We’re creating a series of articles refuting point by point information on the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation’s website. Part 1: ‘Why NYC Zoning Regulations Do Not Apply to the Pier 1 Site Limit’ can be found here. Please help us and share these facts with your social networks.
PART 2: THE FACTS – YOU DECIDE
BACKGROUND – REFERENCE POINT FOR MEASUREMENT
This is the second in a series produced by Save The View Now (STVN) to present side by side, BBPC’s statement of the “facts” and why the BBPC is wrong. Following in order of BBPC’s Pier 1 Development Facts, this installment focuses on the correct reference point for starting the height measurement of the Pierhouse buildings. A review of the record shows that Borough of Brooklyn Highway Datum (“BBHD”) is the correct starting reference point.
All of the statements attributed to BBPC are copied and pasted entirely from their website and can be found at: http://www.brooklynbridgepark.org/pages/details-on-pier-1-development-site” .
WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT
- BBHD is the standard vertical measuring point and is located about 2.5 feet below mean sea level.
- Following Hurricane Sandy, the Base Flood Plane Elevation, a point 13.75’ above BBHD, was used by the BBPC as the starting reference point.
- Consequently, if you start measuring from the Base Flood Plane Elevation, the 100’ Pierhouse hotel complex becomes 113.75’ above BBHD or 13.75’ above the allowable limit (without counting the bulkheads.
“Based on consultation with ESDC, the 100’ height limit for the Pierhouse is determined in accordance with the NYC Zoning Resolution, under which height is measured from the Base Plane. Prior to Hurricane Sandy, the Base Plane for the Parcel A building at Pierhouse was set at 10.2’. After Hurricane Sandy, in response to changes in FEMA’s 100-year flood plane elevations at the site, the Base Plane was raised by 3.55’ to 13.75’.”
WHY BBPC IS WRONG
- NYC Zoning Resolutions do not apply to this project (see Part 1 for a more extensive discussion). Therefore, claiming that the Pierhouse should follow NYC Zoning rules and use the Base Flood Plane as the starting point for measuring height is fundamentally flawed. The FEMA changes post Sandy required the building to be resistant to a flood of 13.75’, it did not require changing the reference point for measuring the building.
- Parcel B is almost entirely inside the Brooklyn Promenade Special Scenic Viewing District (SV-1) therefore since SV-1 uses BBHD for all height measurements, it only makes sense that a building inside the Special Scenic View Plane use BBHD. Reviewing the SV-1 Chart below, which was provided by the BBPC, we highlight the following:
- The height of the Brooklyn Heights Promenade is 62’ over BBHD.
- The Scene View Plane Height starts at eye level at 66’ over BBHD and goes to mean sea level (2.5’ over BBHD) 2300’ out into the harbor.
- The 55’ maximum building height for Parcel B, which is stated in the GPP and FEIS, makes sense only if it is measured from BBHD. If the measurement is instead started at the Base Flood Plane, then a 55’ building would be 55’+13.75’ or 68.75’ over BBHD, which would result in a complete penetration of the view plane. Since the maximum height of SV-1 occurs at 66’ this could not be the case.
- The northwest corner of Parcel B is the furthest away from the Promenade’s Point A View Reference Line at approximately 400’. When you calculate the maximum height for a building to not penetrate the Scenic View Plane from a distance of 400’ it is 55’.
Reviewing the SV-1 chart provided by BBPC, shows that the 55’ height limitation for Parcel B was set carefully in relation to the northern viewing Point A from the Promenade using BBHD. All of the figures referenced in the above chart are using BBHD measurements. Applying anything other than BBHD makes no sense.
- The 2006 Design Guidelines state on page 30 “The Project uses BBHD as the basis for all grade elevations on the Site. This statement in the 2006 Design Guidelines is entirely consistent with all the findings and analysis in the FEIS.
CONCLUSION ON STARTING HEIGHT REFERENCE POINT
Borough of Brooklyn Highway Datum is the correct starting point for measuring elevation. In order to justify using the higher Base Flood Plane, the BBPC is wrongfully applying NYC Zoning Regulations when they do not apply. Using this wrong reference point allows the Pierhouse on Parcel A (with a 100’ maximum height) to be 113.75’ tall relative to BBHD.
This increase in height results in substantial obstruction of the views of the Brooklyn Bridge roadbed from the Promenade due to the change in angle of the view line.
The Scenic View Plane Regulation that the BBPC acknowledges must be followed, uses BBHD as the starting point for measuring elevation. Furthermore, BBPC’s President stated in a letter to the BHA that “BBHD is the standard reference point from which elevations are determined in Brooklyn.” Yet for some reason BBPC contends, incorrectly, that NYC Zoning Regulations apply so they can use the higher Base Flood Plane as the starting point.
Despite having Park planning documents expressly stating that NYC Zoning Regulations are overridden, BBPC ignores their own guidelines and insists that NYC Zoning Regulations should apply for measuring building height. Incorrectly applying NYC Zoning Regulation results in the Pierhouse building being taller and obstructing more of the view of the Brooklyn Bridge by (i) using the reference point of elevation as the Base Flood Plane instead of the correct BBHD, and (ii) allowing for mechanicals to be placed above the maximum height limits. BBPC’s blatant disregard of the project documents seems all too convenient for Toll Brothers.
We need your help to take our issue to Governor Cuomo and Mayor De Blasio. Both have the power to bring the Pierhouse back into compliance with the agreements made with the public in 2005 and 2006. We must demand that they do so. Tell them to join with the public and not the developers.
This only takes a few minutes as all inquires are though the internet.. We’ve created an easy letter for you to cut and paste at the end of this page. Please note for De Blasio and Cuomo you do not need to include your name or contact info in the body of the letter you paste onto the websites There are separate fields to enter your contact info.
We’ve drafted two separate letters for Governor Cuomo and Mayer De Blasio with different wording. PLEASE NOTE THE MAJORS WEBSITE LIMITS CONTENT TO 300 WORDS, and HIS LETTER IS EXACTLY THAT LENGTH. Any addition will require editing to shorten the letter. Longer letters should be sent via regular mail.
Scroll further for Cuomo’s letter.
1. Mayor De Blasio
Go to Mayor De Blasio’s website here , under ‘Message Topic’ please select ‘Request for Assistance’. Paste the letter into the ‘Message Field.’
Here is the letter to cut and paste for Mayor De Blasio
Mayor de Blasio,
I want to express frustration with your lack of support for our community’s attempts to protect the iconic views of the Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Skyline and Harbor from the Brooklyn Promenade and surrounding area.
I am a member of Save The View Now (“STVN”), a community organization that has started litigation against the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation (“BBPC”) and others, to restore protected views that have been destroyed by the Pierhouse and are in clear violation of the General Project Plan. STVN was forced to commence litigation because the BBPC was unresponsive to its requests to stop construction and restore the views that it had permitted to be blocked.
As the only designated Member of the BBPC you effectively have complete control of this entity. With that extraordinary power, you also have an obligation to protect the views for the community, and public that come to the area.
Unfortunately, the BBPC is disregarding its responsibility to protect a public asset and instead is allowing Toll Brothers and Starwood Capital to reap huge profits. Each of the two investors has made only a $38 to $39 million investment, yet they expect to earn total revenue of $700 million. In fact, in the court proceedings BBPC has not denied that the project is being built in violation of the General Project Plan but instead is trying to rely on technicalities to excuse its illegal and irresponsible actions.
How the BBPC was allowed to steal important views from the public so that two well heeled investors can earn huge returns is beyond our understanding. However, with your complete control of the BBPC you can correct this and return the project to the specifications agreed to between the City and public in 2006.
I urge you to act on this immediately.
2. Governor Cuomo
Go to Governor Cuomo’s website here , fill out the name and information fields. For Topic, please select ‘New York City’. Cut and Paste the letter at the end of the page into the Message field.
Dear Governor Andrew Cuomo,
I am writing to express my frustration with your lack of support for our community in connection with its attempts to protect the iconic views of the Brooklyn Bridge, the Manhattan Skyline and the Harbor from the Brooklyn Promenade and the surrounding area.
I am a member of Save The View Now (“STVN”), a grass roots community organization that has started legal action against the Empire State Development Corporation (“ESDC”) and others, in order to restore these protected views that have been destroyed by the Pierhouse development and in clear violation of the General Project Plan that governs Brooklyn Bridge Park. STVN was forced to commence litigation because the ESDC was unresponsive to its requests to stop construction and restore the views that it had permitted to be blocked.
As the Governor of NY State you exercise tremendous influence over the activities of the ESDC. With that extraordinary power, you also have an obligation to protect the views for the community, the public and the millions of visitors that come to the areas every year.
Unfortunately, to date, the ESDC is disregarding its responsibility to protect a public asset and instead is allowing Toll Brothers and Starwood Capital to reap huge profits. Each of the two investors has made only a $38 to $39 million investment, yet they expect to earn total revenue of $700 million. In fact, in the court proceedings ESDC has not denied that the project is being built in violation of the General Project Plan but instead is trying to rely on legal technicalities to excuse its illegal and irresponsible actions.
Why the ESDC has allowed important views to be stolen from the public in order to allow two very well heeled investors to earn huge returns is beyond our understanding. With your control of the ESDC, however, you can correct this and return the project to the specifications agreed to between the Park planners and the public in 2006.
I urge you to act on this immediately.
In the coming weeks, we’ll be creating a series of articles refuting point by point information on the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation’s website. Please help us and share these facts with your social networks.
THE FACTS – YOU DECIDE
Following the Community Advisory Committee (“CAC”) meeting on February 3, Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation (“BBPC”) posted on its website a piece titled “Pier 1 Development Facts.” In this Pier 1 Development Facts, BBPC states what they believe the “Facts” are as it relates to Pierhouse.
We are compelled to present side by side, BBPC’s statement of the “facts” and why the BBPC is wrong. All of the statements attributed to BBPC are copied and pasted entirely from their website and can be found at: http://www.brooklynbridgepark.org/pages/details-on-pier-1-development-site” .
All of our facts are based on publicly available documents and can be found either on BBPC’s website or the Department of Buildings (“DOB”) website. Unlike the BBPC who only answers questions generally, we provide specific support to why they are wrong.
In this first installment, we discuss the Pier 1 site Height Limit and why NYC Zoning Regulations do not apply.
On August 4, 2011, BBPC released the Pier 1 RFP. The RFP states throughout that the Maximum Height for Parcel A is 100’ft and Parcel B is 55’ subject to the Scenic View Plan Requirements (“SV-1”). It also states that the only applicable Zoning Regulation is the SV-1.
Following the distribution of the Pier 1 RFP, BBPC created an Amendment 1 to the RFP dated October 7, 2011 titled “Questions and Answer.” Question number 4 specifically asks: Do rooftop mechanical equipment and other Permitted Obstructions count against the maximum height restrictions? As BBPC stated at the CAC meeting and below, upon receipt of the question they consulted with ESDC and were told the height of rooftop mechanicals and other Permitted Obstructions should be treated in a manner consistent with NYC Zoning Resolutions.
The BBP General Project Plan (GPP) prescribes a height limit of 100 feet. This reflects the effort to develop a building of scale and impact similar to the National Cold Storage Warehouses. The GPP is silent on the inclusion of mechanicals within the 100 feet. Upon consultation with Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), the decision was made to permit rooftop mechanical equipment to exceed the 100’ height limit provided that it fit the definition of a “Permitted Obstruction” in the NYC Zoning Resolution.
WHY BBPC IS WRONG
BBPC’s is mistakenly relying on NYC Zoning Regulations. NYC Zoning Regulations were never intended to apply to the Pier 1 project which is evidenced in documents before the 2011 RFP and after the RFP. Examples include without limitation:
- The December 18, 2006 Modified General Project Plan (“GPP”), the very document BBPC believes is the controlling document and references above, devotes nearly an entire page of a sixteen page document to a section titled “Override of Local Requirements.” It states expressly that:
“Specifically, in order to facilitate the full range of development outlined in the General Project Plan, zoning shall be overridden.”
While BBPC claims the GPP is silent on the inclusion of mechanicals within the 100 feet maximum height, we believe their statement is twisting semantics as the above quote, along with the rest of this section, makes clear that NYC Zoning Regulation does not apply. Therefore, a 100’ maximum height is just that, a maximum height inclusive of mechanicals.
- A review of the design plans (the “Design Plans”) currently on file with the Department of Buildings (“DOB”) states the following “The Modified General Project Plan…(adopted on July 26, 2005 and subsequently modified on December 18, 2006 and March 26, 2010) overrides all local zoning requirement (except as specified below).” We note that the exception relates to the Scenic View Plan, which we will address in a follow-up installment.
- These Design Plans also contain a notation that states “see attached zoning over letter” which was typed onto the form. The attached zoning letter is written by the Empire Statement Development Corporation (“ESDC”) dated June 19, 2012 and titled “Pier 1 Uplands, Ownership and Override of City Requirements Regarding Zoning.” This letter also states the following
“In furtherance of the project, ESDC and BBPDC have exercised their statutory authority to override local zoning requirements that are applicable to the Project, including Pier 1 Development Parcels.”
- We highlight that these Design Plans, along with the ESDC Override Letter have been filed 3 times at the DOB under 60 Furman St and 90 Furman St (collectively representing the hotel portion) and 130 Furman St (representing the condominium portion). Each of these filings also expressly state following:
“MAXIMUM BUILDING HEIGHT FOR PARCEL A IS 100 FEET” and “MAXMIMUM BUILDING HEIGHT FOR PARCEL B IS 55 FEET SUBJECT TO THE VIEW PLANE REQUIREMENT.”
How else is one to interpret the words “Maximum Height”?
- The RFP also makes it perfectly clear that the GPP, the FEIS, and other documents are the controlling documents and must be followed without limitation. In the FEIS the following is stated:
Any required parapet and mechanical equipment would be included in the proposed building envelope.
This is entirely consistent with all the other implicit language in the GPP and FEIS that speaks to maximum height and protecting views. Any other interpretation is not supported by these documents.
CONCLUSION ON HEIGHT LIMITS
It is unequivocally clear that NYC Zoning Regulation does not apply to the Pierhouse project. Therefore, the term “maximum height” is subject to only one interpretation, that the maximum height of Parcel A is 100’ inclusive of mechanicals and the maximum height of Parcel B is 55’subject to SV-1, inclusive of mechanicals.
BBPC’s Facts regarding Bulkhead state the following: “The Hotel bulkhead contains two parts. The lower bulkhead, closer to Furman Street, is approximately 23’ tall and contains an emergency generator and cooling towers. The remainder of the hotel bulkhead is approximately 30’ tall and contains three levels.”
At a minimum, the hotel portion is 30’ over the 100’ maximum height limit.
The documents we highlighted are not meant to be inclusive but are meant to show the “facts”.
The fact of the matter is: BBPC is incorrectly relying on NYC Zoning Regulations, in direct contradiction with the GPP, Design Plans and other relevant Park Planning documents, before and after the 2011 RFP was distributed.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
BROOKLYN BRIDGE PARK CORP REFUSES TO ANSWER QUESTIONS ON THE OVERGROWTH OF THE PIERHOUSE AND ITS OBSTRUCTION OF THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE
Brooklyn, NY Feb 6, 2015 – Save The View Now (STVN) has made repeated requests to the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corp for explanation of why plans for the construction of the Pierhouse hotel complex in Brooklyn Bridge Park violate the Planning and Control Documents for construction of the Park.
At a recent meeting of the Community Advisory Council attended by hundreds of concerned Brooklyn residents STVN, once again, asked the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation, straightforward questions about the over-expansion of the Pierhouse. The BBPC again refused to answer the public’s questions about the oversight of construction at Brooklyn Bridge Park and their responsibility to the public to protect the Brooklyn Bridge views.
STVN has identified five major violations in the design and construction of the buildings located at 60, 90 and 130 Furman Street. STVN’s analysis resulted in the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) issuance of a partial Stop Work Order for 130 Furman Street on Jan 28, 2015. While other violations of the 2005/2006 agreements exist they are outside the jurisdiction of the DOB.
One of the most severe violations is the relocation of the tallest southern wall of the Pierhouse closer to the Brooklyn Promenade. By allowing the wall to be moved about 100 feet, views of the Brooklyn Bridge have been significantly cut from the Promenade and the promised harbor views from Squibb Park are gone. In addition, 30’ bulkheads have been added to the roof in clear non-compliance with the Environmental Impact Statement.
The lack of a full response from the BBPC to the community reflects the hubris of a city agency that is apparently responsible to no one. STVN is sounding the alarm over this flagrant breach of the Park’s Planning documents and is demanding that the agreed-upon building specification, which ensures an unobstructed view of the Brooklyn Bridge from the Brooklyn Promenade, be enforced.
For more information please contact:
BROOKLYN HEIGHTS – Many Brooklyn Heights residents breathed a sigh of relief Thursday when the city stopped a major construction project in the area.
Some residents were concerned a new construction project would block the view of the Manhattan skyline, water and Brooklyn Bridge from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.
The recent partial work stop order at 130 Furman St. means that workers can’t build above the second floor until the Department of Buildings reviews the plans.
The Brooklyn Bridge Park Organization says it asked the city to stop construction temporarily while the city reviews the plans.
The organization says it is working with the Department of Buildings and the developer to make sure that the waterfront view is protected.
The building’s developer, Toll Brothers, declined to comment.