Council modifies proposal for 130 Court St.

Council Member de Blasio argued for modifications. On October 25, 2007, the City Council modified Two Trees Management Co.’s special permit application to construct a 6-story, 37-unit residential building adjacent to the South Brooklyn Savings Bank in Downtown Brooklyn. The proposal must now go back to the Planning Commission for approval.

Two Trees proposed to construct the building on the bank’s vacant parking lot and an adjacent lot. Located at Atlantic Avenue and Court Street, the two lots fall within both the Cobble Hill Historic District and a Special Limited Height District. In exchange for restoring the historic bank, Two Trees sought a waiver from the area’s height limit, along with relief from other zoning restrictions. 4 CityLand 136 (Oct. 15, 2007).

At its October 23rd public hearing, the Council’s Subcommittee on Zoning & Franchises focused on Two Trees’ request for a height waiver. Two Trees’ attorney, Raymond Levin, pointed out that the proposed building sits on the only corner of the intersection covered by the special 50-foot height limit. He argued that granting Two Trees a height waiver would not disturb the consistency of building heights given the height of nearby buildings on Atlantic Avenue. To enforce the special height limit, he claimed, would cut into his client’s expected rate-of-return, jeopardizing the entire project.

The Historic Districts Council and the Cobble Hill Association, however, opposed the height waiver. They claimed that special permits were intended to allow developers to adapt historical structures to meet market demands, not to obtain multiple waivers for a new building.

Although he had testified in support of the proposal before the Commission, Council Member Bill de Blasio joined the opposition and urged his colleagues to deny Two Trees’ request for a height exemption. He asked the subcommittee to think “thirty years ahead,” and warned that granting the waiver would set a negative precedent.

The Council approved the proposal, but denied the height waiver, thus limiting the project to 50 feet. With just two days left for a final vote, the Council sent the proposal back to the Commission for review.

Council: 130 Court St. (Oct. 23, 2007).

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