, 11:53 pm

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