Panorama drama! Bridge Park condo back in court over view-blocking claims

Bridge over troubled water: Activists are are back in court over whether the controversial Pierhouse development blocks this view of the Brooklyn Bridge from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.
Brooklyn Paper
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This case really depends on your point of view!

A condominium building rising in Brooklyn Bridge Park is blocking protected vistas of the historic bridge — and its developer secured the city’s okay to do so by using sketchy measurements in its plans, alleges a new lawsuit from local preservationists backed by Councilman Steve Levin (D–Boerum Hill).

“We’re accusing them of improperly drawing the lines and mistaking the law and regulations,” said Jeffrey Baker, attorney for local civic group the Brooklyn Heights Association and activists Save the View Now, which already lost a suit arguing a different part of development is too tall last year.

The rabble-rousers now allege Toll Brothers Real Estate filed plans for its controversial Pierhouse complex on Furman Street that put the so-called Brooklyn Heights Scenic View District — a vantage of the Brooklyn Bridge from the Heights Promenade that has to be kept clear — in the wrong place, allowing it to build a penthouse that actually protrudes 20 feet into the sacred spectacle.

The critics claim they didn’t notice the issue until recently because the developer’s original plans from 2012 start measuring the view from the correct spot — the Promenade’s railing at Orange Street, according to a surveyor they hired to examine the allegedly offending building.

They claim the most recent blueprints — which only came to light in March after park honchos asked the Department of Buildings to check on the height of the buildings — however, begin measuring 20 feet closer to the waterfront, placing the starting point mid-air over the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.

“They changed it and they forgot to tell anybody else they were changing it,” said Save the View Now president Steve Guterman.

But Pierhouse architect Jonathan Marvel provided a sworn statement to the court insisting his interpretation of the view is the correct one, and the group’s surveyor has it wrong — and a rep for the project agrees.

“Any allegation that the architect working on behalf of Toll Brothers and Starwood Capital Group moved [the view] in 2015 to accommodate its Pierhouse buildings is false,” said spokesman Bud Perrone.

At least one of the park’s board members agrees the measurements are wonky, though — Levin wrote an affidavit for the suit accusing city and park officials of misinterpreting “clear language” on where the view begins, and saying he was “dismayed” they didn’t object “when the developer chose to locate that point hanging in mid-air.”

The park’s operators, who are using funds from the development to finance the green space, called any allegations the plans were altered — or that they were aware of the changes — “absurd.”

“It would’ve been hard for us to know about something that, to our knowledge, never occurred,” said spokeswoman Belinda Cape.

A Department of Buildings rep said it stands by its assesment that the plans comply with the view restrictions.

State Supreme Court Justice Lawrence Knipel — who dismissed the activists’ last lawsuit against Pierhouse — heard the case on Thursday, and will now take around three weeks to look over it.

If he rules in favor of Guterman and his allies, Toll Brothers will have to halt construction on the building — where Jay Z and Beyonce are rumored to have claimed a unit — and rebuild so it fits within their interpretation of the regulations.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Updated 1:03 pm, February 10, 2016: Updated with DOB comments.
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Reasonable discourse

Barry from Flatbush says:
The 0.1% is really sticking it to the 1%.
Feb. 10, 2016, 9:45 am
Andrew Porter from Brooklyn Heights says:
The view is enjoyed by tourists from around the world, not just the so-called "1%" of Brooklyn Heights. Every day, thousands of people visit the Promenade and DUMBO, walk over the Brooklyn Bridge, and come by subway to the area to enjoy the views, the old houses, and eat at the restaurants.
Feb. 10, 2016, 10:45 am
Charles from Bklyn says:
This is not "absurd." This is the normal course. Developers are lying and breaking the law until caught. Most are not caught, and therefore the housing unfairness to the middle and lower class continues relatively unabated. And of course, the public good is sold off piece by piece.
Feb. 10, 2016, 11:15 am
Susan from Carroll Gardens says:
Why didn't you post the before and after plans to accompany this article and detail the differences for the reader, showing how Toll Brothers sneakily moved the measuring point to try to get away with breaching the Scenic View Plane ("SV-1")? Steve Levin reviewed the plans and figured it out, why didn't you?

In fact, if you for some reason couldn't figure it out (and I doubt that), why didn't you just post the plans and let the reader review for him/herself? They could see that in all of the previous plans, the measuring point was along the rail of the Promenade, not hanging in some imaginary point in mid-air. It's one thing to post, "he-said, she-said" quotes, making it seem like either one or the other side might be right. It's a whole other thing to act like a journalist and post/provide evidence and then analyze that evidence. I don't get it - are you trying not to anger the Brooklyn Paper's real estate advertisers?

What is happening to the Brooklyn Bridge is corruption, pure and simple, and you either have the evidence already right in front of you (as you should have while writing this story), or you could have easily gotten it.
Feb. 10, 2016, 2:07 pm
Ruth Brown (Brooklyn Paper) says:
Susan - you can see the plans on the right hand side of the story.
Feb. 10, 2016, 2:27 pm
Louise Hellenikos-Gonzales from Columbia St says:
Thank you Charles and Susan. And anyone who believes this was an 'accident' or that Brooklyn Bridge Park wasn't complicit is deluding themselves. How the multiplicitious, obfuscating and sometimes totally stonewalling Regina Meyer got and keeps her job is a question well worth investigating-- not that she's anything but a highly paid front woman for others' interests but still... Still!
Feb. 10, 2016, 6:19 pm
rjg from Downtown Brooklyn says:
If you were truly interested in learning about this case you would have taken the time to log onto NYS eCourts and read the 100 documents that are available. You ought to read around more. The URL, preceded by a simple security question, is:
Feb. 10, 2016, 7:55 pm
Susan from Carroll Gardens says:
@rjg - I'm VERY aware of the facts of the case. I dare say more than you.
Feb. 10, 2016, 9:50 pm
Rob from Williamsburg says:
They tore down the Berlin Wall, they can tear down this building. Let the "shady" developer pay for it. Stealing a view away forever. Build lower or build it further away.
Feb. 10, 2016, 10:52 pm
Rob from Williamsburg says:
How are these people arguing over the view? The view is gone........ There is no argument. .... Finito.
Feb. 10, 2016, 10:55 pm
rjg from Downtown Brooklyn says:
You need to take another look at Marvel's Exhibit H.

Surely you and your group can't expect to win this case. I think you're just trying to keep the troops riled up until you file your inevitable lawsuit about development at 25/30 Columbia Heights.
Feb. 11, 2016, 6:54 am
Peter Kaufman from Brooklyn says:
Is there anyone on the planet that believes a single thing Regina Meyers says, including, "Hello"?
Feb. 11, 2016, 8:46 am
rjg from Downtown Brooklyn says:
@Peter Kaufman from Brooklyn
Regina Myer was recently re-appointed by Mayor De Blasio. In case you missed it, he won election in a landslide margin of 49 percentage points over your guy Lhota.

Clearly there are a lot of people you don't know who don't share your point of view.

P.S. Note the correct spelling is "Myer"
Feb. 11, 2016, 8:46 pm
sue smith from brooklyn heights says:
Is that the same Levin who lied to the community about the library sale he pushed through?
He believes in secret deals when he does them
otherwise he believes in transparency
He is trying to save himself from the library debacle
I wonder who will challenge him?
Feb. 12, 2016, 5:17 am
b from gp says:
A city asset was compromised, by uncontrolled growth.
Feb. 13, 2016, 4:34 pm

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