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City suit: Tear down this fence!

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Good fences make good neighbors — but bad fences make good lawsuits.

The city is suing the owner of a Greenpoint waterfront lot to force him to tear down two fences and cement barriers on Noble Street that prevent access to the river.

A city lawsuit is also seeking an unspecified financial penalty from the site’s owner, Joshua Guttman, who built two fences in 2009, even though he knew they were on a public street, ignoring the city’s repeated requests to remove them.

“The public’s right to access Noble Street is inalienable and inextingui­shable,” said the suit, which was filed last month. “The public has a common law perpetual right of passage from the terminus of Noble Street at West Street through the East River.”

The street has been closed for almost 30 years in a long-standing property dispute. Guttman’s allies say that he added the fences to protect half a dozen industrial businesses, which leave machinery, wood, steel and marble in their two waterfront lots west of West Street.

But Greenpoint residents have clamored for access to the East River for several decades — the fence is often locked and when it is open, a private security guard prevents them from walking through the property.

“It is high time to regain public access to the waterfront on Noble Street,” said Noble Street resident Jolanta Kulpa Gubernat. “The waterfront is a valuable asset and all citizens should have right of access.”

Councilman Steve Levin (D–Greenpoint), who has been urging the Bloomberg administration to take action on the property, said the suit would force Guttman to “rectify this injustice.”

“Unfortunat­ely, private interests have long trumped the community’s needs and demands in Greenpoint,” said Levin. “Waterfront access is sparse in Greenpoint and it is essential that we protect the public’s right to enter Noble Street.”

Levin had asked Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan to have workers tear the fence down — but the city chose to fight in court in order to keep the street open in perpetuity.

Community Board 1 member Dewey Thompson is encouraged by the suit.

“I want that fence down!” said Thompson. “It has literally been decades since the Greenpoint community has had access to this street and its fantastic views of the city.”

Guttman, a DUMBO-based developer, has had a colorful history in Greenpoint.

The Greenpoint Terminal Market, which he owned, burned to the ground in an alleged arson — and he owed the city $4.7 million in fines for failing to maintain the waterfront property.

And this winter, pieces of one of Guttman’s buildings fell onto a section of American Playground near Noble Street, forcing the Parks Department to temporarily close the site.

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Reader Feedback

ba from greenpoint says:
Guttman is such a tyrant. He's been holding our community hostage down there for so many years. Plus he's a hopeless businessman - they shoulda turned the whole lot over to the Red Hook developer who transformed the piers there. Greenpoint market woulda made fantastic apartments, people pay top dollar for original brick and wood beams, and the space next door could of been a Wholefoods or Fairway etc. serving all the yuppies that moved in down Kent. Guttman = unimaginative failure.
April 21, 2011, 9:01 am
Jenny from Greenpoint says:
Guttman's an a-hole!
I WANT MY PARK BACK!!!!!!!!
April 21, 2011, 9:13 am
adam from bedstuy says:
wow! he can just keep a fence on public property for over 20 years and get away with it? i wonder how much the politicians are getting for this favor? must be worth it.
April 21, 2011, 9:49 am
Joey from Clinton Hills says:
Ratner has taken over Pacific St. in Prospect Heights...disgusting...oh yeah, it's job creation!
April 21, 2011, 10:37 am
Jane from Greenpoint says:
So when can we expect Guttman's noble fence to actually come down? Same goes for the MTA lot on commercial street? I'm so happy that Greenpoint is finally making progress with waterfront access, but I suspect it's going to take years before anything really happens.
April 21, 2011, 10:53 am
Sam says:
So what will happen if you walk down the road anyway? It's not private property so they can't arrest you. Can they? I'm just curious. Hope the fence comes down soon.
April 21, 2011, 12:18 pm
A from Prospect Hights says:
How can I and all my neighbors ever forget being evicted from (Guttman owned) 247 Water St, and how can people forget that he torched that building, and then torched the old Greenpoint Market.
Josh Guttman is evil!
April 21, 2011, 2:11 pm
Ben says:
What does being Jewish have to do with being sleazy? Please remove this comment.
April 21, 2011, 4:11 pm
LOLcat from Park Slope says:
Put this guy in jail.
April 21, 2011, 4:22 pm
harold says:
google Guttman in connecticut
April 21, 2011, 10:14 pm
Laura Hofmann from Greenpoint says:
Some years ago, my husband & I tried to get the fence down too. We called all of our elected officials and every city agency rep imaginable, we were told by the NYCDOT legal department that the city would NOT support the community because of "safety concerns". Everyone else sort of threw up their hands. I always thought that it was horrible that the electeds didn't go after this issue. The CB did help us in locating maps and records though.

I'm glad that the electeds and city are acting on this now, instead of allowing Guttman to get away with anything he wants. Although, I am curious why the city suddenly changed their position. I have to wonder what the hidden agenda is.

I am still so angry about the property owner getting away with arson. The day before the GTM was to go before the Landmarks Commission! Coincidence? I think not!

The city has absolutely been assisting him. City agency reps, developers and some elected officials apparently had a nice conga line goig with their hands in each others pockets. I also wonder what kind of payoff there was.

It's been rumoured that there was illegal dumping going on into the water at that site. It's anyone's guess what types of illegal activity happened down there. After all, they're going through alot of trouble to keep us from seeing what's happening there.
April 21, 2011, 11:12 pm
mike from GP says:
Someone needs to just cut open the fence, perhaps, if it's illegal.
April 22, 2011, 7:01 am
Eric from Greenpoint says:
I'm with Mike. Just go and cut the damn thing down. It's an illegal fence, so how can one get in trouble for cutting it down?
April 22, 2011, 10:46 am

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