Nothing much has changed on 87th Street in the past year.
The seasons have shifted, summer giving way to fall, and fall to winter, and now it’s summer again, and still the 15-foot long, 60-foot high cinderblock wall at 123 87th Street hugs the property line of 127, so close to the neighboring house that passing even a hand between the two would pose a challenge.
There’s been no construction in the past year, largely due to the stop work order that has existed on the property since June, 2007. What has changed, however, is the approach being taken by the city’s Department of Buildings (DOB).
Permits issued for the construction of which the wall is a part were revoked, by order of the Brooklyn Borough Commissioner, Magdi Mossad, in December, 2007. In addition, the owners of the home at 123 have been told by DOB to dismantle the wall, but, so far, that hasn’t happened.
Reported Joanne Seminara, chairperson of Community Board 10’s Zoning and Land Use Committee, at the board’s June meeting, “Said revocation requiring that the wall be removed was issued several months ago.”
Seminara also told the group gathered at Shore Hill, 9000 Shore Road, that she had been told by the owner of 127, Matthew Gershon, that DOB had told him, “It will likely issue a criminal summons against the owner and/or the contractor if they do not comply with the order.”
Nonetheless, just the opposite appears to be taking place. Not only has the wall remained standing but, on multiple occasions, the architect for the property has submitted plans that DOB has rejected, most recently on June 26th.
The controversy over the wall came to public notice a little over a year ago, when the owners of 127 approached CB 10 and asked for their help in getting the wall moved back.
The Gershons were spurred to go to the board for help after workers at 123 had pushed their air conditioner back through their wall, so that the new wall could be erected at 123, covering all the windows on that side of 127.
“It’s been terribly frustrating,” Gershon told this paper. Not only have nine windows been covered, Gershon asserted, but “They’ve excavated below our footing, exposing the whole foundation. They’ve attached the building onto our footing, encroached on our property. The wall is actually on our property. We have no sunlight or fresh air and their workmanship is amateurish at best. With water getting into it, I’m concerned about structural integrity.”
The Gershons contended, at the time, that zoning required an eight-foot side yard. Nonetheless, originally, DOB had said that the construction at 123 was within the zoning, explaining that, while the house is in an R3-1 zone — which requires side yards on both sides of detached homes — because the adjacent house was built to the lot line, the owner of 123 87th Street could also build to the lot line.
However, after the Gershons approached the community board in 2007, DOB agreed to review the application again for zoning compliance. It was after that review that the stop work order was issued and the permits for construction at 123 were revoked.
Nonetheless, Timothy Flanagan, the attorney for Cheryl and Robert Cunningham, who own 123 87th Street, said that DOB officials had told his client last month that the agency’s current position would be reversed.
Flanagan, who took Mr. Cunningham’s cell phone when the latter was contacted for comment, said that the matter was, “A hotly contested and litigated issue involving plans that were approved and signed off on by DOB. All Mr. Cunningham wants to do is complete them. It’s an unfortunate situation.”