160 Year-Old Protection
For Carroll Gardens' Courtyards Stands:
I applaud the school for understanding the community’s concerns and deciding not to proceed with their proposed expansion. Their plan would have set a dangerous precedent. The courtyards are an integral part of Carroll Garden’s charm and character and must be protected. I remain committed to identifying a potential solution which will meet the needs of both the community and the school.
State Assemblywoman Joan Millman
In a just released letter to its parents, the Hannah Senesh Day School states that it will not pursue a highly controversial plan to expand into the courtyard next to its building at the corner of Smith Street and First Place.
In December 2009, the school had revealed its intention to construct a two-story addition onto the courtyard "to give the school more flexibility." The only problem was that the signature courtyards in Carroll Gardens are owned by the city and are protected by a 160-year-old law. The law states that the courtyards can not be used for parking, nor can they be built on.
The school's Board of Directors hired lawyer Ken Fisher to lobby city officials on the school's behalf for the "acquisition of a lot currently owned by the city of New York"
Out-going Councilman Bill De Blasio was more than willing to help out. Without community input, he intended to introduce a bill which would have altered the old law to exempt the courtyard on First Place at Smith Street, thereby paving the way for Hannah Senesh to then buy the city-owned land.
When this became known, Carroll Gardens activists organized, collected signatures and encouraged the community to send letters to elected officials. The prevalent feeling in Carroll Gardens was that no exceptions should be made and that the courtyards are such an integral part and unique feature of this neighborhood that everyone of them needs to be protected.
It is wonderful to hear that State Senator Daniel Squadron, State Assemblywoman Joan Millman and Councilman Brad Lander felt the same way. Daniel Squadron was the first to issue a statement against the courtyard extention.
It is not clear yet how the school intends to proceed. What is clear is that Hannah Senesh willingly agreed to buy a building that had VERY LIMITED POSSIBILITY TO EXPAND and signed an agreement that places a meriad number of restrictions on the building. (click here to see Acris site page 6 onward.)
The Hannah Senesh School shares the same building lot as developer Bill Stein's 360 Smith Street project . When Stein sold the property to Hannah Senesh Day School, he kept the Floor Area Ratio (F.A.R.) for himself and transferred it to his 360 Smith Street development to get extra height. He also used the school's Community Facility Bonus and used that to bulk up his building as well.
What is also of concern is that Hannah Senesh has been unable so far to secure a permanent Certificate Of Occupancy for the building.
Moving forward, it may be more advantageous to the school to ditch lobbyist Ken Fisher, sit down with the community and be more forthcoming about its needs.