View-blocking bulkhead bashed

View to a thrill: Residents worry the second Pierhouse building, foreground, will further obstruct views of the Brooklyn Bridge the way the hotel-condo one in the background does. Park administrators insist the first structure is within what is allowed.
Photo by Jason Speakman

The developers of an apartment and hotel complex lied when they said their building in the heart of Brooklyn Bridge Park would not be more than 100 feet tall, and the new structure is now blocking the views from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, a prominent preservationist group proclaimed this week.

Members of the Historic Districts Council, which has been helping preserve historic structures and acquire landmark designations throughout the city since 1971, say developer Toll Brothers has already exceeded the height limit — which was agreed upon before construction of its Pierhouse began — by 30 feet, and park administrators responsible for overseeing development are ignoring the oversight.

“Agreements struck with the public after extensive negotiations and codified into the projects should be adhered to,” the Council said in a statement.

Activists have also started an online petition demanding that Mayor DeBlasio, Gov. Cuomo, Borough President Adams, and the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation, all of whom play a role in the park’s development, bring the building back down to size.

“How did this happen?” the Council wrote. “Why aren’t the agreements reached with the public being adhered to?”

But the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation, which has been fending off criticism about the building’s height since last year when it topped out at about 135 feet from the ground, insists that the height limit does not include the building’s bulkhead, and never did. It recently posted a detailed explanation of the project’s height on its website, where it lays out the logic behind the limit not applying to the rooftop machinery and planned bar.

“Upon consultation with Empire State Development Corporation, the decision was made to permit rooftop mechanical equipment to exceed the 100-foot height limit provided that it fit the definition of a ‘Permitted Obstruction’ in the NYC Zoning Resolution,” the group wrote.

The Council calls this argument bunk, claiming developers aren’t playing by the rules.

“The special height cap for this project overrides local zoning,” the Historic District Council statement says. “This means that the rooftop mechanicals are required to fall within the cap, for a total height of 100 feet. Breaching this agreement means a 35 percent taller building, which in turn means the unanticipated blocked views of the iconic Brooklyn Bridge.”

The preservationist heavyweights, who say they have been involved in the fights for all 110 of the officially designated historic districts in the city, are adding to the chorus of concerned residents that include the venerated Brooklyn Heights Association and a group formed for the cause called “Save the View Now.” The city issued a partial stop-work order for another building in the planned three-building project last month, when park administrators asked Toll Brothers to make sure its plans for that portion will not obstruct any protect views.

When asked to respond to the Historic Districts Council’s statement, the quasi-governmental agency in charge of the park reiterated its view on the hotel, saying it will be a cash cow for the private green space.

“Pierhouse maintains all officially protected promenade views, is consistent with designs presented to the community to favorable response in 2013, and will provide critical funding to keep the park safe and well-maintained for millions of visitors for years to come,” a Brooklyn Bridge Park spokeswoman said.

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260–8310. E-mail him at mperl‌man@c‌ngloc‌al.com. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.
What’s a few 30 feet?: This graphic shows the difference between the overall height allowed and the estimated height of the Pierhouse Hotel.

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