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Homecrest ‘monstrosity’ slain

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They’re bringing down the house — finally!

The city issued an order on Feb. 28 to demolish a dangerous structure under construction at 1882 E. 12th Street that area residents have been fighting for more than eight years — and neighbors are ecstatic.

“It feels fantastic,” said Bella Center. “We’re delighted.”

“I think this is great news,” said Ed Jaworski, who heads the Madison-Marine-Homecrest Civic Association. “It should have never gone this far.”

Residents feared the building — which opponents describe as a “grotesque” and “hideous” “monstrosity” — put neighbors at risk. Contractors cantilevered the bizarre structure over a crumbling bungalow. A cantilever is a beam anchored into a wall to hold up a structure over a span without supports on the other side.

At 43 feet tall, the structure towers over neighboring homes. A portion even hangs over a neighbor’s driveway, and residents feared the “monstrosity” would topple onto their homes.

The Feb. 28 decision came after the Department of Buildings held a meeting with the architect, Shlomo Wygoda, and neighbors on Feb. 24 to determine the contentious building’s future.

The department found that contractors built the supporting wall on a foundation initially intended to support a porch — not a two-story home, said Walter Maffei, a Brooklyn architect who advised neighbors fighting the building.

Center actually dug up part of her house to expose the slab for inspection.

“We really had to ‘get to the bottom of this,’ ” she said.

Locals have been asking the city to halt construction since it issued permits to the builder eight years ago, and many had given up hope.

“I cannot believe that it has been eight years,” said Community Board 15 chairwoman Theresa Scavo. “After the first two or three years, you start to think the city is not going to step up and do anything.”

Scavo said the building plan conformed to zoning requirements when construction began nearly a decade ago, but a 2006 rezoning would have halted work had builders not gotten special permission from the city in the form of a vesting right. Scavo said the community board unanimously opposed the vesting, but the city okayed it anyway. Neighbors then sued to stop construction on the grounds the building was unsafe and the permit application contained several major errors.

As a result of the suit, the Board of Standards and Appeals, which oversees the buildings department, took another look at the building permit, but deemed it valid.

Maffei said the permit was ill-gotten in the first place, because Wygoda applied for an alteration permit though he was building a new structure.

“It’s a gaming of the system which produced this awful monstrosity,” Maffei said. “The application was pure fantasy and total disregard for any policies and procedures required by the DOB.”

In June of last year, a state supreme court judge ordered the board to review the permit again, but it ruled the permit valid a second time, despite admitting it issued the wrong permit due to an administrative error. Residents pressed on.

“We were so convinced of the rightness of our case, and we couldn’t step down from that,” Center said.

Under pressure from residents and Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D–Sheepshead Bay), the department issued a stop-work order in mid-February and scheduled the Feb. 24 meeting to consider revoking the permits.

“We are so thrilled with what amazing work Assemblyman Cymbrowitz does for his constituen­ts,” Center said.

A department of buildings spokeswoman said the builder has denied access to the site and has not provided a structural peer review as required by a city audit.

Property owner Joseph Durzieh has 60 days to submit new plans or tear down the home, according to a press release from Cymbrowitz’s office.

“The city did the right thing,” Scavo said. “If you look over the wood construction fence you can see that the building is collapsing right there.”

Wygoda declined to comment, and Durzieh did not return calls to his E. 14th Street medical practice.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeger@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8303. Follow him on Twitter @MJaeger88.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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