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City rejects a brownstone — in brownstone Brooklyn

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So much for the “brownstone Brownstone”!

A city panel that had blocked a developer from building a true brownstone in the heart of brownstone Brooklyn now says that a red brick house is just fine.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously approved architect Tom van den Bout’s new design for a Brooklyn Heights townhouse last Tuesday — two months after rejecting his original plan as a “McMansion” that clashed with surrounding homes.

The result will be a scaled-down and quirkier house on the long-vacant lot on 27 Cranberry St. rather than the architect’s novel plans to use actual brownstone imported from a century-plus-old quarry — a proposal that would have resulted in the first real “Brooklyn brownstone” in decades.

“It was difficult to abandon that material,” van den Bout said. “At the same time, what we’ve designed is a different house that we’re very happy with.”

In a rapid turnaround, van den Bout worked with the city to create what he calls “a more natural and humble” single-family, four-story home with several revisions to appease worked-up neighbors.

Van den Bout will use dark red brick rather than brownstone to harmonize with a wooden house next door, and zinc instead of bronze for window frames.

Other revisions will make the building, which is between Hicks and Willow streets, slimmer and shorter, and have a top floor that’s not as visible from the front.

Some community members appreciated the revisions, but said the building’s scale was still too grand.

“We wished he would build a small house instead of what he’s entitled to build — but it’s still impressive,” said Judy Stanton, executive director of the Brooklyn Heights Association, which unsurprisingly supported van den Bout’s original plans. He is a former president of the association, after all.

Simeon Bankoff of the Historic Districts Council, who opposed the townhouse from the start, said he’s resigned to the new plans.

“It’s too big,” Bankoff said. “Cranberry Street is specifically low scale so it’s a tough site. This might have worked if it was on another block in Brooklyn Heights.”

Updated 5:25 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Or from Yellow Hook says:
bureaucrats with clip boards! Is there anything they can't get in the way of?

Just pay the bribe already - that's how it's done.

Maybe they'd prefer a weed filled lot.
Aug. 8, 2011, 7:27 am
Joe from Brooklyn Heights says:
When you can't use brownstone to build a brownstone, in Brooklyn Heights, the game is over. There is nothing that will be worth building in such a historical neighborhood.
Aug. 8, 2011, 7:52 am
Todd from Brooklyn Heights says:
A brand new brownstone would have been an excellent merging of modern and classic Brooklyn. And would likely meld in more readily than crisp new red bricks. I hope this sort of painstaking micro-management doesn't completely deter future use of the old brownstone quarry in this neighborhood. I would love to see a new brownstone in the Heights.
Aug. 8, 2011, 1:40 pm
Joe Z. from Greenpoint says:
Gimme a break with that "excellent merging of modern and classic Brooklyn" nonsense. These hacks, who have the temerity to call themselves architects, design dystopian aberrations which in no way fit in with the historical and architectual context of whatever neighborhood they build in. They design pretentious monstrosities which would be more at home in a Stalinist era workers' district in Leningrad; but, not in Brooklyn.
Aug. 8, 2011, 9:30 pm
NYC Renter's Alliance from Bklyn Heights says:
The combination of height limits, excessive architectural consideration, and landmarking means that only one family will get to live here, when, 50 years ago, at least 8 families did.

We need more density and more housing to lower prices and rents -- not to spend $100k on designing the perfect 19th century facsimile.

Join us in the fight for Housing Equality -- facebook.com/nycrenters
Aug. 8, 2011, 10:19 pm
Or from Yellow Hook says:
Housing Equality?

That's called the Projects.

Fifty years ago 8 families may have lived there, but 100 years ago, one family did.

20 families used to live in the tenements in the Lower East Side.

Now that was equality!
Aug. 8, 2011, 10:32 pm
Joe Z. from Greenpoint says:
"We need more density and more housing to lower prices and rents -- not to spend $100k on designing the perfect 19th century facsimile."

You want density, more housing, lower prices and rent? Stack refrigerator packing crates in an empty lot. Then, you'll have duplexes.

As Or indicated, these brownstones were not designed as multiple family dwellings. They were constructed solely as single family homes. It's groups like yours which destroy neighborhoods by ghettoization tactics not dissimilar to blockbusting realtors and landlords of the not so distant past. This is what occurred in neighborhoods like Bushwick, Williamsburg and others where existing single family dwellings were hacked up and subdivided into little more than flophouses.
Aug. 9, 2011, 12:51 pm
Cranberry Beret from Brooklyn Heights says:
"...means that only one family will get to live here, when, 50 years ago, at least 8 families did."

BZZT. This lot has been empty for 80 years. Before that, it had a small wooden "cottage" like the one that still stands next door. Not exactly the 8-family multiple dwelling you imagine.
Aug. 9, 2011, 6:55 pm
Joe K. from Cobble Hill says:
The two story bay of windows in the illustration looks out of place to me - why did Landmarks approve that?

And if the building is meant to harmonize with the neighboring buildings why would there be zinc window frames? It doesn't make any sense aesthetically or functionally.
Aug. 9, 2011, 9:19 pm
WW from Bay Ridge says:
"why would there be zinc window frames? "

Because you are not paying for it, nor is the landmarks commission. The owner is.

How about painting it in historical lead based paint?

Burning historical coal to keep warm? Putting horse manure on the rose garden?
Aug. 10, 2011, 10:25 am
Dean Collins from Brooklyn Heights says:
LPC is a joke, this development has proven this point to me beyond any doubt.

Home ownership rights in LPC areas are non existant anymore.
Aug. 10, 2011, 5:34 pm

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