Windows 10 was Norah Jones’s idea

The Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

Norah Jones, whose smooth, soul-searching songs have pulled on America’s heartstrings, might have a new superlative to add to her resume: Architectural revolutionary.

The singer, who became an international star with her 2002 album, “Come Away with Me,” has won her battle to transform the windowless side wall of her Amity Street mansion by punching out 10 windows. Earlier this year, Jones’s decorator got local and city approval to do some minor renovation work to the rear of her building, which is inside the Cobble Hill Historic District — but then came back in November with an amended plan to add 10 windows to the wall.

Approval was granted — indeed, the window work was called “minor” — without another round of public hearings.

To fight back, the Cobble Hill Association is now saying that there are at least 70 houses inside the historic district that have similarly windowless walls — so if Jones is allowed to set a precedent, the resulting domino effect could change Cobble Hill forever.

The renovations are “completely inconsistent with the character of the Cobble Hill Historic District, especially for early 19th-century structures of this kind,” said Roy Sloane, the president of the Cobble Hill Association.

Most Cobble Hill rowhouses — including Jones’s house between Henry and Clinton streets — were built from 1827 to 1845 in the Greek Revival style, which is noted for a tendency to shun ostentation in the hopes of preserving privacy. The austere houses have been mostly untouched since the landmark designation in 1970.

The addition of numerous windows to the exposed sides of the houses throughout the neighborhood would seem to run contrary to this aesthetic, though Jones herself has defended them as not “out of character” with Cobble Hill.

And a spokeswoman for the Landmarks Preservation Commission agreed.

“Some people think the renovations are terrific,” said Lisi de Bourbon, the spokeswoman. “They add depth and visual interest to a blank wall.”

But Sloane said the only interest he had was in fairness. If Jones succeeds, it will send a message to all wealthy homeowners that all they need to do is hire top-notch designers who have the know-how and influence to take advantage of the “loophole” of amending earlier-approved plans, as Jones’s architect did.

Sloane also suggested that the Landmarks agency may have allowed Jones’s renovations with a wink and a nod because of her celebrity — a claim that the agency denied.

“Our regulations allow this type of work,” de Bourbon said. “There were no loopholes.”

Yet as Norah Jones is poised to install her windows, Sloane remains convinced that those 10 architecturally inappropriate apertures are the window not merely to Jones’s living room, but her soul.

“To live in a good neighborho­od,” he said, “you have to be a good neighbor.”

Perhaps Jones is sending Sloane a message back. Her big new song, after all, is titled “Back to Manhattan.”

“I’ll go back to Manhattan/As if nothing ever happened,” she croons.

Updated 5:15 pm, July 9, 2018: Story was updated to clarify the process by which Jones got approval for her 10 windows.
Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

Reasonable discourse

Sven from Brooklyn says:
"He also suggested that the Landmarks agency may have allowed Jones’s renovations with a wink and a nod because of her celebrity."

Dec. 1, 2009, 1:08 am
Andy from not saying says:
Good fight historic association, I think it's important to keep our houses with windowless walls! We should probably even block off the windows on the fronts of the houses too. They only let in poisonous air and light - things that just ruin homes.
Dec. 1, 2009, 4:43 am
David from Fort Greene says:
The reason that the sides of midblock townhouses are windowless is because it is assumed that the side will abut other townhouses. The idea that this was some sort of aesthetic choice by the architect is nuts. If anything one would assume that if the original architect knew that one of the sides would be open (i.e., not adjacent to another building), that they would have put windows in rather than having a blank wall.

Whenever I see these blank walls, I always think how much nicer it would look with windows. I have no idea how this would ruin the neighborhoods historical character. I wouldn't mind at all if those more than "70 houses inside the historic district that have similarly windowless walls," also decided to add windows.
Dec. 1, 2009, 10:39 am
d from gf says:
Just shows how stupid historic preservation is in a modern society. It restricts the poor from controlling their own homes.
Dec. 1, 2009, 10:53 am
WB from Williamsburg says:
The rules of the Landmarks Commission are spelled out pretty clearly (go to and lookup Rules), and those rules are pretty clearly on Jones's side. LPC didn't allow Jones's renovations with a wink and nod because of her celebrity, the applied their rules as they would to any applicant.
Dec. 1, 2009, 11:08 am
al pankin from downtown says:
All these complainers are blowing smoke, it's a great idea to put in the windows and put more light into the house, why, and how does it bother them (the complainers)..If they were so interested why didn't they buy the property when it was for sale and then they could have kept it as they desired. compared to what is being built in the area the additional windows are the least of what is going on...these folks should get a life.
Dec. 1, 2009, 11:31 am
Heightser from Brooklyn Heights says:
It is not a great idea to put windows wherever you choose if you live in a historic district. If Jones wants windows, let her move to a building that isn't in a historic district, plain and simple. It looks dumb to have windows on this wall. It isn't what was imagined at the point when this building was built. If she wants it to look different, if she wants light, if she wants to do things differently, do it in a non-historic district - there are plenty of those districts around NY. Why did she move to Cobble Hill in the first place? Probably because it was a landmarked/historically protected neighborhood! It got this way because of the hard work of associations like the Cobble Hill group. Bravo Cobble Hill Association!
Dec. 1, 2009, 11:39 am
anon from Cobble Hill says:
Yeah, send her back to Manhattan.
Dec. 1, 2009, 11:52 am
David from Fort Greene says:
Heighster, how does it look dumb to have windows on the wall? When your write that "It isn't what was imagined at the point when this building was built," that's because it was also imagined that wall would abut another building, which it currently does not. It's still not clear to me how the addition of windows ruins the neighborhood's historic character.
Dec. 1, 2009, 11:59 am
sue from cobble hill says:
Roy Sloane is a relic
Dec. 1, 2009, 3:56 pm
LOLcat from Slope Park says:
This is the stupidest —— ever. Let her have windows, but make sure they mimic other houses with 'historic' side windows. There are definitely enough bay windows on 6th avenue to style them after. Sheesh. Wh
Dec. 1, 2009, 5:31 pm
Brinn from Brooklyn says:
I agree the main reason this wall is windowless is because it's on a lot line and another house could be built next to it in the future. But didn't she buy the neighboring lot to ensure that doesn't happen? Are all the corner houses windowless? I don't know about these street precisely, but in historic districts the corner houses have windows on both street facing sides. I think the opponents just don't want someone to have something better than what they have.
Dec. 1, 2009, 9:03 pm
Walter from Brazil says:
Windows 10??? ah - ha ha ha! Even funnier than Windows 7.
That Norah Jones, 10 windows? Windows 10? Ha ha ha!
Dec. 2, 2009, 5:47 am
Rita from Windsower Terrace says:
I guess they won't call her the piano woman any longer after this. Sorry norah, but I will not listen to your songs anymore.
I guess she really windowed this one, am I right?
Dec. 2, 2009, 7:45 am
Ada from Brooklyn Heights says:
I'm sorry, am I the only one who has never heard of this Norah Jones?
Dec. 2, 2009, 10:21 am
Pacholo from Red Hook says:
Nora may have paved a way to get your renovations done after all. Leave Nora alone, more power to her if she put one over on the City Landmark Preservation. If you don't want her in the neighborhood buy her out......I thought so you guys don't have the money to do that.

PS: Nora I lovr you!
Dec. 2, 2009, 1:55 pm
eric flood from cobble hill says:
You ——ing idiot, you print her address for all the world to see just because you are a good neighbor, right?
Dec. 2, 2009, 7:35 pm
LDNYC from Cobble Hill says:
I own a coop around the corner on Pacific and I walk past this spot every single day. The existing, window-less wall is a dull, lifeless eyesore, even if it were to get a fresh coat of paint. There's nothing historically charming about it - it's just a wall!

Windows will enhance the value of the property, which ultimately enhances the value of her neighbor's property, and make that section of the block much more attractive. There's nothing out of character for the neighborhood from a landmark aesthetic standpoint about adding some windows to an otherwise empty, ugly wall that has no other historic value.
Dec. 3, 2009, 1:12 am
Arthur Parker from Cobble Hill says:
Songbird Norah has irked some of her neighbors, and as one of her nearest neighbors I can understand why. What the other commenters do not realize is that it's not the widows that irk us, per se. It's the fact that Norah enjoys walking around the apartment naked and not closing the blinds. At least those of us who live to the side of her are not exposed to this, but if her windows plan goes through we just might be.
Please do not side with exhibitionist jones. I think I will just die if I had to see her vag every time I looked out my window.
Dec. 3, 2009, 3:06 am
eric flood from Cobble Hill says:
why because nobody wants to look at yours?
Dec. 3, 2009, 7:17 pm
Elo from bococa says:
It looks like some CH peoples like walls or 15 minutes of celebrity. Sorry but looking at the plans, that women ( I do not know who is she) has taste and will enhance the block . We have other concerns in bococa. We really need to focus on the real issues.
Dec. 3, 2009, 10:49 pm
bklyn20 from Brooklyn Heights says:
There are several points to be examined here. Firt, most buildings in Cobble Hill with visible sides do not have windows on those sides. So this will be a change to the neighborhood's historic appearance. Ms Jones' windows may be beautiful and historically correct, but since Landmarks is a notoriously understaffed agency, not all new windows added after the precedent is set may be as appropriate.

The larger problem is that any significant change in the neighborhood should be approved by the community BEFORE it goes to Landmarks and other appropriate agencies. It should be voted on at the local Community Board Landmarks/Land Use Committee meeting -- if the neighbors have an opinion, they have the opportunity to voice it at that meeting. If something is added at the last minute by Landmarks without community input, the public has no voice. The issue won't even be on the Landmarks calendar. A shrewd architect/developer knows how to manipulate the schedule.

So Mr. Sloane is a relic? Hmmm ... unlike some others posting here, "the relic" gets out of his chair to DO something for his neighborhood. The relic is the person staying seated in front of the computer merely blogging about other people's actions. Try getting involved in something instead of just commenting on it!
Dec. 3, 2009, 10:53 pm
LDNJ from North Bergen, NJ says:
I don't live in this particular neighborhood, but I know it well. I Just find it amazing how all the people in this neighborhood who oppose Ms. Jones' windows are, all of a sudden, historical architecture aficianados. If Ms. Jones ownes the property next to her house and the windows will open up to it, then it's perfectly legal with noe loopholes. I should know, I am an NYC building official. Why would the rest of the community need to have a say in what Ms. Jones does with her property? As long as she abides by zoning, building and landmarks, she can do as she pleases as everyone else could. Those opposing it probably don't like it because: a) they can't do the same because their house abuts another. Or b) they can't afford it. There's a simple solution to this, they can always move elsewhere.
Dec. 4, 2009, 10:19 am
Andy from Brooklyn says:
Geez, Norah Jones wants some windows, the publicity hungry neighborhood conservationist mafia runs to the Press and this stupid paper prints her address along with the picture of her house. Do you see anything wrong with the picture?
You don't like the windows, well it's not your house..go fly a kite somewhere else..
Dec. 23, 2009, 9:25 pm

Comments closed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.

Keep it local!

Stay in touch with your community. Subscribe to our free newsletter: