The Q at Parkside

(for those for whom the Parkside Q is their hometrain)

News and Nonsense from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Lefferts and environs, or more specifically a neighborhood once known as Melrose Park. Sometimes called Lefferts Gardens. Or Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Or PLG. Or North Flatbush. Or Caledonia (west of Ocean). Or West Pigtown. Across From Park Slope. Under Crown Heights. Near Drummer's Grove. The Side of the Park With the McDonalds. Jackie Robinson Town. Home of Lefferts Manor. West Wingate. Near Kings County Hospital. Or if you're coming from the airport in taxi, maybe just Flatbush is best.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Q and His Block Shafted By CB9

For months, now years, the Q has sounded the alarm. Do a Planning Study, or lose even the inner blocks that aren't in the Historic District, to absurd development. And who's led the loudest opposition to such a clear-headed strategy? Why would a few people in the Historic District, homeowners with nothing to lose by slowing down the process, a process meant to create thoughtful trade-offs and look for soft spots in current zoning, places that could yield unwanted buildings - want to stop that process in the middle of a real estate explosion, when we're actually being offered the opportunity to do it by DCP?. Look at the 20 story tower happening over on Linden in CB17, and countless ugly tear-downs and build-ups all around us. Some could have been prevented if a Zoning Study had sought to keep neighborhood height in check, and some downzoning and contextualizing where appropriate. Not every block is worthy of landmarking, so...have a heart.

The Q's block has been a hot mess for some time, and I have enough good humor to weather any insanity. But the irony is not lost. Plans were filed with DOB to tear down a limestone townhouse in the middle of a row of 10 to make room for a six-story building covering most of the lot. Don't worry, I'm not asking for sympathy. I know I'm a lucky D.O.B. S.O.B. to have a house at all, one purchased at the beginning of the century even.

Thx due to Barnabas for noticing the filing. There will be, of course, no means-tested units. The developer is clearly a scumbag. Here's a story on him, detailing his forcing a female subordinate to come with him while he urinates.

I feel terrible for the homeowners on either side, as these have been their pride and joys for decades. It's gotta be a done delicately, you know, this tearing down of brownstones. We share walls, don't you know, and these are old buildings. The size of the footprint means their gardens and backyards will be permanently screwed.

Maybe, just maybe, these guys have overreached. It's been suggested that their FAR goes to far.

So this Post is for you, all you helpful CB9 Board members who have done absolutely nothing to this point to protect the integrity of the neighborhood. And for what? Saving Empire Blvd for Wendy's and Self-storage? Keeping Nostrand from seeing some affordable housing? What a waste. 11 units in the middle of a row of houses, instead of affordable units on Empire. I guess I deserve it.

Here's the house in question, 19 Clarkson, rest in pieces:



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38 comments:

Anonymous said...

Even if they have the FAR, fitting an apartment building that is to code with 2 means of egress (almost certainly a scissor stair) and ADA (elevator) access will be extremely tough on such a small floor plate. Even harder if they try to go the "quality housing" route to get the bonus FAR.
The real issue may not be what is going in, but could just as likely be the future vacant lot. They can get a demo permit without ever actually having a building to go in. Then rather than having a nice continuous run of homes, you have a spot that will forever have to be construction shoring to keep the other buildings from falling in.

Alex said...

That really sucks.

Our block - Lefferts b/t Washington and Bedford - is at equal risk. What makes me barf is that Boyd uses our block as an example of one that would be HARMED by contextual zoning. She's a manipulative liar, obstructing purely to protect her own short-sighted interests.

Jacob said...

My block, in CB 17, has 45 row houses just like this one. One of them was bought by an LLC and has sat empty and padlocked for 3 months. I fear the worst.

Anonymous said...

If people hadn't spent years obsessing over totally allowed and legal tall buildings on a huge major commercial artery, Flatbush, and instead focused on preventing these stupid ugly condo buildings on the smaller side streets then this would not have happened. This is exactly what I predicted would happen several years ago, in noticing at a particular CB9 meeting everyone tried to stop 626 Flatbush and just let it totally slide by that developers were upzoning small residential streets in Crown Heights. Nobody even protested that. The crazies made this bed now we're all going to have to lie in it. Thanks SO much.

Anonymous said...

Why haven't these homeonwers moved to landmark?

Bob Marvin said...

This is terrible, especially since if the developer tearing down this limestone undermines the ones on either side the remedy might well be to require him to buy those too.

Don't entirely blame homeowners in the Historic District Tim. As you know the particular homeowner MOST to blame lives just outside of the HD (one block to the northwest). Besides that, those homeowners who worked on the PLG Historic District in the '70s tried to get Clarkson I included. This SHOULD have been easy, since Parkside I was in the original Proposed Prospect-Lefferts Gardens Historic District that was presented to the community by the LPC, but, sadly, that district was cut back, rather than expanded.

There is an ongoing effort to designate Parkside I that is likely to succeed. Why in the world did homeowners on your block fail to join this effort? It might, or might not, have saved the house in question, but there's no doubt in my mind that the two story limestones, and the four story ones across the street are worthy of landmarking.

Alex said...

Actually, anon, the people obsessing over 626 Flatbush are the ones who got the zoning study rolling.

It's the people obsessed with making sure that two blocks of Empire Blvd. never amount to anything but storage and fast food who made this bed.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Join what effort, Bob? I didn't even know one was going on. Such is the terrific line of communication!

I was told many years ago that we had no case for landmarking. Though from your comment and the other I'm beginning to wonder.

I don't blame all folks in the H.D., Bob. I've just taken note of the addresses of some of the most vocal opponents of a Planning Study. It seemed like a slam dunk - downzone inner blocks in favor of building housing on avenues as suggested by the City - but now it appears I should've put my efforts elsewhere.

I fail to see what's historically significant about our ragtag grouping of houses, but what the hell do I know? Clearly nothing.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Interestingly the houses on the other side are in another CB and have already been contextually rezoned as part of CB14's efforts a few years ago. Hilarious.

roxv said...

they have? i live in that corner of CB14 and for the life of me cannot figure out any of those zoning maps of what they mean for the empty lots near me..

Bob Marvin said...

Tim, Tim, YOU DIDN'T KNOW? It's been mentioned on the PLG neighborhood Facebook page a number of times. I thought you read that as obsessively as I do.

I doubt that ALL of Clarkson I could successfully be landmarked, but why not the row of 2-story houses on the north side, near Flatbush and the 4-story houses across from them? AFAIK the latter row was built by the same builder as the similar houses on Midwood I which IMO are the finest in the existing HD?

Bob Marvin said...

The existing contextual zoning on the south side is great, but IMO that beautiful row of 4-story houses should still be landmarked.

diak said...

This is another unfortunate byproduct of our city's all-or-nothing approach to landmarking. As it stands now, the bar for "architecturally significant" is very high. And the very restrictive rules governing remodeling landmarked properties causes many owners to oppose the designation. If there existed a kind of "landmarking lite" that prevented the demolition of row houses like the one in this case and didn't cause undue burdens on owners, we might see a lot less of this kind of "development."

And I concur with Anon 11:18. In the long run, the garbage being constructed mid-block is a lot worse than 626 Flatbush or other sizable projects on the avenues.

Anonymous said...

I hope the nearby rowhouses move to landmark ASAP. That could at least postpone new construction as the matter is sorted out. If Ocean ave can do it, maybe it can be done here too.

I'm guessing the developer wants to raze this property, and drive down the prices of the adjoining rowhouses, which he then can buy up to expand his building site. If i were the adjoining rowhouses' owners I would be terrified on what this site could mean for property values. I would advise them to seek counsel ASAP and try to file for landmarks ASAP.

babs said...

Absolutely horrible. Unfortunately, also to blame are the homeowners who sold to this scumbag. Yes, many of them are unsophisticated and don't know any better, and the buyers often dissimulate their identities - I heard of one seller who all along thought she was selling to a Jamaican family, until a guy she'd never seen showed up at the closing table. However, competent legal advice could have sounded the alarm bells before the contracts were signed.

There is another brick rowhouse on Winthrop St between Bedford & Rogers that I fear will soon suffer a similar fate.

What is the best means to educate homeowners about the true value of their property and the true costs involved in a legitimate sale (although in this case the price paid ($945K) seems pretty close to market)? A seminar through PLGNA perhaps?

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Bob: I try not to check the Facebook page but I can't help it. It's like a disease. Each time I do I get sucked in and want to comment on everything. Seriously I'm sick in the head. So I do it only now and then. Even the LOOK of Facebook makes me want to puke. And what is it about that putz Zuckerberg that makes me want to punch him in the pimples? I don't feel that way about Gates or the Google Guys.

I'm so depressed. I guess I should've helped my neighbors by going for landmark rather than trying to rezone the whole neighborhood. A little NIMBYism would've gone a long way. I still can't see how these little houses are worth the trouble.

Oh screw it. It's just the breaks. I've seen many other blocks go through the same crap. The BP's head of zoning commiserated this morning. He said they've got the same stuff happening on his block and there's nothing even HE can do. I saw this building on Dean tween 3rd and 4th today. It's absolutely absurd, and looks about what we can expect.

Unknown said...

I full agree with what diak posted. There has to be a middle ground that doesn't cede control of one's own home to stringent restrictions while preventing the demolition of properties and replacing them with structures that have low merit design and low end construction values.

Jacob said...

There are rows and rows of limestone houses all throughout Brooklyn that are not landmarked.
My block, Martense between Bedford and Rogers, has 25 in a row. Check out E25th between Ave D and Clarendon - about 40 on both sides of the street, all built by Dreisler, identical in every way, down to the libraries and fireplaces, to his rows of 2-story single family limestone houses in Lefferts Manor. East Flatbush has rows and rows of limestones, and so does Bay Ridge, Kensington, Windsor Terrace, Borough Park (some real monstrous alterations there) etc. None of them landmarked.
Sunset Park is trying to landmark because of these exact issues.
What seems to distinguish Flatbush from the rest is the insane zoning. R7 for a 20 foot wide lot on a side street? How did they come up with this in the first place? Does this date to the 60s?

Anonymous said...

They would need to find a lot more information about their building history to make a crazy story to have a chance at landmark, because while they may be aesthetically well kept and contextually effective they are far from significant enough to get true landmark status and will hardly be a speed bump for developers.

Chris C. said...

Didn't the one side JUST sell and gut renovate in this past year?

That guy I'm sure will be motivated to do something. And I'm betting his buyout number is considerably over 945K.

Bob Marvin said...

"I should've helped my neighbors by going for landmark rather than trying to rezone the whole neighborhood"

One doesn't preclude the other

"They would need to find a lot more information about their building history to make a crazy story to have a chance at landmark, because while they may be aesthetically well kept and contextually effective they are far from significant enough to get true landmark status "

All that was done for our two recently designated Historic Districts [Ocean on the Park and Chester Court]. It's a lot of work. but not impossible and IMO necessary if homeowners of historic houses want to protect their homes

Bob Marvin said...

Tim: I too dislike Facebook, but find that the "PLG and Brooklyn Neighbors"page is very useful and can function like an old-fashioned neighborhood bulletin board. The same goes for the Lefferts Yahoo Group.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Yes, yes, that's the reason I find myself there so often. And it's the thing that was missing when I started this here blog. Now I'm ceding the "breaking news" to the F-book, as I like to call it. This has become more of a bitter old man sound-off than a news-gathering site as a result.

Look, I'm resigned to the tearing down of stand-alone properties. We have those too on our block, and a massive empty lot that seems forever stalled. But tearing down individual buildings in a row of town houses just seems bizarre and even dangerous. Imagine what that does to your walls and ceilings. I'm just so bummed for my neighbors in the houses next door, and for the ugly intrusion into the quiet of the interior of the block. This is going to affect a lot of people in all the nearby apartment buildings, but again, such is the need for density. But I'd gladly accept a couple more stories on this building if it meant affordable housing. It's a shit-show already, so the more the merrier.

Alex said...

AB's block is not in the historic district, and no matter how hard they work at it, they'd be hard pressed to make a claim of architectural significance for the houses on the south side of the street. I'd feel bad for everyone else on the block, but I'd love to see a tear down and out of context construction right across from 89.

Arms House said...

It baffles me that there is even financial incentive to do this. There are plenty of frame houses on large lots left for developers to tear down, why would a developer want to deal with the added expense of ripping out a row house and then shoring up the two houses on either side while you shoe horn in a relatively small building? It boggles the brain.

Bob Marvin said...

"AB's block is not in the historic district, and no matter how hard they work at it, they'd be hard pressed to make a claim of architectural significance for the houses on the south side of the street" Nevertheless this block (BOTH sides) WAS in the original Proposed Historic District and IMO shouldn't have been left out of the final version.

Anonymous said...

The PLG page on Facebook is where it's at now. The Lefferts Yahoo Group isn't used so much any more, definitely not by newer younger residents who use social media that is decidedly not yahoo. For family with kids posts, everyone is using the Flatbush Family list.

Jacob said...

129 Martense just sold to an LLC for $825k. Address is a Long Island based real estate law firm, which is the same address attached to an LLC that bought 173 Martense. These are two limestones out of an unbroken row of 25. Also very permissive zoning and also extra deep lots.
I don't like the looks of this!

Charlita said...

What are/were the reasons offered by CB9 against the DPC Planning Study? Are you saying if that study had gone forward then the teardown that is now happening would not be happening?
I really do not understand why you think that homeowners in the Manor are somehow proponents of outsized development and tearing down existing homes. I don't see the logic; and it is not the view of anyone that I know in the Manor.
As far as the Empire strip is concerned, if the options are: (1) zone it residential, which will permit luxury high-rise buildings (with or w/o affordable units) or (2) keep it as it is, then I am with option 2. That has nothing to do with being a homeowner in the Manor. It has to do with not wanting Empire Blvd to look like Fourth Avenue (or worse yet, Williamsburg); it has to do with not wanting large buildings to cast shadows over the BBG and the surrounding area. Sunlight doesn't just shine on the Manor blocks.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Charlita: I like your intelligent questions, but this has been front and center for two years now. I've written on it ad nauseum. But for any newcomers out there I'll write it up another way. Oh, and the Board DID vote for a study. Not once, but twice. And still Alicia Boyd and company stall the process. And yes, the building going up on my block would have been prevented. That at 626 Flatbush were the reasons I got started on this in the first place. We were discussing looking for "soft spots" where these unwanted buildings could happen and specifically rezoning inner blocks to prevent it, and also call for contextual limits for rows of six-story buildings. In exchange for something that's going to happen anyway - higher stuff on Avenues, which will come withOUT required affordable. It's amazing that a solution to City-wide and neighborhood-wide problems is staring us in the face and nobody wants to act. The misinformation and propaganda on the issues is staggering.

We're not talking about high-rises on Empire. We're talking about residential as opposed to commercial, with mandatory affordable. Right now you can build the same 12-14 stories as a hotel. This is likely coming soon and doesn't need any new rezoning. FYI Ebbets and Tivoli will still tower over 10, 12 or even 14 story buildings. New residential will have many, many positive affects on the commercial and residential livability for all. Imagine commercial groundfloor (which would be encouraged by the zoning) and a neighborhood that doesn't feel walled off buy an ugly, pedestrian-miserable corridor.

I'm not saying ALL Manor folks are against rezoning. I'm saying many of the people who ARE stopping the process live in the Manor or Historic District. It pisses me off because they're protected, and they dance this nonsense about "protecting the poor" and "light and air" when it's obvious to anyone that they're more interested in their own preservation issues and perception that their quality of life would be ruined. Please. That quality of life will be just fine thank you very much.

Frankly I don't know what all the fuss is about 4th Avenue anyway. Park Slope said protect us and we'll let you build up on 4th Avenue, the ugliest and least developed avenue around. The two problems with 4th Avenue are they screwed up the building requirements and that dissuaded ground floor commercial AND they didn't require affordable housing. We have a chance to get that right on Empire.

And another thing. I'm really, really glad the historic district exists. And I love the Manor. But because you've managed to create such low density streets, the growth in the nabe and City have to happen elsewhere. We can't downzone the whole City and expect to keep prices anywhere near reasonable. Every historical housing crisis reached stability how? Massive building sprees. In fact, that's how we got the Lefferts Gardens neighborhood in the first place! On a building spree that residents at the time found galling. And now, with the current mayor, we can actually get huge numbers of means-tested NEW rent stabilized apartments. How often do market conditions allow this to happen with relative ease? Not very often.

These issues are completely separate to keeping people in their homes through strong enforcement, which ultimately is the ONLY way to prevent displacement. Everything else - like talk of this dubious secondary displacement - is merely the market doing what it does. I find it the definition of hypocritical for people in fine homes on single family blocks to try to dictate where new buildings can and can't go. Those buildings are for actual people to live in. Are we so selfish we can't see that others want a chance to live near the Park, Garden, Museum etc? They do. And without more units, soon the only ones able to afford it will be...those with a few hundred thousand for a downpayment.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Short version: yes, absolutely, many many teardowns could be prevented, including the one on Clarkson. That was the very point of writing the letter in the first place. Trust me, I was there. I helped get it going.

Alex said...

One of Alicia Boyd's most effective distortions, Charlita, is that "contextual" would be measured by Ebbets and Tivoili Tower, which are out of context themselves. The idea behind contextual zoning is to prevent more structures like them, not encourage them. From all credible viewpoints, buildings on Empire would be set at a reasonable height. With ZQA they might even look decent.

roxv said...

yeah, i was riding my bike in gowanus last week and passed 4th ave a few times. that street has to be at least twice as wide as empire blvd. seriously, it's HUGE! it's like a highway. empire is an alley compared to it. and compared to the width of 4th ave itself, the buildings on it aren't tall at all. if that's as tall as the zoning allows, then that seems pretty damn fair to me. i feel much more claustrophobic when i walk down, say, e 18th street between church and beverly. all pre-war six story buildings, but on a street that skinny you might as well be at the bottom of a canyon. the only tragedy about 4th ave is that some of the buildings are built like shit--but that's a separate issue, isn't it? anyway, i'm sick of people acting like 4th avenue is some sort of cautionary tale. those park slopers got it sweet. you'll never see a finger building on any of their cute side streets or even on 5th ave, really

Anonymous said...

A 10-15 story residential building on Empire is NOT going to cast a shadow on the BBG. Not possible. Where are all the much dreaded shadows from 626 Flatbush on the park? The shadows don't exist.

Anonymous said...

P.s. Another reason I never get that fear, shade is as much needed and planned in a park or garden as sunlit areas. Those who like to sit in full sun in August in nyc, go ahead. I love all the cool, wooded trails. We are most lucky for those.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

thx y'all. finally some reasonable responses.

And Anon 2:14...I think that's part of the reason street trees are so popular. We bake on my side of the street since they don't allow trees due to poorly situated infrastructure under our sidewalks.

Anonymous said...

The argument of buildings casting shadows on Sterling is ludicrous. Look up in the sky people. The path of the sun across the sky casts shadows northward in this area consequently any shadows cast in the backyards of those properties on the north side of the street are created by those said properties.

Josh

Anonymous said...

I think it's outrageous the these developers come into our neighborhood and spoil it by constructing those matchboxes that they call buildings. They also try to intimidate the owners of the adjacent houses. What can be done to stop this from happening in our beautiful area?