Monday, January 24, 2011

Could It Be? Is 333 Carroll Street's Monstrous Steel Addition Finally Coming Down?




333 Carroll Street

Snapshot 2009-07-06 22-14-27

Picture 3

Picture 2

Could it possibly be?
Could the steel 'birdcage' at 333 Carroll Street finally come down?

The NYC Department of Building has issued several new permits for the old manufacturing building, amongst them, a permit "TO REMOVE EXISTING STRUCTURE AT 4TH, 4TH MEZZ., 5TH, 5TH MEZZ."

No building in Carroll Gardens illustrated the need to protect this historic neighborhood better than the condo conversion at 333-335 Carroll Street, between Hoyt and Bond Streets. Back in 2005, owner Issac Fischman hired bad boy architect
Robert"Mezzanine" Scarano to convert an old brick manufacturing building into a 31 unit condo. As part of the plans, a two story, 40 foot steel addition was erected on top of the old structure.

Alarmed residents asked the NYC Department of Buildings to review the plans, which revealed that Robert Scarano had been more than creative with the floor-air-ratio calculations. The Building's Department confirmed in March 2008, that the architect has lied on the application, claiming that the cellar was a basement. Scarano intended to use the "habitable" basement for parking and had transferred the square footage onto the roof. A stop-work order was issued on March 4th 2008 and the developer fired Scarano.

The owner replaced Scarano with another controversial architect, Karl Fischer, to resolve the floor-area-ratio problem. Fischer, the architect behind the 11 story 'finger' at 100 Luquer street, filed for an amendement, which he self-certified. The DOB accepted an audit in October 2009 and new permits were issued.

However, by then, the neighborhood had organized and, with the help of the Department of City Planning, was able to down-zone Carroll Gardens.
Unlike the neighborhood's original R6 zoning, the new R6B zoning has a 50 foot height limit. The City Council voted the re-zoning into law on October 28, 2009.

As with any re-zoning, all construction projects were served with a stop-work-order and were re-visited by DOB to see if construction was far enough along to be vested under the old zoning. In the case of 333-335 Carroll Street, DOB determined that only 15% of the work has been completed and therefore needed to comply with the new 50 foot hight limit. Another stop work order was issued.

After much maneuvering from the developer, it looks as though he is finally being forced to do the right thing. The day the steel structure comes down will definitely be a sweet day for Carroll Gardens.

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Anonymous said...


I really, really hope this is true.

It would be the first example, to my knowledge, where the developer had to take something down that had already gone up.

Fingers crossed.

Batman said...

What a sweet day indeed! Now, due to the extra expense of putting up a structure and being forced to take it down (through no fault of his own, mind you), he will probably be forced to skimp on the style and/or materials of the eventual construction there, or, even better, have to price condos so high that no one but Manhattan transplants can afford them!

What a happy day for our neighborhood!

Oh, and not all building permits are automatically reviewed after a rezoning.

Katia said...

What a ridiculous argument, Batman.
If the developer had not been so greedy, had he not hired a rogue architect and had he simply converted the existing structure into condos, he could have sold the apartments back in 2007, at the hight of the market.
He could have made a nice profit.
The fault is entirely his.

Rob said...

I'm not sure Batman understands how real estate works. Good luck charging more than the neighborhood comps when there's plenty of inventory on 4th Avenue and downtown Brooklyn.

Anonymous said...

Oh Happy Day!!! What a blight. Good riddance (if it actually goes away) to badly designed and illegal rubbish...

Batman said...

So if he had just thrown money out the window by not maximizing his FAR and height under existing zoning, the neighborhood (or, more accurately, the tiny sub-sect of the neighborhood that has time to complain at community board meetings) would have been happy???????

Blame the DCP, not people who play by the rules (as this guy did, and, apparently, continues to do).

Katia said...

In case you did not get it the first time: The developer's architect, Scarano, used creative FAR calculations on this and other projects all over Brooklyn.
Scarano was known as a bad egg and many who hired him knew that upfront. As a matter of fact, that's probably why this developer hired him in the first place. Scarano was subsequently barred from filing construction plans with DOB.

Using FAR that you are not entitled to is never a great business plan.

HDL said...

Are you serious? That developer knew exactly what he was doing. NOBODY buys a building site without doing their due diligence as to EXACTLY how many square feet can be placed there legally.

Anonymous said...

I don't blame people who play by the rules. This developer didn't.

To paraphrase an earlier comment by Batman regarding 200 Smith Street:

What exactly is the problem? They tried to get away with excess FAR, they got caught. And?

frencheese said...

Can't believe this. Did Bloomberg flew off the city along with fancy developers?

Anonymous said...

Oh Happy Day!!! What a blight. Good riddance (if it actually goes away) to badly designed and illegal rubbish...

January 24, 2011 3:29 PM
I had to just say the same thing. Good bye eyesore!!!
Also. The people who live across from it have never ever known what was happening. Not computer savvy.
I told them and printed out info for them. I will do it again for them.

Batman said...

Nowhere has it ever been claimed that this project had excess or "Scarano" FAR (Sorry, mezzanines).

This project was approved, construction started and now he is stopping construction and tearing it down to comply with zoning. Sure, Scarano is an easy punching bag for all that is evil, but the mere fact that he was selected for this project doesn't speak to the intentions of the property owner; the fact that people bought (and, surprisingly, still do buy) Scarano-designed condos was probably more of the motivation for his selection.

To clarify for other commentors, who apparently are easily misled by your easily misleading prose, this project was not stopped because of anything to do with Scarano, or anything illegal. Zoning changed, he is taking it down. What exactly was wrong?

Screaming Scarano Scarano Scarano doesn't make the fact that he didn't do anything wrong any less true.

Katia said...

Once again, you may have forgotten that the DOB issued a stop work order and "an intent to revoke permit" in March 2008, after it was found out that Scarano lied on the application.
That's what slowed the project down. This project could have been done years ago without Scarano's shenanigans.

Anonymous said...

Batman, perhaps you're the one easily led. You're so out of step with the rest of the neighborhood that I have to wonder whose KoolAid you're drinking, or maybe whose pocket you're in.

Batman said...

Whose pocket I'm in? So now anyone who recognizes reality is in someone's pocket? I'm a social worker who has a two-family home that has been in the family for close to 80 years (how many others can say that?). That is it. Oh, and I'm pro-landmarks, so...

I despise Scarano's designs, while still recognizing the reasons people used him (low cost of construction and they sold quickly). The fault is not with Scarano, but with the regulations that were so easily circumvented.

As for Scarano's design, you're right he was awful, but Karl Fisher got the issues resolved, whatever they were. As a point of reference, pulling a permit for my home involved the DOB (incorrectly) stating that my basement was my first floor, only for them to be proven wrong on a recon. This guy just happened to get caught in the downzoning and wasn't fast enough to get enough of his project done under old zoning regulations, like many other were.

To recap: a property owner (Excuse me, evil developer. Anyone who builds anything is a developer.) hired an architect. This architect filed plans and started construction. He was informed by the DOB that the architect was lying so he got rid of him. He then got a second architect, who fixed the problems created by the first one. When zoning changed, he stopped building. Now, he is tearing down to comply with zoning.

WHAT ELSE COULD THIS MAN HAVE DONE? He is probably out close to a million dollars (don't know how much of the steel he will be able to repurpose, so just a guess, but probably not far off), which he will never see again, and he has complied with the law every step of the way, albeit perhaps not in a timely manner.

Anonymous said...

Hey Batman,

Thanks for clarifying your position, and it's heartening to hear you're a long-time local who's pro-landmarking. I understand why, as a homeowner yourself, you feel for the person who owns this property.

Don't know if this will make you feel less sympathetic or not, but I've looked up the owner of 333 Carroll (as listed on the filing documents on the DOB website) and he is a developer by trade. I'm not saying that makes him necessarily evil, but this is not some neighborhood guy trying to make the most out of his little Brooklyn property. He is in the business of developing large glass-and-steel condos to sell for profit to people who can pay top dollar.

He's used Scarano's architectural firm for a number of other projects, several of which are also currently stalled for excess FAR violations or safety violations, including the well-worn Scarano "mezzanine" maneuver. I find it hard to believe he didn't know what he was getting when he hired Scarano's firm to do this work. I also find it hard to feel much sympathy for him.

Lisanne said...

Scarano is still at it! Check out his latest in Greenpoint! He just loves to smoosh the little houses!

Anonymous said...

I've been posting and asking about this for months now, as I live across the street from this mess and have been seeing lights on inside for quite a while. I have to say though that in all these months i have not seen anything happen to that big cube head on top. This morning I passed a hard-hat on hiw way from the deli and asked if he was working at 333. When he said yes I asked if they were taking the thing down from above. He sorta stopped and said, "I don't know." It seemed a bit fishy. It would be great if this things come down but i guess i'll believe it when I see it.

Katia said...

I just saw that. Amazing, isn't it?