Landmarks rejects extension of Ocean on the Park District

Vacant lot at 185 Ocean Avenue, adjacent to the recently-designated Ocean on the Park Historic District in Flatbush, Brooklyn. Photo: CityLand.

Following the Ocean on the Park Historic District designation vote, Landmarks agreed to consider extending district to include adjacent vacant lot. On December 15, 2009, Landmarks declined to extend Brooklyn’s recently- designated Ocean on the Park Historic District to include an adjacent vacant lot at 185 Ocean Avenue. Landmarks designated the Ocean on the Park Historic District in October 2009, and it comprises twelve attached rowhouses located at 189 through 211 Ocean Avenue in Brooklyn. The free-standing brick house that formerly occupied an adjacent lot at 185 Ocean Avenue was developed in conjunction with the twelve other buildings, and the lot shares a driveway and a garage with 189 Ocean Avenue. In 2008, the owner of 185 Ocean Avenue demolished the house in order to build an eight-story condominium with a cantilevered portion over the shared driveway of 189 Ocean Avenue. The owner completed the condominium’s foundation before his building permits expired in September 2009.

Landmarks agreed to consider extending the historic district to cover the building site after hearing testimony at the October designation hearing from Fern Bernich, the owner of 189 Ocean Avenue. Bernich testified that the proposed building at 185 Ocean Avenue would negatively impact her property if Landmarks did not include the lot in the district. After Landmarks calendared the lot for consideration, Landmarks counsel Mark Silberman explained that Landmarks could remove it from its calendar if it determined that the owner of 185 Ocean Avenue had valid building permits. 6 CityLand 160 (Nov. 15, 2009).

At the December 15 hearing, attorney Stuart Beckerman, representing the owner-developer of 185 Ocean Avenue, spoke in opposition. Beckerman argued that the owner would have a vested right to complete the building as proposed based on its completed foundation. Buildings, however, would not renew the expired building permits because of Landmarks’ calendaring action.

Bernich, the adjacent neighbor, testified in support of designation, reiterating her concerns that the cantilevered building would diminish her property. Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council, also spoke in support of extending the district, noting that Landmarks included empty lots within other historic districts, including the Ladies’ Mile, Fieldston, and Tribeca Historic Districts.

Before calling a vote, Chair Robert B. Tierney explained that Landmarks calendared 185 Ocean Avenue to provide additional time to review all the facts surrounding the situation. Commissioner Margery Perlmutter called the proposed building’s cantilever an “unfortunate design element,” but said the shared driveway might act as a buffer for the historic district, and believed the district should not be enlarged. Commissioner Diana Chapin stated that it would be inappropriate to include an active construction site in a historic district.

The Commissioners agreed to decalendar the property.

LPC: Ocean on the Park Historic District, 185 Ocean Ave., Brooklyn (LP- 2402) (Dec. 15, 2009).

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