Even though a city body upheld a permit allowing the so−called “Finger Building” to rise to 16 stories last December, the structure – a controversial high−rise at 144 N. 8th Street that has been under construction for several years – will not rise to its maximum allowable height, its developer confirmed.
Andrew Zobler, CEO of GFI Capital, which assumed ownership of the building several months ago, said, “We’ve made the decision not to build to the maximum height. We’ve done that as a gesture to the neighborhood knowing the neighborhood doesn’t want the full height.”
Zobler would not quite confirm a report posted by community activist Phil DePaolo, posted on the Williamsburg Greenpoint News + Arts Web site, saying the building would remain at its current 110−foot height.
“That’s probably not correct. It’s not incorrect either,” he responded, somewhat curiously. “The only thing we’ve decided is to not go as high as we can go.”
He added, “Before we announce any final plans, we plan to talk to people in the neighborhood and have some of those conversations.”
DePaolo, a longtime opponent of the building’s height, said he was convinced the building would be capped at 110 feet. He pointed to documents recently filed with the Department of Buildings for work to cap the building.
“I told [Zobler], ‘This is a win−win for you. Maybe now people will stop calling it the Finger Building,’” DePaolo joked about the building, so nicknamed for its towering presence among neighborhood low−rises and a certain hand−gesture many community residents feel its presence represents.
Zobler insisted the decision to cap the building had nothing to do with the economy.
“The land is free, so if you wanted to build a couple more stories, that kind of investment is easy,” he said.
“It has more to do with trying to have a product that people in the neighborhood like and respond to. The wrong thing for us to do would be to build a building the community didn’t want.”
Since its foundation was poured in 2005, the Finger Building became a target for neighborhood activists, who claimed it was a poster child of out−of−scale, irresponsible development.
These opponents pointed to the hasty, unsafe manner in which the building’s foundation was poured in order to become vested under the pre−May 2005 zoning rules, which did not cap building heights.
They also complained about the myriad of other safety violations the building’s previous owners – a team headed by Mendel Brach and Moshe Owen – accumulated during construction.