Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Yesterday's Board Of Standards And Appeals Hearing Regarding Proposed Rock And Roll Playhouse On Bond Street Went Well For "We Are Gowanus"

280 Bond Street
Lawyer Jack Lester representing We Are Gowanus (WAG)
Board Of Standards And Appeals Chairperson Meenakshi Srinivasan
Councilman Steve Levin
Representative of NYC Department Of Buildings
Property owner Sharon Ackerman

Did the New York City Department Of Buildings make a mistake when it issued permits for 280 Bond Street, an 6,621 SF industrial warehouse that impresario Peter Shapiro intends to turn into The Rock And Roll Playhouse (RRPH)?

Since 1961, when NYC Zoning districts were mapped, 280 Bond Street has housed a non-conforming use in a residential zone (R6 from 1961 - 2009, and R6-B since 2009) which only permits residential or community facility use.

Although the previous non-conforming uses in the residential zone are grandfathered and allowed continuing use, the R6-B zone has to be enforced when the non-conforming use is discontinued for two years.

We Are Gowanus (WAG), the group of residents who have been fighting to keep the proposed Rock And Roll Playhouse at 280 Bond Street from impacting their quality of life, claim that "Excellence in Plumbing", the business that was based at this location previously, had ceased operation long ago.

WAG reached out to the Brooklyn Building's Department to point out that the new music venue should not be allowed under the existing R6B zoning and to make the agency aware of the discontinued use.
But DOB issued building permits for the Rock And Roll Playhouse nonetheless.

The group ultimately sued the Buildings Department to force DOB to issue its decision and the basis for it. In a final NYC DOB determination issued on October 2, 2013, the agency was in opposition to WAG.

With the help of lawyer Jack Lester, We Are Gowanus has appealed this decision to the Board Of Standards and Appeals. The first public hearing was held yesterday at 22 Reade Street in Manhattan.

Jack Lester informed members of the BSA that there is insufficient evidence that Excellence in Plumbing has been in business at 280 Bond Street in the last couple of years. He has provided 14 affidavits from local residents to support this claim, as well as a Certificate of Dissolution that shows that the company was dissolved in 1999. In addition, the plumbing license was suspended in 2013.

"Right now we can say that there are no documentations supporting employee activity, no documentations showing business hours, no documentation showing income tax, no tax returns, no receipts, no invoices, no insurance," Lester told Chairperson Meenakshi Srinivasan and the other members of the board. "We have lots of work to do. We acknowledge that.  More evidence needs to be revealed, but we think that if the case were to end right now, based on the legal standard established by this Board, confirmed by the Board of Appeals, it would show that the non-conforming use has come to an end."

Council Member Steve Levin also testify in favor of We Are Gowanus. "I want to let the Board know that I have been aware of the situation for a number of months. I have met with the business owner and and with the neighbors a couple of times," he told the board. "It is not up to me as to decide whether or not there has been continuous use. I am now aware of the standard. The evidence that has been shown to me is enough at least for me to recommend that this Board take another look at this issue." He concluded: "I think that when DOB opined on the issue, I don't think that they fully looked at the breath of evidence. More evidence has been gathered since that time. The new business would have a significant impact on that block. Therefore, this deserves the highest level of scrutiny."

A representative of the Department of Buildings did have to admit during the hearing that the additional evidence presented warrants a review. "It seems prudent that we would set a schedule and both the department and the BSA can look at the additional evidence the [building] owner may submit on the continued use of the business. If the evidence is not enough, we can issue an Intent To Revoke [the permit] and proceed accordingly."

Property owner Sharon Ackerman addressed the Board as well. She insisted that her husband's plumbing business continuously operated out of 280 Bond Street until turning over the building to Peter Shapiro, with whom they signed a lease in October 2011.
She insisted that she will submit all necessary documentation.

The Board of Standards And Appeal has scheduled a second hearing for March 25th.

Stay tuned.


Anonymous said...

Great, so Shapiro will be out and that space will be turned in to another giant condo complex. Bravo.

Katia said...

Perhaps, but that side of Bond street now has a 50 foot height limit. Can't be as big as the Lighstone Project on the other side of Bond Street between Carroll and Second Street.

Anonymous said...

Enjoy two years of demolition, excavation and construction in your backyard followed by obnoxious neighbors and impossible parking instead of a music and arts program for kids with great entertainment and a good restaurant next door. You deserve it. Then maybe you'll move to Connecticut where you belong.

Anonymous said...

Enjoy two years of demolition, excavation and construction in your backyard followed by obnoxious neighbors and impossible parking instead of a music and arts program for kids with great entertainment and a good restaurant next door. You deserve it. Then maybe you'll move to Connecticut where you belong.

Couldn't have said it better myself... I was looking forward to this addition to the neighborhood..

Jim said...

People in this neighborhood are complaining about the potential noise from a Jazz (not rock) bar, condos being built, and WholeFoods, while real problems plague what some think is a little Mayberry: cars being broken into, rampant theft and assaults on citizens and food take-out deliverers, both of which are up considerably from last year, mail taken from mailboxes on stoops, trash on the sidewalks because no one petitions the city to put trashcans on every other corner, dog shit that irresponsible dog owners refuse to pick up, graffiti that dots occupied and vacant buildings, Summer weeds that grow to the size of small bushes, speeders both drunk and sober on Court Street, gang activity, and last but certainly not least, a canal that has been toxic for over 65 years which only recently is getting serious attention.


Anonymous said...

This building is no place for a restaurant with outdoor space and live music shows. Just because we chose to live in Brooklyn, does not mean we want to live next to a night club or jazz club or full bar restaurant with outdoor space. People who moved into these blocks over the past 10 to 20 years did so because it is a low key, quiet neighborhood. When the owner of Brooklyn Bowl comes in with a plan to put a music venue on a 100% residential block, in some cases literally 20' from families' homes, do you think they'll just say, "well, okay. That's just city living!" Sorry that by protecting their investments and families' well being, you're being deprived of something you can get a few blocks away.

Anonymous said...

Might the DOB look into their own records for plumbing business activity conducted under the Plumbing license and permits issues for work preformed by the plumber?

Dated web search of EXCELLENCE IN PLUMBING, doesn't show any web activity till after 2011 and brings up a company in NYC, not Brooklyn, that operates under the name "EXCELLENCE IN PLUMBING" and under a different master plumber name.

Anonymous said...

i would much rather have this playhouse than whats going to replace it im sounds like a great idea...

Anonymous said...

R6B doesn't afford enough floor area to pay for remediation.

They are likely to seek a variance to allow a residential high rise like the six story skyscrapers Lightstone is building on Bond St. It would have been better to just ask for an atrium over the outdoor space.

Anonymous said...

"maybe you'll move to Connecticut where you belong"

LOL best comment! Not even CT - maybe Iowa LOL!

Katia said...

That comment may seem funny until someone wants to open a nightclub in your back yard.
Come on, people, let's not resort to those old insults.
We should advocate for a city that is livable for all: old/young, rich/ poor, families/singles.

Anonymous said...

Shapiro can open the playhouse across Bond street, 60 feet away or just extend the M zoning to include their lot. That will get rid of this "spot" of industry in a residential zone and everyone is against spot zoning.

Anonymous said...

Of course we all would love to have a Jazz Club with a romantic restaurant and a lovely playhouse during the day....
But keep in mind that, in this case, we are dealing with a crook who just want to open a night club and would use any kind of lies to do so (for example, according to the plans submitted to the Dept, all the toilets were for adults... who cares about the kids right?). This attitude is a big red flag for the neighbors.

Anonymous said...

Imagine you work your 10 hour day, 35 minute commute from midtown to Carroll St eat dinner and finally settle down at 9pm and you open your windows and "oh there's that damn music again". Now try and relax while it continues till midnight or up to 2AM. Everyone would agree we would love to see the neighborhood expand and prosper, but when ambient noise from live bands starts invading your home forcing you to close your windows at night and then hate the neighborhood you moved into 10-15 years ago its time to stand your ground. Sound will travel further especially late at night in this otherwise quieter part of the area and irritate homeowners and renters on Degraw and Sacket St. Maybe those dozen families don't mean much but they deserve quiet at night too. Here is an example, Clover Club has a 3 piece band playing on occasion, I live a half block away and can still here it over a busy Smith Street.
Lifelong NY'r didn't move here from Ohio suburbs. Im just a homeowner who lives the first part of my post everyday. Just sayin

BrooklynMatt said...

It seems highly likely that any comments here about this being a positive location with an "arts program for kids" are placed by those making a profit off this project. It has been well-documented that the education and child claims are false for this late-night rock (yes, rock, not jazz) club which openly has on its permit plans to put hundreds of people outside with music in an entirely residential block at 2 am every day.

Jim said...

It would appear that a quiet neighborhood is more important [to a few] than one that is safe and clean for the majority.

Anonymous said...

2 points:

1. Katia (and her colleagues at WAG) assume Shapiro is lying. Why? What benefit does he get by starting his relationship with neighbors by lying? Neighbors are exactly what he needs for this children's music playspace to work. If he was going to do a rock venue wouldn't he have applied for a general assembly permit of more than 175?

2. On a macro level this seems to be a fairly straightforward needs and wants of the few vs. the many. The direct neighbors may (or may not) benefit from having The Playhouse next door. The community will almost certainly benefit, from parents (and their children) to those of us iun the neighborhood that just want to relax to some jazz from time to time.

I am sure that with the exception of Katia and a few of her neighbors we can all agree that blocking The Playhouse and suffering through more construction and luxury condos in that space is far worse for the people in the neighborhood than a children centered music venue.

BrooklynMatt said...

to Anonymous 1/22 @ 2:46 and your 2 points--1. as the one who specifically mentioned lying I'll reply, that has been substantiated numerous times in earlier posts, and various other publications (Google the Post, Curbed, DNAinfo...). You state Shapiro wouldn't want to lie because the neighbors wouldn't want to bring their children to his school, but it's very basic: his lie is that the business is a school. In fact the 175 number you mention was a large part of their initial lies (I say "their" but perhaps your is more acurate--given "anonymous" and Shapiro's own sales pitch wording like "children centered music venue"). The idea that the area of a typical brownstone backyard would hold hundreds of partiers for 8 hours every night on a residential block as a mere sideline to a classroom for the 2 hours between school and dinner is laughable. As for #2, your pretense about this just being a complaint by "direct neighbors," I do not live close enough for this to cause me any troubles and I do have two music-student children and I do attend various clubs, however I and everyone I knows in the entire neighborhood vehemently oppose this business on a residential block. Even more condos reducing our parking would be better.
Finally, if the needs of the many always won out over the needs of the few our democracy would be fairly unlivable. A quick example would be that every block would be 3 lanes wide regardless of children living on them, and chaos would be universal.

Anonymous said...

Reply to Brooklynmatt:

1. I live in the neighborhood (a few blocks away) and have for more than a decade. I have 2 young children and am absolutely positive that it would be better for my family and our community to have a children's venue rather than more luxury condominiums draining our resources (schools, subway, parking, etc.)

2. My recollection from this blog and other public postings is that the general assembly permit is for 180 persons maximum. A GA permit is not subject to dispute, it is provable fact.

3. I echo your suggestion for readers to google, read DNAinfo etc. as it does not say what you suggest it says.

4. One of the real travesties in this whole process is the significant harm that WAG has intentionally brought upon the owner of 280 Bond Street, a man who is not only a true "old schooler" of the neighborhood in every sense of the word, but also very very sick.

Brooklyn Mom said...

It appears Shapiro's PR machine is out in full force on this blog. Fellow community members - please learn the facts! Shapiro is the owner of the Brooklyn Bowl - Shapiro wants to turn this vacant warehouse, which is on the WEST side of Bond, nestled in gardens of homes, on a block zoned residential - not mixed use, into a 21 and up club. This is a very unique situation; Shapiro et al are trying to avail themselves of a zoning loophole that they are simply not entitled to. We opponents are all pro development, pro city living, pro Brooklyn. We are not striving for suburban living, just for common sense and thoughtful progress. Please learn the facts. Visit

Local Architect said...


FACT: A "General Assembly" permit - by which I presume you mean a "Place of Assembly" permit HAS NOT BEEN FILED WITH DOB or the Fire Department. But it must be filed before the business can open.

The building department issued permit states 180 persons. This however, is not a PA. PA's are filed separately. The exit capacity of the space is for 870 persons. Its on their filed plans.

Don't confuse people please.

This is being peddled as a kiddie business yet I wouldn't be able go have dinner there with 12 and 15 year old sons because its a 21 and over venue!
What kid of family place is it going to be?

BrooklynMatt said...

I had written this before the more cogent arguments were added, but I still feel like getting my responses out: Taking you at your “anonymous” word, I suppose it is good that someone local (beyond the owners) will be pleased if this illegal zoning slips through. I will out-local you by pointing to my 30 years, living 3 blocks away, and can assure you that one more condominium here is nothing compared to the 700-unit Lightstone group building coming. A dozen apartments would be an added annoyance; 365 days a year of scores-to-hundreds of 1:30am revellers on a sleepy block would be unlivable.

Returning to the claimed permit size, the 180 is the point. Shapiro continually represented it as 96, then said it would max at 175, and while these were at the least white lies, they are only the tip of the iceberg. My relatives own Brooklyn eateries and this permit is only for the interior, many more would be allowed outside which is on his plans and what the neighborhood is complaining about.

I am hopeful that Shapiro has at least begun to perform a better job of faking the education premise and added children’s bathrooms to the plans that had none originally or considered filing for an education permit rather than a liquor license. Even if we were to imagine that Mr. Shapiro intends to have a school and cut his profits as thin as possible, by only having “educational talks, jazz and theatrical performances in the evenings,” would we then require him to ignore his option to expand it to a 365 day/yr nightclub if the business fails? Once this is allowed the “old schoolers” all around this block will have homes with crowds of drinkers outside their windows every night.

We all feel for all the ailing “old schoolers,” this one (or actually his family) will still net a many multiple times profit selling this as residential rather than as the expired, grandfathered, commercial zoning.

Anonymous said...

Except that if he sells to a residential developer, the tax rate will hover at about 50%...

Mike O'Brien said...

Props to WAG for taking Ackerman/RRPH/Shapiro to court to defend your neighborhood and your sanity. Abusive landlords need to be stopped or our entire city from turning into one big disco.

Great choice of representation as well. Jack Lester is one of the best tenant attorneys in NYC.

Best of luck on March 25th - we'll be watching!