Friday, April 04, 2008

340 Court Developer Presents Plans to Skeptical Carroll Gardens Crowd

340 Court Front_2

The development team behind the building at 340 Court Street came to Carroll Gardens last night and faced a fairly hostile and skeptical neighborhood crowd as they explained their plans for a 70-foot tall building that will include 14 townhouses on Union Street and on Sackett Street. Apartments will range from studios to four bedrooms and there will be retail on the Court Street side. The building will get a 421(a) tax abatement, but there will be no affordable housing. Clarett Group's Daniel Hollander made the developer's case and Robert Rogers of Rogers Marvel presented the design of the building. Residents grilled the developers on the building's height and design and expressed concerns about construction safety.

"Our goal is to building something on the scale of the commmunity," Mr. Hollander said. The building would have two setback of five feet, at 50 and at 60 feet. There will be underground parking for 72 cars and the main entrance to the building will be on Union Street. Glass walled retail space will front the building on Court Street. Mr. Hollander noted that the developer had rejected a tall building on the site, where zoning would have allowed a structure up to 170 feet tall. "Manhattan is used to having height and Brooklyn is not, except for downtown," Mr. Rogers noted, saying the building was designed "to recognize the vitality of the Court Street retail corridor."

City Council Member Bill de Blasio called the presentation "a beginning point for discussion" and said the current design was "better than it would have been" without commmunity input. He noted a "very clear consensus in the community for a fifty-foot [height] limit. " We hope all developers respect it," he said. He also said he was "very disappointed" in the way early work like asbestos removal had been handled and that it was "not a good start."

Mr. Hollander, however, seemed to reject any reduction in height of the building. "We're designing with the existing zoning," he said. "Many developers felt a big tower would have been the way to go." He said that "the area had to go to Court Street" in order to make the development feasible. The building setbacks, he said, were designed "so the perception wouldn't be monolithic. We're working as hard as we can to minimize the perception of height."

One resident said the debate was about the building's "actual" height rather than the perception. Another pressed Mr. Rogers to estimate the total height with mechanical elements on the roof. One shouted "bullshit" in the middle of the height discussion. The mechanical elements would reach up to 85 feet. One resident asked if elevators could be eliminated from the seven-story building in order to eliminate the added height of the mechanical structure, saying that most buildings in the neighborhood are walk ups.

The audience actually booed the color of the building, parts of which are a slate gray. Local blogger and activist Katia Kelly, who blogs as PMFA, told the developer and architect that the building "looks like a mausoleum." She advised, "brown is the color to go if you want to build in a brownstone neighborhood."

The developer did pledge to use union labor on the job and said they would have a contact person to deal with safety issues so that residents weren't left to fend with the 311 system and calls to elected officials. "The level of trust right now is going to be low," one resident said, noting neighborhood issues with early work on the site. The construction manager for the project said that communication with the neighborhood was voluntary. "There is no requirement to advise anyone," he said. Many in the crowd booed. "You've already lost everyone's trust and you're saying what you legally have to do," a resident said.

Many of the objections focused on the design. Some residents said the planned townhouses were "too plain," while others said the structure didn't fit the context of Carroll Gardens. "People come here because of the brownstone," a resident said. "If they want an edgy place to live they don't come to Carroll Gardens."

A lot of people in the audience urged the developer to come back with a rethought design. It was unclear whether they planned another big community forum but Mr. Hollander did say, "there is a lot of iteration and change in renderings" and said "we are hear to listen." Mr. Rogers, who seemed stoic in the face of some of the blistering critiques of his work said, "We are listening to you."

Work on the foundation is planned to start in late May or early June, with the project expected to take 18 months.

Rogers and Hollander

Robert Rogers Two



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