Monday, February 22, 2010

No Carroll Without The Gardens! Help Protect Our Unique Courtyards




The letter below (for you to COPY/PASTE/SEND) went out to the Hannah Senesh Day School on Smith Street between Second and First Place last week, and was signed by numerous Carroll Gardens community members, both leaders and residents, including me and my husband.

The recent request of the Hannah Senesh School to make an exception to our 160 year old law protecting our public, front gardens, in order for them to expand their new school building by developing the front garden on First Place and Smith Street, is an absolutely AWFUL idea for Carroll Gardens.

Such a development would destroy yet another signature, front garden block in Carroll Gardens, stand kitty corner to one of the very few streets in Carroll Gardens in our historical district, and set a very dangerous precedent for more of the same in our future!

Our front gardens, which are public, have been protected from development for all these years for a very good reason!
Carroll Gardens' sense of 'sunny, airy, openess' is a direct result of the far-sighted planning of Richard Butts, a surveyor in the 19th Century who carefully designed the blocks we now inhabit. His work and the legacy he left us in Carroll Gardens must be protected, for it is this legacy that sets us apart from being just another brownstone neighborhood. Carroll Gardens is UNIQUE!

Granting Hannah Senesh their wish would set a very dangerous precedent for the future of our community in Carroll Gardens, diminsihing its appeal and value as a one of a kind historical, front-garden, architecutural treasure that can not be found anywhere else in NYC or the USA! We must defend ourselves against inititiatives which are not in the best interests or our own neighborhood.

We need to stop this now! And, we ask for your help!

It is also imperative that we let our Councilman, Brad Lander, know that we need to protect our unique history and heritage and that our front gardens can NOT be developed and destroyed. Period!

Thank you.
Carroll Gardens Coalition For Respectful Development



342 Smith Street

Brooklyn, New York 11231

sent and emailed February 19, 2010

Dear Hannah Senesh Neighbors,

We are some of the people who live on the blocks that surround your school. Some of us have been here for generations. Some are more recent transplants. What we all share is a deep affection and appreciation for this place which we call home.

When you opened your doors in September, 2007, your school community quickly revealed itself to be a very welcome presence and happy addition to our Carroll Gardens neighborhood. We were and are delighted to have you here.

Back in December of 2009, you held a meeting at your school and had your attorney address a small group of neighbors regarding your plans to expand. Although pleased with your success, we expressed our disapproval for your plan which called for your expansion to take place upon a publicly owned area, the courtyard located on the corner of First Place and Smith Street.

As we are sure you are aware of by now, the courtyard area is protected by Old Brooklyn Law. This law, which has served this community very well for over one hundred and sixty years, prohibits, among other things, construction of any type upon it.

Carroll Gardens is defined by its signature Place Blocks’, deep set front yards. This community has, over the last several years taken many painstaking steps to protect our neighborhood from the types of over development which has marred much of New York City and to our great dismay, parts of Carroll Gardens as well.

The residents of Carroll Gardens have and continue to work long and hard to preserve and protect this neighborhood from losing its historic architectural flavor, relevance and human scale presence in the midst of this great city. We believe that these qualities are a great part of what makes our neighborhood both desirable and special.

As we hope you have noticed by now, we Carroll Gardeners have passionate pride and deep heartfelt love for our neighborhood. We wish that you and your students will become as deeply appreciative and caring for Carroll Gardens as we are, as this is your community now too.

Your intention to proceed with plans that must include a change to our single most powerful protection is simply unacceptable.

Although we know our local elected officials have asked to meet with you to discuss your plans, we understand that you have refused to do so at this time.

We implore you to meet directly with us. Let’s sit down and have a frank and honest discussion about your needs, your plans and what you see as the future of the Hannah Senesh School within the Carroll Gardens community.

We are your neighbors. Let’s try to find a solution that works for all.

We hope that we hear from you very soon.



(Sign your name here)



For further information on the issues, click here

For Home Page, click Pardon Me For Asking


LandLord said...

I've lived in CG for 50 years. I don't ever remember a gardens in that spot--only parking! Why the fuss now? Do I smell anti-semitism?

Kelly said...

Nope you don't. And the mere suggestion is rather ridiculous.

The school is currently using its courtyard as a parking lot against the rules of a 160 year old law.

Vince M said...

I don't remember EVER seeing anything that resembled a garden on this site for over fifty years. And for decades it's been used as a parking area. Why the fuss now? What about the huge cement area that surrounds the Power Station a block away on 2nd Place? Why don't you put a Garden there?

Anonymous said...

It's not suppose to be a parking lot and if the city did their job and ticketed the cars it could be a garden. First School District 15 disobeyed the rules and now Hannah Senesh School does the exact same thing. But I guess that is the order of the day. Just think if everyone with a front garden started to park their cars in the garden area then there would be no street parking for any of us who don't have a garden. Oh wouldn't that just be great!!!!

It's In The Details said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Carroll Gardens community groups, including I believe PMFA, pressure the Zoning Board to re-zone the "Public" front yards that you're talking about? As a result, 1st thru 4th Places are no longer considered "Wide" streets and the front yards are not public (not that any resident of those streets ever considered those yards anything but their own). You can't have it both ways.

LandLord said...

There has NOT been a garden there! That's the point I'm making. The fact that a fuss is being made now is what is disturbing to me. Please Katia, just because you may not agree with my comment, don't tell me what I smell.

birdy said...

i have lived in Carroll gardens for 75 years! Never have a seen this space used as a "garden" what life do u see growing in their other then the weeds coming through between the pavement?? ... Also if you look at the picture even with my old eyes at 80 years old i can clearly see on smith street where the pavement is lowered for a car to drive up and park there! even if they dont expand the school it will never be a garden children! so what's the point in wasting breath over this useless matter? My doctors tell me as i get older i will start to lose my sense but boy listening to you folks live in a fantasy world i wonder who the crazy one is because it sure isnt me! oh what happend to all the good people who didnt stick there noses where they dont belong??

LandLord said...

Oh Katia, why didn't you post my last comment? You seem so defensive. What are you afraid of? You shouldn't take it all so personally. I've lived here in CG all of my life. What it is about the truth that bothers you? There was NEVER a garden in that spot. Why should there be one now? I agree that we should keep development in CG to a minimum. But please face the fact that there NEVER was a garden in that spot!

Anonymous said...

I think maybe the first order of business should have been to talk to them about the design of their school. I live in the neighborhood and though I appreciate the school, the building itself is a huge eyesore on that corner. And once the large apartment building goes up on Smith and 2nd Place it will probably hide at least one side of it. With some encouragement maybe you can get them to rethink the new design for the expansion to make it look a lot better than it does currently. The truth is, they'll end up expanding anyway. But I don't feel that this school doing so will set these cataclysmic events that you speak of in motion. And lastly, since when are those front gardens "public space?" I think you need to check your facts on that one.

njs said...

That corner has always been an eyesore as was the building before the school came in. There was not garden on this spot. Development and progress is a good thing.

natty said...

you think a parking lot is a "unique courtyard?" Ohh pleaseeeeeeeeeee!!!!! there are plenty other parking lots around the neighborhood go enjoy the dirt n worms there if thats what gets you off

Anonymous said...

I think you are failing to ask more important questions - would an addition improve the neighborhood? what does the addition look like and while it may not entirely conform to what's there now or the rules of your "160 year old law" (note most nyc zoning refers to a 1916 document) is it possible new construction could be contextual and heighten the corner on which it's sited? And what's this about these "gardens" being public space!!!??? I'd love to see residents reactions to me opening their now gated property and just milling about these appropriated "public spaces". I don't even live in Carrol Gardens, hell, I may never visit! But I sure gather a sense of entitlement and not much for community!

PS. Birdy - like your style.

TC said...

As a new resident of Carroll Gardens and having previously lived in the UK, frankly I am stunned at the slapdash way in which planning is dealt with here. The building on 2nd and Smith would never have made it past first base with the amount of people adversly affected by the sheer size of it. As for the proposed Hannah Senesh School extension, it matters not that it is presently a carpark and not a garden, what matters is, if an extension is built, the building line is moved forward and sets a precedent for other applications to be made in the same vein. It seems that here, with money and the right connections, planning laws can be flouted with impunity.

Anonymous said...

Vince, take a walk around the neighborhood. There IS a garden at the substation on 2nd Place & Smith, and it's a lovely one at that. No, there has never been a garden at the Hannah Senesh site (I've lived in CG for 56 years), and I don't think the issue here is the parking lot and whether it should be allowed. The issue is the school's expansion plans into that lot and filling the entire footprint with a hulking building.

Dolores said...

I'll alsways remember the front gardens as being beautiful and fragrant. Now the majority of them are anything but. Why not discuss that instead of a garden that 'never was'?

Anonymous said...

To Anon 11:05: The gardens are, indeed, considered public space in the sense that the land belongs to the city which, in turn, grants the homeowner an easement to use the space as their own. Of course, it doesn't mean that anybody can just open someone's gate and make themselves at home. I don't know the particular citation in the municipal statute on the easement issue; perhaps someone with more time could do the research and find the details. On the other hand, the homeowner is responsible for maintenance and repair of that so-called public space, not the city.

Anonymous said...

Lander? Lander? Bueller?

It would be nice to know where Brad Lander stands on this issue. He seems to have gone silent which is funny considering how much he seems to enjoy hearing himself speak.

Anonymous said...


Please try not to mistate the law - the charter code prevents buildings in the places - not horse carriage parking or vehicle parking.

PJ Hanley's on 4th Pl had horses parked in their "Place" prior to and since the charter was adopted.

Anonymous said...

The charter doesn't allow any structures - including all of the stoops that encroach on the Places of Carroll Gardens - they are all in violation and need to be removed.

natty said...


Anonymous said...

To those who have lived here for over 50years, by your comments, did you ever wonder why so many people who come to this neighborhood love it so much?...did you ever think maybe people like Buddy or Celia or these "small grass root groups of people" have fought really hard to keep it nice for you for over 50years? Instead of your sarcasms, think before you write....These so-called people you mentioned are the only ones that have fought to keep Carroll Gardens a great place. These so- called people have selflessly and generously spent their valuable time and money to protect and preserve what we have now...a great and wonderful place to live and raise a family. You should be thanking and supporting these so-called people. All it takes is for you to understand and get the facts. These so-called people have done their homework thoroughly. Have you? There is an old 160yr- administrative code that have protected our signature courtyards/gardens from anyone building on it or making it into a private parking lot. Opening it up for one will set a precedent. Do you really want to lose our signature courtyards/gardens that which is what makes Carroll Gardens a beautiful and unique neighborhood. Williamsburg had very little people fighting for it...the historic beauty of Williamsburg is gone. Do you really want that to happen to Carroll Gardens? There are so many generations of family and great people in this neighborhood. A lot of them are fighting to keep it nice for everyone especially for you.

Anonymous said...

As one of the 50+ year residents of CG, I know very well why people come to live here, and I know Buddy well. And this is precisely the point...why we fight to keep our neighborhood the way it is and why we fight against developers whose only mantra is the almighty dollar and build the ugliest, bulkiest structures they can conjure up (which most often end up looking like 1950s Soviet Block housing). Oliver House is going to be an eyesore for sure, and we are, unfortunately, stuck with it. However, we can continue to stand up for our neighborhood and strive to keep it the beautiful enclave that it is.

LandLord said...

anon 12:33 am--what the heck are you talking about? I am an old timer--what part of my comment says that I am against gardens? I just don't like the fact that everyone is making a big deal over a parking lot that has been in that spot forever! This is not an issue of the school destroying a garden--remember there was never a garden. I BELIEVE that folks have a problem with the Jewish day school. I doubt Katia will post this, because she seems so sensitive to this kind of remark.

Kelly said...

Surprise, LandLord!

I do not like to censor my readers, eve if they are throwing accusations at me.

However, it is rather low and cowardly to publish these accusations anonymously.

That is why I always have my name on everything I publish here.

Glenn Kelly said...

Since several of the comments demonstrate a lack of knowledge of our zoning and the special rules which govern the front yards on our "garden" blocks, I will try to explain our concerns:
Carroll Gardens was recently rezoned to limit the height of new buildings and renovations. This will help to preserve the low rise, row house character of the neighborhood and maintain the quality of life we all enjoy. Zoning can only control the size and shape of buildings and not the design. Zoning does not control the front yards in Carroll Gardens which are protected by a law (now part of the NYC administrative code) created when the streets were laid out in the 1840's. This law intended to create and maintain open space in our neighborhood which has resulted in a special brownstone neighborhood with deep front yards. While each homeowner has the use of these front yards, the city maintains an easement which prevents them being used for building or the storage of vehicles. This easement (or protection) of the "Courtyards" (front yards or gardens) has been mostly effective since it was created by our city and state government in 1846. There has been erosion of the legal usage such as curb cuts and parking, business expansion into and temporary structures built upon these courtyards which now brings us to our present problem: For the first time since the front courtyards were created 160 years ago, someone wants to build on them. We must draw the line here or risk losing one after the other. If this precedent is set, others will try to expand into the gardens which will forever alter the special character of our neighborhood. This must be stopped !
Glenn Kelly
Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association - Land Use Co-Chair
Community Board Six Member Landmarks/Land Use Committee

Anonymous said...

Landlord clearly doesn't know much about his neighborhood and doesn't hesitate to exhibit his ignorance.
He should be embarrassed to resort to unsubstantiated charges of anti-semitism rather than debating the issue.
It's no wonder he posts anonymously.

natty said...

U all are fools!!! laws or no laws against this PARKING LOT people still park there .. the pavement is LOWERED for a car to simply pull up into the spot n park there and i doubt anyone has gotten any tickets or punishment in doing this!! HOW IS THAT A LAW!! you cant just go around with a shovel and start breaking up pavement and have no one of higher power saying anything or do anything about it if its so called "breaking the law" .. people have been parking in that lot for over 50 years as many of the old timers pointed out!!! YOU NEWBIES WERE NOT HERE THEREFORE YOU DONT KNOW THEREFOREE WHY ARE U INSISTING SOMETHING THAT YOU WERENT EVEN HERE TO WITNESS????

Jem said...

TO ANON 11:39 how are you going to call out landlord and tell him he should be embarrassed for not leaving his name when you post ANONYMOUS? your the one with newbie ignorance and i take pity on your lack of common sense which landlord has!

Anonymous said...

It seems that some posting here have a very limited idea of "garden". While an English garden is traditionally covered with rambling plantings, traditional Italian Gardens are often covered with a lot of pavement. The fact is that the garden in question has never had a building on it. The building has always followed the street "building line". No one here has given any good reason as to why that building line should now be violated. There has been no reason given by anyone as to how altering the building line would be more advantageous to the community than the maintaining the existing building line. I can't see how the benefit of any structure here could make up for the loss of light along the gardens just west of this site.


J leg said...

Let me ask you all a question what makes you assume Landlord is a HE? could it be because a LANDLORD is concidered to be someone of success and a women can not achieve that? not only do i agreee with landlord that the promblem you all have isnt infact the courtyard but it is the fact that it is a JEWISH SCHOOL which shows your true anti-semitism you also are all SEXIST AS WELL!!!! by the way whats with people getting at the fact that some of us choose to be left anon at the end of the day this is a internet blog and i dont need you nut jobs ringing my door bell!

Anonymous said...

As someone who is Jewish AND is very active in the courtyards issue, I am deeply offended and disappointed by the accusations that anti-semitism plays any role here. We may agree to disagree about the value of a 160-year-old law (which by the way was in effect when ALL of us or our families chose to live here), but accusations of anti-semitism are destructive and disrepectful to the people who care about this.

Anonymous said...

The issue here is NOT the current use of the gardens (which is being used as a parking lot). The issue is putting a BUILDING there; a STRUCTURE! Why is that so hard for so many people to grasp here ?

How many people do you see putting a structure on their gardens? NONE. THAT IS the issue.

Carole G.

Anonymous said...

It is the PRECEDENT that is the problem, not whether it is or was a "garden"... As Glenn Kelly says, extending in to this space sets a precedent for others to be able to do the same.

And the accusations of anti-semitism are ridiculous.

Kelly said...

Hi Everyone,

As I mentioned before, I do not senor the comments left by you, dear Readers, unless they are truly tasteless, totally of topic, or if it is an advertisement for a product.

However, I have just chosen to ignore a comment made by Land Lord, who seems to be more interested in being incendiary than to have a constructive dialogue.

To everyone else, please continue the discussion. It is an important one.

Cheers, Katia

Anonymous said...

Katia, please ignore Landlord's comments...they are just plain stupid and no longer worth acknowledgement. This school issue clearly has nothing to do with anti-semitism or sexism; Landlord is trying to be incendiary as you stated. If Landlord wants to engage in a civil discussion about an issue important to CG residents, then he or she is welcome. If not, there are other blogs where Landlord's spewing might be more welcome. Here it is not.

LandLord said...

I NEVER used the word sexism in my comment. I did use 'anti-semitism'. It seems that I'm being censored for using a term that you find incendiary. I'm merely stating a feeling that I have about the situation. The fact is (no one seems to acknowledge) that there has been a parking lot in that spot for so many years! And NOW there's discussion about it and I'm NOT ALLOWED to voice an opinion! That's exactly what happened back in Europe during WWII--not allowing people to express themselves. Calling them names (stupid--can't think of anything better?). I'm disappointed in you Katia (you don't like to censor?!). Scary.

Kelly said...

I have given you plenty of opportunity to express yourself on my web site.

But I will not allow you to anonymously throw around unfounded and incendiary accusations.

Please find another web site.
You are done here.

Anonymous said...

This is a critical issue of a school wanting to add a DEVELEOPMENT; a STRUCTURE to what is now a "garden" by law, whether the school folks are parking there or not right now or not. This has nothing to do with anti-Semitism. The neighborhood has beem totally hospitable towards Hannah Senesh and has welcomed them here. There have been NO instances of anti-Semitism whatsoever!

The land in question is NOT MEANT UNDER CURRENT LAW for BUILDING and DEVELOPMENT. A change to a current law protecting all of these public spaces must be made for a "garden" to be built upon.

The people here arguing otherwise have interests of their own at heart, not this issue. Those who protest might be parking, for example, on other "garden" spaces and might be afraid this issue is about them moving their cars off this land. NO! Not true! This is about: nobody is allowed to build a building upon these spaces.

JEEZ . Why do people try so hard to deliberately cloud a simple issue?

Anonymous said...

This person, calling themselves Landlord, is clearly trying to divide people! To claim that anyone here is "against a Jewish day school" in the neighborhood is to overlook the fact that the school already exists in the neighborhood and is serving the neighborhood.
The discussion here is not about whether the day school should exist; the discussion is about whether or not an open space court yard that has existed for more than 100 years should continue to exist along side of the established Jewish day school.

Anonymous said...

Why so much hate on landlord? He does make provacative statements; but you all make it sound that anti-semitism doesn't even exist! Seems a little naive, especially in this neighborhood.

CORD said...

Because calling this an anti-Semitic issue is such an easy way to cloud this issue and get uw all off track from the issue at hand. Landlord is doing this deliberately to stir up emotional waters that were calm before regarding religion. If a local Catholic School wanted to build on a courtyard believe me the outcry would be the same.
Same if it were a Muslim school, an Orthodox school or a Hindu school. Stirring up anti-Semitism unnecessarily here on this board is not only wrong, it is a very deliberate and cynical ploy on everyone's emotions.

homeowner 2 said...

I am appalled at some of the comments. Obviously, the reason for this intense neighborhood reaction is not clear to all. All homeowners, for over a century have abided by the law which says that no permanent structure or building is to be placed on the courtyards. An exception to that rule would cause dissention and unrest in this community regardless of who attempts to build it. I am sure that once this point is taken , there would not be one responsible homeowner who would resist enforcement of that law. We do not want to lose the uniqueness and charm that the courtyards provide to Carroll Gardens.