"Is it not cruel to let our city die by degrees, stripped of all her proud monuments, until there will be nothing left of all her history and beauty to inspire our children? If they are not inspired by the past of our city, where will they find the strength to fight for her future?" Jacqueline Kennedy

Friday, October 12, 2018

The Sad Transformation Of One Smith Street Block In Boerum Hill As Yet Another Original Building Is Demolished

Smith Street, looking towards Atlantic Avenue in April 2018
Original building at 157 Smith Street in April 2018, before demolition
Before demolition
157 Smith Street, now all gone. 
The empty lot at 157 Smith Street
Just a small reminder of the original structure.
For decades, much of Smith Street in Carroll Gardens and Boerum Hill has remained unchanged. The charming commercial stretch was lined with three to four story row houses, with just a few taller five to six story buildings spread along the blocks closer to Atlantic Avenue.

Unfortunately, we are seeing the north end of Smith Street change at a rapid pace, as some of the original houses are being demolished to make way for taller glass structures which don't even try to fit into the existing streetscape.

Part of the problem has to do with New York City's 2011 contextual rezoning of Boerum Hill, which raised the allowable Floor Area Ratio on Smith Street from Warren Street to Atlantic Avenue to R6A, which allows a building to rise to 70 feet.
(In contrast, the southern end of Smith Street was zoned R6B with a 50 feet height limit as part of the Carroll Gardens Contextual rezoning, approved in 2009.)

The temptation to build up to the allowable height limit can be perfectly illustrated on the block between Wycoff and Bergen Streets.  First, a three story original wood-clad building at number 159 Smith Street was demolished to make way for a much taller modern steel-clad apartment building with commercial space that remains unoccupied to this day.

Recently, the original structure next door at number 157 Smith Street was totally demolished, though the building permit issued was for a "proposed vertical and horizontal extension to existing building," only including "a partial demolition of existing structure."
What will replace it, according to a rendering, looks equally out of place as the new building at # 159.

According to Zillow, 157 Smith Street changed hands in 2016 for $3,750,000. That is a lot of money and one can hardly blame a new owner for wanting to maximize every inch of floor-area allowed by zoning. However, one does have to scratch one's head as to why someone buys a beautiful old building in a charming old neighborhood just to turn it into a stark modern glass structure.

At this rate,  the southern end of Smith Street will lose much of its flair.
What do you think, dear Reader?

As a reminder, this is what the two buildings at 157 and 159, together with their identical neighbor at #161 looked like in 2014. To date, 161 remains unchanged. For how long.


Anonymous said...

It would seem to be that with the wording on the NYC DOB as you stated, in complete removal of the building they are in violation of their permit. And unless some calls 311 nothing will happen. It may be that they filed a corrected permit or they assume (rightfully so) that no one passing by will read the permit and question the work they are doing.

carmen said...

Unless they have LandMark Status, there is no protection. Sad to see the Old Guard disappearing. Change is Change. I pray the New is built better than Code and will not start cracking in a year from the Subway Rumble.

Anonymous said...

We need more Landmark or Historic District protections around here.

Anonymous said...

They are both not attractive and those huge windows overlooking smith street. Who would want to look out there ? It’s very sad. Smith could be what is was with tact and Vision. It’s the wild Wild West now.

PerriD said...

Unfortunately Carroll Gardens residents were lied to and talked out of fighting for landmark status by those who would gain from development. This is the result.