Deal saves Minerva’s Liberty view

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It’s a conspiracy of silence for the Goddess of War.

Green-Wood Cemetery, home to a statue of Minerva that has a famously unobstructed view of the Statue of Liberty, has ended its public battle against a neighboring development, agreeing not to testify against the controversial building at an upcoming zoning hearing in exchange for the developers’ promise that the 70-foot residence won’t obstruct the statues’ ability to gaze at one another.

The contract between the developer of 614 Seventh Ave, Chaim Nussencweig, and Green-Wood Cemetery ended a 10-month feud over the blocked line of sight.

But the cemetery’s vow of silence has upset those who saw the prominent Brooklyn burial ground as an ally at an upcoming hearing that will determine if the proposed condo must shrink even more to conform to a recent city downzoning that barred buildings its size.

“Some people feel we have abandoned them,” said Richard Moylan, president of Green-Wood Cemetery, “but we had to take the safer route to protect the view. We couldn’t take the chance.”

Advocates of the downzoning, which forbids builders from going above 50 feet, argue that the agreement’s gag order undermines the work they put into protecting their enclave of one- and two-story wood-frame homes — a fight that until now had Minerva as its most potent icon.

“The agreement sends a bad message,” said Aaron Brashear, a resident of 23rd Street, who has fought the development since it was proposed last year. “The developers can say, ‘Don’t listen to these historians. Don’t listen to these community activists because Green-Wood is with us.’”

The Jan. 19 agreement requires that Nussencweig’s architect, Robert Scarano, erect a full-scale model of the building on the site. The mock-up, according to the architect, will prove his design keeps the view corridor open before any construction begins.

Current plans show a 70-foot roof with a deep notch cut out one spot, like a peephole in the skyline.

If the cut fails to preserve the view, the cemetery is entitled to sue, according to the agreement.

CB7 will host a hearing on Feb. 8. The city Board of Standards and Appeals will then decide the fate of the building.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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