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The developer of a controversial Clinton Hill building quietly continued construction on the 16-story, 49-unit luxury high-rise about two weeks ago.
But both City Councilmember Letitia James and local residents vow they will demand a stop work order at any construction irregularities on the 163 Washington Avenue site.
“The community is watching with eagle eyes and if they [developers] take one step out of line, our fingers will go walking to 311 and they will hear about it almost immediately,” said Jane Zusi, who lives on the block.
The issue surrounding the project began following last summer’s 99-block rezoning of the Fort Greene/Clinton Hill area.
On that July 25 day, the project’s developer, GLC Group, sent about 25 cement trucks to pour the building’s foundation, making the project eligible to be “grandfathered” in before the rezoning took effect.
The move set off a chain reaction in the community that argued the law states that if the foundation is not 100 percent poured before the new zoning ordinances go into effect, then the developer cannot proceed with their plans.
James said fortunately the city Department of Buildings (DOB) was on the scene and ruled that only 40 percent of the foundation was planned.
The DOB also issued a stop work order on that day.
The squabbling ultimately led to the matter moving before the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA).
The GLC Group argued that they had bought the site prior to the rezoning, and not building as planned would cause the firm financial hardship.
According to zoning ordinance 11.331, the BSA may renew the building permit and authorize an extension of time limited to not more than six months to permit the completion of the required foundations.
The provision stipulates, however, that this applies only if the BSA finds that, on the date the building permit lapsed, excavation had been completed and substantial progress made on foundations.
In March, the BSA ruled that the project could move forward.
James said that up until about two weeks ago, her office was negotiating with the developer to include an affordable housing component.
Additionally, negotiations involved the developer building lower, but with more density, which would allow more housing units.
However, there is a waiting list to get funding for affordable housing through the city’s Department of Housing and Preservation Development, and James said the developer’s financial backers were unwilling to wait any longer.
GLC Group manager Mark Caller Mark Caller said they were willing to redo the plan to have two eight-story buildings on the site, but that would have required another year to year-and-a-half to go through yet another city rezoning process.
And at the end of that process there would be no guarantee that the new plan would be approved, said Caller.
Caller said the building will also have 1,200 square feet of community space and the GLC would like to see a museum of some kind lease it.
Caller also said since resuming work the company has gotten a lot of positive support from the neighborhood.
“A lot of people have come over to us and congratulated us so there’s two sides to every story,” he said.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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