Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Mr.Stein's Show -And -Tell In Carroll Gardens


" Carroll Gardens is a particularly passionate place" Councilman Bill De Blasio stated at last night's C.G. Neighborhood Association meeting. He got that right! Passionate about keeping our neighborhood an oasis of front gardens, open skies and lovely humanly-scaled brownstones.
And only in Carroll Gardens can the community meet and grill a developer about his proposed building in a funeral home with a wake happening in the room next door. ( Gosh almighty: CGNA needs to find a new place to gather.)
The meeting got off to a boisterous start with a representative for the M.T.A. taking the podium to speak about the possibility of an express F service. Andy Inglesby, Ass. Director Government and Community relations MTA NYC Transit, was the first to get a taste of Carroll Gardeners' "passion." He explained that yes, the express F train service could happen, but, well, won't, at least for a long time. You see, he explained, the big viaduct that starts at Carroll Street and continues towards 4th Avenue needs to be repaired first. There are pieces of cement falling from it. That is why it was wrapped Cristo-style in black netting about 4-5 years ago, but who is counting. The contract for repairs to the failing structure will only be issued in the fall of 2008. With delays and a four year construction time-table....well you get the picture. No express F train service anytime soon.
The second issue was the impact of the 360 Smith Street construction on subway service in the neighborhood. Mr. Inglesby confirmed what we all knew already. During construction of said building, the plaza and the Second Place subway station, our main subway entrance, will be closed for part of the time. The M.T.A.'s Outside Project Unit has looked at the project and it is a go as far as they are concerned. Inglesby stated that they are committed to having a person from the M.T.A. on site at all times.
When the floor was opened to questions, I am sure that Mr. Inglesby would have rather been at the wake next door than in front of our community. Bottled up anger at the fact that private development has right of way over tax-paying, subway-riding residents came to the surface. The idea that so many commuters and school children will have to use the tiny subway entrance on the opposite street side seemed unreasonable to many. There clearly had been no planning, no provision in place to address the loss of our biggest subway entrance.
The crowd was visibly concerned about making do without it even for a few months and Mr. Inglesby seemed to have no real answers.
The question of who is responsible and who owns the subway plaza did not help matter. The MTA seems to own an easement on part of the plaza and therefore has more control of the site than it is claiming. Bill De Blasio had to step in with the usual promise of finding out "the facts" before construction of the building starts. That does not give him or his office a lot of time. And we know how difficult it is for him "to get back to us" in a timely fashion.

Then it was William Stein's turn. Let me first state that the developer of 360 Smith Street in no way had to show up and give a presentation to the neighborhood. But it was the right thing to do and for that we have to give him credit. He patiently answered questions but it was clear from the get-go that he was keeping the final design of his building a pretty close secret. If the community had hoped for a detailed presentation of drawings and materials, we were all disappointed. Mr. Stein stood in front of Carroll Gardens holding up one artist rendering. He reminded me more of a kindergartener in front of a classroom during show-and-tell than of a man presenting the plans of a building that he wants to sell to the neighborhood. I would have loved to take a picture, but Mr. Stein insisted that he would cover up the drawing again if he saw flashing cameras. Something about evil bloggers who post pictures of building renderings prematurely.
Here is what he did share:
The building is going to be 70 feet at its highest point, at the corner of Smith and Second Place and then step down to the Hannah Senesh School and to Second place to reflect"the rythm of the brownstones" (his words)
The building will be condo
It will have about 44 apartments
It will have some parking
Materials will include some terra cotta tiles, some stucco, a glass canopy on the courtyard side.

But as I said, it was all very vague and Stein was a master of not committing himself to anything. Asked for a second time if he was willing to meet with about 3-4 neighborhood representatives to discuss concerns about the building, he seemed to be reluctant at first:
" But who represents your neighborhood?" and then" I want to be proud of this project. I am not trying to build by committee but want to be responsive to the community" Lets see how responsive he will be. If anything, last night proved once again that Carroll Gardeners are going to watch this project very, very closely. And that as a community, we are not easily duped.

One little aside about last night. Until I brought his name up, the name of the project architect Robert Scarano was not mentioned at all. Councilman De Blasio, who was so gung-ho to ban Scarano from ever building in this neighborhood, has become oddly quiet on the subject. What happened, Bill?


Anonymous said...

Excellent reporting of the events! I was there too, and how many times did we have to suffer through: "Be "quiet" as there is a "wake" next door?" It is high time to move the h-ll (no pun intended) out of the Funeral Home for these meetings. It reads like a hilarious Sopranos episode! And, as for Mr. Stein, the developer, he must really think the neighborhood (the one he still can't seem to really "identify" yet...since he keeps asking, "Who are these people in Carroll Gardens? Who?? You mean the CGNA? Answer: uhhh....no, not the CGNA, the uhhhh people who live right here!) is still in pre-kindergarten when he compares the slow moving F trains on the bandaged subway tressel to watching the waves roll in at the Hamptons. The waves of the Hamptons roll in? What is that man smoking? (Probably the same stuff that Inglesby is smoking.). But I'll forgive that incredibly lame comment and maybe even ignore for a moment, the disrepect to ALL those "Carroll Gardens people "whoever those mysterious people may be" if Mr. Stein, you please just give me back some of my sunlight, my air, my view I lose when you build your building. After all, I remember clearly you said twice before: "I LOOOOOVE!! CARROLL GARDENS!!"

To me, this meeting last night seemed to be a wake proceedings for Carroll Gardens far bigger than the one next door with the decesased peron in it with his/her family and friends. I was not feeling the Stein love and um, I think I know who I am by now.... I one of Mr Stein's hundreds of new CG neighbors!

Kelly said...

Well said! Another Carroll Gardens resident sitting next to me at the meeting compared him to a snake oil salesman. He was good. He was very good. He basically did not tell us anything new and I venture to say that most Carroll Gardeners at the meeting were unimpressed by his little presentation.
His little bit about the waves and the Hamptons was priceless. I wish someone could have taped it.

Anonymous said...

Great rendition of the events of CGNA meeting, Katia. I really think it should be published in one of the local papers. People who couldn't make the meeting would have the opportunity to see what Stein and DeBlasio are really like. Something to keep in mind when elections come around.

Kelly said...

If De Blasio wants to run for Borough Prez, he better hope that we all forgot that he was missing for most of his first term. He has been more visible recently but has not produced any visible results for Carroll Gardens.