Wednesday, October 29, 2008

B.S.A. To Vote On Oliver House In One Month


The 360 Smith Street/ 131 2nd Place Site

Mr. Stein's Legal Council in front of the B.S.A.

B.S.A. Members Susan Hinkson and Meenakhi Srinivasan

Developer Stein after the hearing

In torrential rain, a group of incredibly dedicated Carroll Gardeners representing C.O.R.D., the Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association as well as the South Brooklyn Neighborhood Association, made their way to the Board Of Standards and Appeals in downtown Manhattan yesterday.
On B.S.A.'s agenda was the second hearing on Bill Stein's Oliver House at 360 Smith Street/131 2nd Place.
Mr. Stein's construction site was served with a Stop Work Order immediately following the passing of the Zoning Text Amendment by the City Council back in July. In order to be allowed to continue with construction, Stein has to convince the B.S.A. that his foundation was sufficiently completed before the Stop Work Order went into effect. In addition, he is pleading financial hardship because of the money already spent on the project. Though 91 pile caps had been driven into the ground at the time of the Stop Work Order, there were no visible signs of a poured foundation (photo above)

However, at a first hearing in September, Mr. Stein's engineer argued that the foundation was essentially completed because the 60 year old subway tunnel that runs under the construction site along Smith Street will serve as a super foundation for Stein's Oliver House. All that is needed, according to Stein's expert, is a "transfer slab" over the subway structure.

At yesterday's second hearing, the community had asked Evan Akselrad, an engineer and architect as well as a professor at Pratt, who testified on their behalf that Oliver House's foundation was far from being 80% completed and that the concrete reinforcement of the subway tunnel is NOT a foundation.
Mr. Akselrad's statement seems to be substantiated by the Brooklyn Building's Department which inspected the site shortly after the Stop Work Order and stated that only 20% of the foundation had been completed.

Additional testimony was given by John Hatheway, architect, who told the B.S.A. Board that he does not accept Mr. Stein and his advisers' "dubious argument" that the foundation is substantially complete. He further asked the B.S.A.:

Are you stating that if a site has a subway structure or other man-made obstacle beneath the entire lot area, that the owner of that lot is automatically vested by claiming that the man-made obstacle constitutes a foundation if it were intended to bear some additional load besides the soil above it? Automatically vested before ever laying a shovel to the ground? That seems to go against the very intention and nature of vesting based on some measurable effort. And is it equitable to give certain property owners such a substantial benefit over the majority of other property owners?

It remains to be seen if the B.S.A. will accept the claims of a developer over the finding of the Department of Buildings. The Board seems to defer frequently to D.o.B. Since the agency stands by its claim that only 20% of the foundation is completed, it would only stand to reason that the BSA should deny Mr. Stein's exemption . But then again, the Board has voted against reason before...

There also
appeared to be some type of discrepancy and a question as to whether or not it could possibly affect the validity of the building permit.

In the end, the B.S.A. vote was scheduled for November 25th.

Related reading:

According To Developer Stein, His Foundation Is Completed!

Revisiting Mr. Stein's 360 Smith Street / 131 Second Place Oliver House Site

For Home Page, click Pardon Me For Asking

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