Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Carroll Gardens "Eco Brooklyn" House Gets Stop Work Order For Digging Under Publicly-Owned Front Yard

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Here is a new twist on the ongoing debate about Carroll Gardens' signature front yards. As New York City is is trying to clarify the rules governing ownership of the court yards, appropriate uses and possible enforcement of the rules, one Carroll Gardens owner is taking the debate to a whole new level.
Gennaro Brooks-Church, director of Eco Brooklyn, has been doing construction on his home at 22 2nd Street house for the last three years. It serves as a green show house for his business, and "highlights best green building practices for brownstone renovations in the NY metropolitan area."
2nd Street residents had become used to the long, drawn-out renovation at this location. However, recently, lots and lots of dirt was being carried out of the house. Almost 60 cubic yards of dirt, in fact. Enough to fill five dumpsters.
And just as everyone was wondering what was up, the work came to an abrupt halt. It turned out that Brooks- Church was in fact excavating an extra space UNDER THE FRONT YARD.
Amazing right?
But what is more amazing is that Brooks-Church had gotten a permit from the NYC Department of Buildings for, in part, "underpinning and excavation of cellar w/ extension at front yard for storage purposes."
What the geniuses at DoB forgot to realize before issuing the permit was that the deep front yards in Carroll Gardens are actually the property of New York City and not the homeowner. The property line starts at the building and not at the sidewalk. Most probably Brooks-Church was aware of that, but kept his mouth shut.
When DoB realized the mistake, it issued a violation for "excavation work for an extension beyond front property line. The front property line is at the front wall! The cellar may not be extended onto public property. Construction is contrary to city law."
In addition, the Borough Commissioner has also issued a 15-days Letter of Intent to revoke the original permit.

It will be difficult for the homeowner to prove that he is entitled to the space under the front yard. It was determined beyond a shadow of doubt that the neighborhood courtyards are protected by a decades-old law, that they are public property and NOT the property of the owners.

I guess its time to put all 60 cubic yards of dirt back...

***UPDATE***
I just received an email from a reader with a link on Eco Brooklyn's web site featuring lots of photos of the excavation. The reader writes:

"Look at these pictures I copied from his site (http://ecobrooklyn.com/photos-of-our-jobs/?shashin_album_key=202 ) . It’s a room underneath the front yard. You can see the mailbox on the wall, next to the current basement window. You can also see the gas & water pipes + the electricity line… It gives an idea of the depth and size.

I am pretty sure that he is doing the same thing in the backyard to use part of the cellar as a room, with an opening in the garden, making the basement+ half of the cellar a duplex."




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14 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think the majority of residents don't know that the front yard (courtyard) doesn't belong to them. The city issues an easement to homeowners so that they may use the yard, plant, etc., but they must maintain the yard as if the property belonged to them...but it doesn't. Same goes for the sidewalk. The homeowner is responsible for maintenance and upkeep, but the sidewalk belongs to the city.

Walk by everyday said...

God that renovation has been going on forEVA! Where does the $ come from>>

Personally I would be happy if they put curtains in their windows...don't get the exhibition of their life.

Anonymous said...

"front yards in Carroll Gardens are actually the property of New York City"

Does this mean the public has usage rights to these yards? Can we have a picnic in front of someones house with out it being considered trespassing?

henry said...

If the main carrier falls and breaks his/her leg, is the homeowner or the DOT liable?

Anonymous said...

"I think the majority of residents don't know that the front yard (courtyard) doesn't belong to them. "

HUH? Anyone with a copy of their deed in their hand can see where the property line is. DO you mean 'residents' as in tenants or 'residents' as in owners? The latter would not for sure where the property line is.

I wonder if he ECO Brooklyn hit the COAL tar plume while digging? It is a well known fact that the plume is traveling from Public Place, and can travel even uphill. And may get much worse if the City goes ahead with its 'barrier all' along the Gowanus Canal. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

OOPS I MEANT:
"The latter would KNOW for sure where the property line is." (THE OWNERS OF THE PROPERTY). It is in black and white on the deed.

Anonymous said...

I know that house. I walk by it and chatted with one of the workers. Sounds like the company does some pretty amazing stuff. All recycled materials. They have a zero wood policy where they only use salvaged wood. Sucks the DOB screwed up though.

Anonymous said...

and he couldn't dig under the back yard?

Anonymous said...

Since the DOB gave him authorization to build under the front yard, shouldn't they reimburse him now that he has to fill the room back in?

Anonymous said...

"Does this mean the public has usage rights to these yards? Can we have a picnic in front of someones house with out it being considered trespassing?"

Let me know how that works out for you, OK?

gennaro said...

So you can stop wondering here is the real story behind 22 2nd street.
http://ecobrooklyn.com/green-building-brooklyn-2/

Gennaro.

Anonymous said...

They never bought those front yards? I think it is time NYC make all the propery owners buy the space and be done with it, or else make the planted area along the street and move the sidwalk up to the property line! Just one more example of approriation of other public property and permits for private benfit. Have no sympathy.

Anonymous said...

Wait a minute !
The owner new exactly what he was doing, so now he's trying to blame the city for getting it right ?
I believe all paperwork filed for this property should be, and probably will be, investigated by DOI.
Does he blame the police for catching drunk drivers too ?
After all it's ok to break the law as long as youre anglo and your name has a hyphen ?
Welcome to the big city BOY !

Chris Gotsis said...

They are horible