Friday, December 21, 2007

Burg's Giant Fart Cloud Demolition is a Scary Mess

For a symbol of everything that is wrong with the system regulating demolition, construction and development in New York City and Brooklyn, look no further than 5 Roebling Street, aka the Giant Fart Cloud Building. Demolition work was stopped temporarily last month after a neighboring building was threatened. The demolition is back in full swing now, and from the emails that blogger Bad Advice has been sending us and her own blog posts, the situation is utterly intolerable. Here's a bit from the email we got:
My ground-floor neighbors almost had their wall cave in on them and their house filled with what they thought was smoke, but turned out to be thick black dust. When you push against their wall, it gives and they can hear the guys talking on the other side like they're in their apartment with them.

It got ugly. We called 911 and a bunch of fire and policemen showed up, but they can't really do anything. We called 311, which at this point brings me less satisfaction than talking to my cat. One of my neighbors may or may not have grabbed the keys out of the MMG truck, so they couldn't move the backhoe out of the yard before the cops got there. It is so ugly and stressful living here that I'm shaking as I type this. Thankfully, my terminally ill neighbor's daughter is coming to take her to Florida on Friday so she can die of natural causes and not from having her ceiling cave in on her.
There is a great deal more detail about this scary and demoralizing situation over at Bad Advice. We are now going to be blunt about this disgusting state of affairs.

GL Analysis:
It is odd that a small, insignificant Williamsburg building can come to symbolize what is tragically wrong with the scandalously ineffective way that we "regulate" the development process in New York City. Every single day in Brooklyn, people's lives are made miserable and they have nowhere to turn. Is it a lack of resources? Yes. It is a lack of caring? Yes. It corruption involved? We suspect that it is. Does the system need a major overhaul and reform from top to bottom? Without question.

The current situation is the perfect storm of out-of-control development, ineffective government and powerless citizens. It is what happens when honest, hardworking people find themselves in the middle of a development boom where, pretty much, anything goes.

Even if you don't care about people, there has to be a self-centered part of everyone that can picture what it's like to be in your home and suddenly be afraid you're going to become homeless because of work going on next door. There has to a part of everyone that can understand the insane, helpless rage that comes from watching someone bash in your wall and having no one to turn to because you are dealing with an unresponsive and/or utterly ineffective system. There has to be a part of even the most callous "deal with it" person that becomes a little frustrated knowing that a phone call will be ignored or that inspectors will show up days after the problem was reported and, then, will duly note, "we didn't see a problem."

5 Roebling Street is a poster child for every single thing that is wrong with the system. The Department of Buildings actually did the right thing and issued a Stop Work Order. It would appear to have been disregarded at certain points, however, and it should never have been lifted until legitimate, enforceable ground rules were set. The decision should have been made at the highest level of the department, if anything, because the site has become a minor celebrity in its own way thanks to online coverage. It shows how the entire system doesn't work even when it does work, so the best solution is making sure nothing happens at the site until people aren't rendered homeless and their lives are ruined.

It seems to us that the 5 Roebling Stop Work Order should be reinstated in full immediately and the Department should refuse to issue any future permits for anything at this development site until there is a sense that the community will be respected. Had a lightening rod architect such as Robert Scarano been associated with the project it would be dead in the water already. (Or, maybe not, if one checks the Carroll Gardens Hell Building post above.)

Acting in a meaningful way on 5 Roebling would send a message that there are limits to the torment to which neighbors can be subject and to disregard for city regulations and neighborhood quality of life.

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Blogger judy said...

Thank you so much for writing this. The rest of the tenants and I truly appreciate your efforts.

9:04 AM  
Anonymous kate said...

thank you for this post. i have a good friend in the building, and i've been incredibly concerned. a similar situation is going down on bedford ave. near reel life, on the same side of the street. these old NYC buildings were not meant to be pried apart after a century of being stuck together. especially when authorities don't give a shit about the normal people being affected by it.

1:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is all a travisty. I don't understand, or perhaps I do, what motivates the developer. This isn't the Oaklahoma land grabs of the depression where squaters were bulldozed out of their homes. Williamsburg developers prefer a more New York style shake down. Literally.
Will the city please get involved? Or perhaps this poor little building full of tenants should file a class action..or call Asa Aarons!

7:35 PM  

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