Minerva’s view saved thanks to new zoning

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Stop — in the name of zoning!

City officials have ordered a developer to halt construction of a controversial building after determining that he failed to get his foundation completed before new zoning rules went into effect.

The building, at 614 Seventh Ave. in what realtors have been calling “Green-Wood Heights,” was one of several construction sites where workers madly tried to finish foundations after the City Council unanimously downzoned the neighborhood earlier this month.
The building is commonly referred to as the “Minerva Building” because it would block the view of the Statue of Liberty that a bronze of the goddess of war enjoyed from her perch atop Battle Hill in Green-Wood Cemetery — a “view corridor” that was an instrumental part of the statue’s design.

“They did not get the foundation done, so they can not build unless they change their plan,” said Department of Buildings spokeswoman Jennifer Givner.

The DOB reached the same conclusion about a building at 182 15th St., but said that work at a nearby site, 162 16th St., could continue because its foundation was completed on time.

Despite the permit revocations, opponents of the “Minerva” building were hardly gloating this week.

“It remains to be seen if it’s a victory,” said Jeremy Laufer, district manager of Community Board 7. “The downzoning of the neighborhood was certainly a victory, though.”

Experts said the “Minerva” developer would probably take his case to the Board of Standards and Appeals for an exemption to the newly passed downzoning. Calls to the developer, Chaim Nussenzweig, and his architect, Robert Scarano, were not returned.

The mad scramble to finish the foundation won’t be for naught, though. Even if the developer loses a BSA appeal, something will be built on the site.

“We’re still going to work with the architect, probably even more so, to make sure that a new design doesn’t block the view corridor,” said Richard Moylan, president of the Green-Wood Cemetery.

“The new zoning may make it tougher. [Scarano] may have to build a bulkier building” because he can’t go up as high, Moylan said.

The down-zoning of Green-Wood Heights was passed along with an up-zoning along more-commercial Fourth Avenue.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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