CB6 debates visible solar panels in Cobble Hill Hsitoric District

Nothing new under the sun: Visible solar panels in historic district divides Cobble Hill board

Sunny forecast: Solar professionals T.R. Ludwig and Gaelen McKee say they are often forced to alter their designs to accomodate landmarks rules when installing panels on Kings County row houses.
Brooklyn Paper
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Can historic brownstones go green?

The city must come up with clear guidelines on how to stick solar panels on protected buildings, say members of a Cobble Hill area community board, after a debate over whether to approve the addition of sun-powered screens to a row house in the neighborhood’s historic district created a schism in the panel on Wednesday.

Community Board 6 ultimately voted 28–2 to okay a Warren Street homeowner’s bid to top his property with panels, despite its landmarks committee rejecting the idea 7–6 earlier in the month, but members say the conflict really shines a light on the need for rules about what is and isn’t okay as more Brooklynites try to balance environmental and historic preservation.

“It really is the issue of our times,” said Park Sloper and board member Joanna Smith. “What do we need to do to ensure our future in terms of what’s happening to our climate, while addressing preservation — which is very much about preserving the character of the neighborhood, but also property values and aesthetics.”

It is relatively easy for historic homeowners to secure a permit to install solar panels if they are completely out of sight. But in this case, the owner of the property between Henry and Clinton streets can’t lay his panels flat, because the city requires enough space for firefighters to traverse the roof, and his is already filled with mechanics and sky lights.

His contractor Brooklyn Solar Works says this is a common problem in borough brownstones, so it has come up with a stilted contraption to raise the ray-absorbing devices nine feet off the roof — the minimum clearance required for New York’s Bravest to swing an axe — but this would make it visible from parts of the street.

This was the first time the issue of installing solar panels on a landmarked building had come before Community Board 6 — district manager Craig Hammerman described it as a “test case” — and the committee’s chairman said he wasn’t confident that the stilt solution was the best or only one.

“I don’t know if there were other feasible ways to do it, and I wasn’t ready to say ‘okay’ because these guys were saying this was the only way to do it,” said Bob Levine.

The full board ultimately agreed it wasn’t too obtrusive in this case and supporting clean energy was a priority — but also to ask the Landmarks Preservation Commission to provide it with guidelines to make more informed decisions in the future.

“I think there was an understanding in the room that this was something that needed to proceed, and that we need to work with landmarks in the future,” said Smith.

The commission will decide on the fate of the Warren Street solar panels at a meeting on Feb. 2.

But Hammerman expects Wednesday’s debate will be the first of many — the board’s district also covers historic districts in Carroll Gardens and Park Slope.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

bkmanhatman from nubrucklyn says:
allow them to put the panels!
Jan. 18, 2016, 2:08 pm
Rufus Leaking from BH says:
Do they use solar power to power the solar power factory in China?
Jan. 18, 2016, 5:56 pm
BSW from Gowanus says:
South Korea. And Yes they do:
Jan. 18, 2016, 7:49 pm
sorry folks from Cobble Hill says:
It's not what it is, it's that it can be seen. Solar, pop-ups, balcony, whatever / what goes for one, goes for all!

Solar down or nada
Jan. 18, 2016, 9:35 pm
Sofia from Hollywood says:
these metal plates are ugly
Jan. 18, 2016, 11:16 pm
Pooter from Washington says:
Are they just racist because the solar panels are BLACK? I hate racism, and this is everyday racism!!
Jan. 20, 2016, 12:36 pm
V&R from Brklyn says:
They can be elegant, depending on their installation. Will climate change bring about more dark and stormy days, making them obsolete? Or maybe the installation of these will help advert gloom and save energy costs?

Interesting point re the factories. side note: Solar cookers are popular in Chinese occupied Tibet, good for making tea.
Jan. 20, 2016, 8:27 pm
V&R from Brklyn says:
Hermann Kaufmann, Schwartz
Jan. 22, 2016, 12:06 am
V&R from Brklyn says:
Journal & Persuading, Hegger Hegger Schlegel

Re landmarks, all it takes is finessing the details. Enjoy
Jan. 22, 2016, 12:26 am
katherine from prospect heights says:
my neighbor across the street just installed one and my stunning, serene Hopperesque view has now been destroyed. I can't begin to tell you how hideous this is. I now have a massive chunk of metal in my living room. I could move but the view is so awful, this will hurt my property values. I have been so depressed.
Dec. 2, 2018, 9:10 am

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