The “Finger Building” has a cap.
The new developers of the controversial residential tower on North 8th Street in Williamsburg held a private meeting with several Community Board 1 members and a representative from Councilmember David Yassky’s office on September 16, alerting them of their decision to cap the building at 14 stories, two stories shy of the maximum height they can build.
“They are trying to reach out to the neighborhood and change the image of the project,” said Ward Dennis, chair of CB 1’s Land Use Committee, who attended the meeting. “They’re new, they’re not the developers who have put this together over time.They are concerned they are put in the best light and that not everybody is going to love it, but they’re stopping short of 16 stories.”
Over the past three years, the building has been etched into neighborhood lore for its unusual design, made by architect Robert Scarano, which has been mercilessly ridiculed by real estate blogs and newspapers throughout Brooklyn.The building also inspired a veritable call to arms from local activists who disapproved of its proposed height, claiming it was out of scale in Williamsburg’s north side.
At the meeting, Andrew Zobler, the CEO of the developer, revealed that the lending institution from the previous developer which owns the project, HBSC, had pressured him to finish the building.Since community leaders lost the Board of Standards & Appeals (BSA) appeal, the developer has the right to build as high as 16 stories, but will build only 14.
The building currently stands at 10 stories, but construction has already begun, and Zobler expects to finish the project by spring 2010.According to the developer, it will include a community room, retail space on the first floor, and about 40 units of housing, though there will not be an affordable housing component.
“They did stress that they were trying to at least do a more Williamsburg-friendly design and marketing campaign than the sterile waterfront crapola currently in progress,” said Jaye Fox, a CB 1 member who attended the meeting.“So, it’s still a tower of sorts, just not as evil.Or illegal.”
Zobler expressed willingness to meet with residents who have been opposed to the project, many of whom are affiliated with Neighbors Allied for Good Growth and the Open Space Alliance, though a date and time has not yet been set.
One Williamsburg activist, Phil DePaolo, when told of the news that the building would be finished with a new developer, expressed his resignation about the decision.
“Amazing. The BSA screwed us. They’ll have the right to do what they want. Legally we don’t have anything left we can do.It’s up to the developer to decide what he can do,” he said.
Dennis does not expect much vocal opposition in the future.
“I think people aren’t thrilled about it, but the community has fought hard against this, but lost, and having lost all appeals, there’s the sense of let’s get rid of this eyesore by finishing it,” said Dennis.
©2009 Community News Group
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