Townhouse Approved for Brooklyn Heights Vacant Lot

Neighbors objected to the size and materials of proposed one-family townhouse. On August 2, 2011, Landmarks approved Louis Greco’s revised proposal to build a new townhouse on a vacant lot at 27 Cranberry Street in the Brooklyn Heights Historic District. The vacant lot is on the north side of Cranberry Street between Hicks and Willow Streets. The block is characterized by three- and four-story rowhouses developed in the late 1800s.

On June 7, 2011, Greco’s architect, Tom van den Bout, presented the proposal’s initial design. The plan called for a three-and-ahalf- story building with a setback penthouse. Van den Bout planned to clad the building’s front facade in Portland brownstone with brick on the side and rear facades. The penthouse’s facade would be clad in bronze, and according to van den Bout, only be visible from oblique angles. The building’s cornice would be higher than the adjacent buildings and also clad in bronze. The second and third floors would feature three window bays, while the first floor would include an oversized projecting window bay to help avoid the perception of squatness. 

Brooklyn Community Board 2 supported the proposal, but residents and preservationists expressed concerns about the choice of building materials and the project’s size. The Brooklyn Heights Association’s Judy Stanton called the proposal “thoughtful,” but found the oversized bay window too large and objected to the use of bronze. The Historic Districts Council’s Nadezhda Williams, as well as some residents, noted that the surrounding buildings in that section of Brooklyn Heights were characterized by wood and brick, not brownstone. Nearby neighbors claimed that the building was too large, and that the rear lot coverage penetrated too far into the green space making up the block’s interior.

The Commissioners generally praised the quality of the proposal’s design, but determined that the project was inappropriate for the block. Noting the concentration of wood- frame houses in the immediate area, Commissioner Fred Bland found the project “wholly inappropriate” for the block, and recommended that the developer rethink the building materials. Commissioner Margery Perlmutter found the use of brownstone hard to justify. Commissioner Diana Chapin found the design respectful of the district, but believed its massing was too large.

Chair Robert B. Tierney asked the applicants to return to Landmarks with a revised proposal.

Van den Bout returned to Landmarks on August 2, 2011 with a revised proposal featuring a brick facade and a stucco base. Van den Bout lowered the cornice so it would align with the adjacent building to the east. The height of the penthouse was reduced so that it was minimally visible from street level. The building’s depth was reduced by seven and a half feet to create a larger rear yard.

Tierney said the revised proposal was “very responsive” to the Commissioners’ comments and urged approval. The other Commissioners agreed and unanimously approved the project.

LPC: 27 Cranberry Street, Brooklyn (11- 2119) (Aug. 2, 2011) (Architect: NV/ design.architecture PLLC).

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