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Cobble Hill couple is Jonesing for Norah’s windows

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A Cobble Hill couple wants to “pull a Norah” and add four windows to the side of their austere brownstone — and preservationists are howling once again.

The proposed renovations to the Clinton Street crib echo the controversial seven windows that singer Norah Jones’s had punched into a blank wall on the side of her Amity Street house, which is only one block away.

Jones managed to get city approval for her renovations without presenting them to the local community board late last year — and, as a result, many Cobble Hill preservationists feared that the neighborhood’s aesthetic would soon be under assault. “Jones’s windows established a precedent,” said Roy Sloane, the president of the Cobble Hill association and a passionate preservationist. “Our fears have been realized.”

In addition to the four windows, the couple that is moving into the 170-year-old residence between Amity and Congress streets want to add a swimming pool, an enclosed glass porch in the back and one story to a portion of the building.

When the design was presented to Community Board 6 by architects Andrew Bernheimer and Jared Della Valle, board members reacted with skepticism and pledged to oppose the renovations.

Sloane and others in the neighborhood believe that windows on the side of residences in Cobble Hill contradict the 19th-century Greek Revival style, which dominates the neighborhood.

“It’s a very egalitarian style — [original residents] tried not to overawe their neighbors,” said Sloane. “This low-key character affords privacy. [It’s] the same character that makes people want to move to Cobble Hill in the first place!”

Sloane said the owners of 60 similar houses with blank facades in the historic district now have a “window of opportunity” should they decide to pursue Jones-like renovations.

Still, the new proposal is not as major an overhaul as Jones’s, given that the Clinton Street brownstone already features two windows towards the rear of the building.

Bernheimer referred inquiries to Della Valle, who did not return a phone call. A message left with building owners Joe Schottland and Monia Dini was also not returned before The Brooklyn Paper’s architecturally sound online deadline.

The renovations to the Clinton Street brownstone will go before the Landmarks Preservation Commission (1 Centre St. at Chambers Street in Manahattan) on July 13 at 9:30 am. For info, visit www.nyc.gov/html/lpc.

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Reader Feedback

John from CH says:
Come ON!

Let's calm down, a few "small" windows are OK, they are not talking about a floor to ceiling window...

I'm OK to preserve the historical aspect, but let's also embrace change, in a wise way, I know it is difficult and challenging, but "historical" does not mean "frozen".
July 7, 2010, 8:52 am
Use Your Brain from CG says:
I totally agree with John from CH! Historical does not mean frozen. There are tasteful ways of updating a home without destroying its historic character. These updates are not unreasonable. For example, putting air conditioning units in a brownstone may not be in line with keeping with its historic character, but I challenge any Cobble Hill Association board member to go a summer without one.
July 7, 2010, 10:09 am
Harriet from Cobble Hill says:
Why not just tear down the old houses and build new ones with large windows?

Sorry, but landmarked means frozen. There were many ideas for "improvements" on these buildings throughout the decades that have later proven to be really unattractive and ruin the character of the building/neighborhood. Just think of the ideas that were popular in the 60s.

I say leave them as they are - or move into a neighborhood with a less histroic character or even to a modern building in this neighborhood.
July 7, 2010, 11:59 am
Sid from Boerum Hill says:
Landmarked doesn't mean frozen.
These houses were built without running water and central heating.
Double panned windows newer construction techniques mean that you can do things that couldn't be done a hundred years ago. Putting in windows doesn't change the basic character....
how about horses on the streets too....

and in the '60 these areas weren't landmarked!
July 7, 2010, 12:15 pm
Mac from Cobble Hill Historic District says:
Leave Norah alone.
July 9, 2010, 9:27 am
bryanX from Red Hook says:
I have a deep respect for History and Preservation issues.

I also have a deep disdain for "Preservation Nazis".

A bunch of A-holes.
July 9, 2010, 12:06 pm
Joe from Carroll Gardens says:
If you spend 1.5 million on a house you should be able to do what you want with it.
July 10, 2010, 12:16 am
Frank from CH says:
Agree w/others -- landmarked does *not* mean frozen, it means not changing basic character ... and the '60s problems were due to lack of any landmarking control.
If you're too rigid, no one will *want* a megapriced landmarked building. Either the buildings will rot (as some landmarkeds do) or you'll have to create a non-residential Colonial Williamsburg.
July 11, 2010, 12:33 pm
Harriet from Cobble Hill says:
@Frank -

Do you think that it's at all difficult to sell one of these houses for millions even with strict landmark controls? Not at all. The demand is huge, so that argument makes no sense.

Changing the external appearance, internal appearance, structure and design of the house is a big change. How will the windows look like form the inside? Will they be framed, will they have to break through the plaster?

Really - name calling doesn't change anything. If you live in a landmarked building, you accpet limitations. It's not as if they didn't know this when they bought the property. This unfair exception was only made for her because she is a celebrity and now it is causing toruble because everyone has to be allowed to do it.
July 12, 2010, 4:52 am
Jef from Bath Beach says:
Really??? Putting in a few windows that match the front of the facades should not be a problem, I mean, they are only windows.......it's not really a foreign concept.

Also, when these homes were built as the years went by people had to upgrade to change with the times, then it becomes historic, (which is great), but now suddenly any change's can't be made???

I would think windows on the sides of the homes looks much better than just a completely blank wall of bricks.....

as long as the windows are in character with the house and neighborhood, there really shouldn't be a problem.
July 16, 2010, 12:50 pm
MariaC from Cobble Hill says:
"say she’s run roughshod over locals" "has preservations in Cobble Hill freaking out (literally). " "has irked some of her Cobble Hill neighbors"
Give me a break. I live on that street and I haven't heard anyone complaining. The house looks really nice, good for her! There will always be some silly people complaining but that is always the case. I have resided in 6 countries at least 10 different locations in New York and Cobble Hill is by far the friendliest and most relaxed neighborhood I've ever lived in. I have a hard time believing that people care that much about a few windows.
Aug. 18, 2011, 1:24 pm

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