Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Williamsburg Finger Building Gets Thumbs Up

Finger Building from Below

There are more developments in the long, tortured case of Williamsburg's infamous Finger Building, the rusting steel hulk that has loomed over N. 7th and N. 8th Streets for more than two years. The obscure, but powerful, Bureau of Standards and Appeals (BSA) ruled yesterday that the permit for a ten-story Finger (aka 144 N 8th Street) is valid and the developer Mendel Brach can resume construction. The original permit was for a 16-story building, but a judge ruled in February that the developer did not have the right to use rooftop space at 115 Berry and 138 North 8th Street, as reflected in the plans. A final decision in that case is pending. If the courts rule in favor of the developer, the Finger could still rise to 16 stories. If the final decision goes against the developer, then opponents argue that the entire permit for the building is invalid. (Except that the BSA decided yesterday it was valid.) For now, it looks like 10 stories is okay. Neighborhood activist Phil DePaolo, who has battled against the building writes:
Prior to the Williamsburg rezoning in May 2005, this developer worked through stop work orders as documented by the D.O.B., worked weekends without permits, and worked all hours of the night on weekdays, so that the development could be grandfathered under the old zoning regulations, allowing them to build a much larger building than would be allowed under the new zoning. Despite numerous complaints and plentiful documentation by neighbors, and news media, the D.O.B. rewarded this illegal activity and vested the project. The question still is, if by doing something improper, did the owners negate their vesting? And if they did, should the site have to comply with the new R6B zoning?

Developer Mendel Brach and architect Robert Scarano used land and air rights that they did not own in order to construct this building, so I believe the incomplete building must be made to conform to the new R6B zoning. Even if it stays at 10 stories it’s twice as large as the current R6B zoning allows. This ruling sends a clear message to any developer that they can break the rules and still get rewarded. This project is the poster child for bad development. But the fight is not over!
In the meantime, lifts have been removed from the building and it's unclear when construction might resume.

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