By Blocking View of the Brooklyn Bridge, a Building Incites a Battle

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To many people, it might not make much difference. Looking toward the Brooklyn Bridge from a point on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade roughly between Clark and Pierrepont Streets, pedestrians used to be able to watch cars flow along the bridge’s roadbed, and see the Chrysler Building behind the bridge’s intricate web of cables.

Now, though, the cars disappear behind the top of a new hotel and condominium complex rising in Brooklyn Bridge Park, and the Chrysler Building’s Art Deco spire is nearly hidden altogether.

Minor differences, perhaps, but for those who were intimately familiar with the view, the complex is nothing less than a blight.

And, they say, that view was supposed to be protected by an agreement hammered out with park officials a decade ago that was designed to limit the maximum height of the new building, called Pierhouse.

“We knew that anything over 100 feet would obscure the roadbed,” said Otis Pratt Pearsall, who served on the Brooklyn Heights Association’s advisory committee and said he had negotiated a 100-foot cap on the Pierhouse complex in 2005. “We were trying to create a certainty that the roadbed and necklace would remain unobscured from tower to tower.”

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The view from about the same spot in 1998 shows the building that stood there before, with a more complete view of the skyline and the bridge. CreditChester Higgins Jr./The New York Times

Mr. Pearsall and other preservationists insist that the agreement covered mechanical structures for housing fixtures like boilers, cooling systems and generators. And it is Pierhouse’s 30-foot-tall mechanical structures that now block the view.

Their solution: They want the developer to take them down.

The Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation, which oversees the park, said it was not aware of the agreement, which predates the organization’s current leadership, and that the building meets current zoning rules. The views, officials added, are still spectacular.

The controversy dates to 2005, when the park was still in its planning stages. That year, a draft environmental impact statement related to the Pierhouse was released; it called for a 110-foot structure. The complex was to replace a warehouse located on the spot, which would be torn down in 2010. Under an unusual model, the cost of maintaining and operating the park is to be borne by the private developments along the park’s perimeter, including Pierhouse, a three-building complex where a penthouse apartment recently went into contract for $11 million.

Concerned about the possible effect on the view, Mr. Pearsall said he worked out an agreement with the park’s landscape architect, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, acting on behalf of the park corporation, that mechanical structures were to be counted against that cap. Mr. Pearsall has email from Mr. Van Valkenburgh’s office memorializing the agreement.

The final environmental impact statement for the project, which was completed in 2005, confirms the height limit and, in the comment and response section, says the mechanical structures are included. But the general project plan, which came out the next year and is supposed to reflect the impact statement, mentions only the 100-foot cap. Last fall, as Pierhouse rose, Mr. Pearsall grew alarmed.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/26/nyregion/by-blocking-view-of-the-brooklyn-bridge-a-building-incites-a-battle.html?_r=0

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