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Battle of ‘rights’ on Smith Street

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Last week, developer William Stein failed to win the support of Community Board 6’s Landmarks/Land Use Committee in his bid to exempt his “Oliver House” project at 360 Smith Street from new zoning regulations.

Jerry Armer made the motion to oppose Stein’s application on the grounds that the developer failed to provide enough information about the progress of the building’s foundation to render an informed decision.

The Department of Buildings already determined that at the time the Carroll Gardens Zoning Text Amendment was passed this summer, Stein had only completed 20 percent of the work needed to be “vested” under the old zoning regulations.

In addition to that, the developer could not produce pertinent drawings when requested at the hearing held at P.S. 32 on Hoyt Street.

Stein’s attorney dismissed the DOB’s findings and pointed to the installation of 90 pilings and other work totaling in excess of $3 million as proof that enough work had been done to be exempted from the new zoning rules.

But the overwhelming number of residents who turned out to oppose Stein’s bid to build a 48-unit, luxury condominium complex at the corner of Smith Street and 2nd Place under older, less restrictive zoning regulations, objected on the grounds that Stein was attempting to trump the rights of the greater community.

CORD member Rita Miller said, “Ours is a community of stoops and front gates. Oliver House has a place in the city, but that place isn’t on 2nd Place.”

Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association member Vincent Favorito was more direct.

“Stein has owned the property for 10 years,” he said. “He’s building now to make money He didn’t want to build within the limitations because he won’t make enough money. People have rights and we’re going to use them.”

Stein has indicated that he himself would like to reside inside Oliver House once it’s completed. He could however, be forced to lose the upper and most lucrative floors of his building if the Board of Standards & Appeals compels him to adhere to new zoning regulations when they hear the case later this month.

One of a handful of Stein supporters urged the developer to buck the will of the community and build a “12 story tower as-of-right.”

Stein said that under the existing rules a 12 story tower was possible, but that he had no intention of building one.

Local resident Judith Thompson – who opposed the Carroll Gardens Zoning Text Amendment – said the corner of Smith Street and 2nd Place was “ugly” and welcomed the construction of Stein’s non-contextual building.

Funeral Home owner Buddy Scotto called the proposed Oliver House development “The best thing to happen on that corner in my lifetime.”

New zoning regulations limit the height of construction on 2nd Place to 55 feet. Stein’s Oliver House condominium complex – if allowed to proceed – will check in at 70-plus feet.

Others dismissed the amount of money Stein has already invested in the project and accused him of simply being a poor businessman.

“You would have to be a mole not to know the City Council was not going to pass the text amendment,” Mike Salvatore said.

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