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Size matters: Avenue T garage may be too tall

Too high: The garage of the house going up on Avenue T and Hendrickson Street, seen here to the left of its neighboring house, appears to be higher than the 10 feet above the curb level that the city allows.
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The garage of the giant Avenue T house in Marine Park appears to be higher than is allowed, according to both neighbors and the Department of Buildings, and the developer doesn’t have an explanation.

Floor plans obtained by this paper from the Department of Buildings show that the house on the corner of Avenue T and Hendrickson Street has plans for a two-car garage. The document says the garage’s height can be 10 feet above the average level of the curb, and the plans show a proposed height of nine feet and four inches.

However, the structure on the property located where plans indicate there will be a garage is viewable from the street, and looks significantly higher than this, as some locals have noticed.

“It can only be 10 feet above the sidewalk, but it’s way up there,” said neighbor Sean O’Brien.

Marine Parkers have long complained about the property, saying its massive, metal beams are out of place in the suburban neighborhood.

Some have claimed the property will be a multifamily dwelling, but developer David Halberstam said in January that the property is for one family. He gave this paper a tour, presented floor plans, and characterized the criticisms of the house as “anti-Semitic.”

Halberstam did not respond to requests for comment on the garage height.

The building plans do indicate that a 3-foot-6 parapet will be built at the top of the building, referring to a type of wall that goes around roofs, terraces and balconies, according to a Department of Buildings spokeswoman. The department is now investigating whether this parapet needs to be included in the height of the garage, which can only be 10 feet tall, the spokeswoman said. The height of the 9-foot-4 garage indicated in the plans, plus the parapet, would be 12-foot-10.

Work on the property resumed on June 15, after the lifting of an April 10 stop-work order the buildings department placed on the development because the general contractor’s license had expired. The license was later renewed, according to a department spokeswoman. Builders were busy working on the house the week of June 18.

“Upzoning” to allow for taller buildings is a big concern for many residents in Marine Park. A large, brick, multifamily home on Kimball Street between Avenues U and T has also drawn scorn from locals. Zoning laws in Marine Park actually allow for multifamily properties to go up, but restrict their height.

Marine Park mostly consists of R4 and R3-2 zoning areas, according to a map from the City Planning Commission. Both zones allow single and two-family residences, as well as multi-family apartments of three or more units. The maximum height allowed is 35 feet for both areas, according to the Department of City Planning website.

Whether a large multifamily can be built in an R4 or R3-2 area is more complicated, however. Just because a zone allows multi-family does not mean a huge apartment building can be built anywhere. There are zoning regulations on each lot regarding the floor area, the yard, parking, and a litany of other factors, as well as regulations from the building code, that determine how large a home can be, according to a Department of City Planning spokesman.

The Avenue T house falls within an R4 zoning district.

As bigger homes continue to go up, and questions about the Avenue T garage remain unanswered, some Marine Parkers fear rules are not being followed.

“I have no problem with things being built within the guidelines,” said Joe Landy, who lives near the Avenue T house. “There needs to be compliance.”

Reach reporter Adam Lucente at alucente@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow him on Twitter @Adam_Lucente.
Updated 11:26 am, June 22, 2018
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Sean from Marine Park says:
Once again, the Bldgs. Dept.'s response seems to indicate that construction at the site is being given special treatment. Without the parapet, the current garage roof height is approx. 17.5 above the curb level. It is even with and attached to the second floor. Far above the 10 foot height allowable. Furthermore, a Bldgs. Dept. Inspector visited the site and issued a stop work order specifying that the garage height exceeded the Approved plans. He also specified that the garage floor was too high above the ground. The length and width were built opposite to the plans. The plan was amended and approved to reflect the actual length and width, but no other aspect changed. The same inspector returned to the site and lifted the stop work order this time stating that the garage now conformed with the plans! The inspector stated this even though the height and floor height above the sidewalk level hadn't changed. So not only is the garage still exceeding the Amended and Approved Plan, the garage is in violation of the applicable Zoning Resolutions, two facts which seem to escape the Bldgs. Dept.'s scrutiny.
Don't take my word for it though. Go to the site and see for yourself that the garage height is a good 7 feet higher than permissible by regulation and allowed according to the Bldgs. Dept's very own Approved Plan. The Zoning Resolutions are available online and the specifics are referred to in the Approved Plans. Go to the the Buildings Department and look at the Approved Plan for the Building and Two Car Garage. Compare them to the actual construction. You don't have to be an engineer to readily see the differences between the actual built dimensions and the Plan's dimensions, or what the Zoning resolutions allow.
You might also discern some other discrepancies. Notably, the Floor Area for the Building and Accessory Garage exceeds the allowable 3300 square feet by 500 sq. feet. The perimeter wall height, not to be confused with the allowable 35 feet roof height, exceeds the allowable 25 feet. The first floor was built approx. 4 feet above the level at which the Approved plan indicates. There is a rooftop structure which is not indicated on the Approved Plan. (A buildings Dept. inspector reported that there was no access to the roof so the complaint filed regarding the rooftop structure was dismissed, despite there being a scaffold stairwell to the roof at the time of the inspection.)
Below the garage is an additional 300 square foot cellar, accessible from the main building which was never and still isn't on any Approved Plan, Amended Plan or Permit. Not only shouldn't that extra cellar area exist as per the Buildings Dept., but it also violates assorted Zoning Resolutions as well.
The garage structure was built almost a year before any plan was approved or permit issued. Whenever excavation or construction adjoining property lines falls within defined parameters, Project General Liability Insurance is required. It covers potential damage to the adjoining properties. Despite the construction on both adjoining property lines, the original general contractor was given an insurance waiver. Property damage to both adjoining lots has been ignored by the Bldgs. Dept. despite complaints.
You might also note that the Two Car garage is four feet above the sidewalk level and only about 25 feet from the sidewalk. That's a pretty steep driveway ramp, if there was one.
Probably the the cars will levitate themselves into and out of the garage. A garage, by the way, which has only a 14 feet deep interior. There is also a mystery fire hydrant on the Bldgs. Depths Approved Plans where none actually exists.
It would be understandable for the Bldgs. Dept.'s ignorance and lack of proper attention,
if all these discrepancies weren't ever brought to their attention. However, all these matters have been referred to the Department with specifics since as early as September, 2016by various members of the public. The Bldgs. Department has responded numerous times and even taken some actions. However, if you examine the Dept.'s actions closely, you'll observe that in reality it appears the Department is willful ignoring an assortment of discrepancies between the Approved Plans, Zoning Resolutions and the actual structures.
Again, don't take my word for it, go the Department's Building Information System website and scrutinize the Department's own information. The Borough of course is Brooklyn, it is Block number 8542 and lot 36. The Building job number is Job# 321096595 and the Two Car Garage is Job# 321298822.
The Buildings Department, it seems, has some explaining to do. I'd be more than willing to meet with any Department official or public official who had their own official and certified Plan copies at the site to point out the discrepancies.
June 22, 12:39 pm

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