Update: Cobble Hill residents say planned renovation is too tall

Update: Cobble Hill residents say planned renovation is too tall
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Update (Jan 25, 7:45 pm): Story updated to include the perspective of the property owners and more context. Correction added below.

A Cobble Hill family wants to expand its three-story row house with additions in the backyard and on the roof — but preservationists in the historic district say such renovations could spark skyscraping changes in the community.

The proposed work at the home on Tompkins Place near Kane Street calls for building a new floor atop an existing two-story enclosed porch in the backyard and constructing a six-foot-tall addition atop a section of the building’s roof.

The backyard renovations wouldn’t be visible from the street and the new rooftop “bulkhead,” likely containing a staircase or building mechanicals, would only make one section of the building six feet taller than its many of its neighbors. But that’s enough to trigger an upward-sprouting, light-hogging development trend that could forever change the look of the block, some Cobble Hill residents fear.

“It could cause a domino effect,” said Jeff Strabone of the Cobble Hill Association.

Homes on Tompkins Place bask in good light thanks to the similar heights of the three-story row houses that constitute much of the block — but tall backyard extensions encroach on that, according to Strabone.

“Changes like this chip away at the neighborhood’s charm,” he said.

Community Board 6 approved the record-setting abode last week, with several members saying the proposed changes aren’t significant enough to disturb the historic character of the street, where rules bar buildings from rising more than 50 feet.

“The building was badly in need of a renovation,” said Glenn Kelly of Community Board 6, adding the revamp will likely be an aesthetic upgrade. “The owners are well within their rights.”

The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission has the final say on the plans.

Homeowners James Cavoli and Julie Scelfo declined to comment, except to note that their renovation will actually be small — using only 10 percent of the buildable space available to them.

The historic district is already home to at least two backyard extensions that exceed two stories, but those structures were approved before the area became landmarked.

Despite the existing backyard additions elsewhere in the community, longtime neighbors described the proposed renovation as precedent setting — at least in the post-landmark era.

“We take a hardline on these issues,” Strabone said. “Otherwise it becomes the Wild West.”

Correction: An earlier version of the story described the planned work as a three-story backyard addition. The work actually calls for building a one-story addition atop an existing two-story enclosed porch. The original story also described the block of Tompkins Place as “uniform” in building height, when, in fact, the street features some buildings that are not three stories tall. The first version of this story indicated that the property owners “did not return calls,” but The Brooklyn Paper was calling the wrong number.

Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at [email protected] or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.