Special Scenic View District Violation

The Brooklyn Heights Association (“BHA”) and Save The View Now (“STVN”) recently filed a new lawsuit against Toll Brothers and the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation (“BBPC”) for violating the Brooklyn Heights Promenade Special Scenic View District regulation, commonly called SV-1. Below, you will find answers to many of the questions we are receiving about this lawsuit. Please email us if you have any further questions.

Q1. How does this suit differ from the prior suit?

A1. In the prior lawsuit we were primarily concerned with the height of the buildings and roof top structure on Parcel A (the Hotel Complex). Parcel A is not subject to SV-1. Furthermore, in January 2015, we warned the BBPC that the design for Parcel B (“Condo Building”) revealed that the Condo Building would breach SV-1. Subsequently, the Department of Buildings (“DOB”) issued a stop work order until Toll Brothers resubmitted drawings for the Condo Building (“Misleading Drawings”). The Misleading Drawings we received from the BBPC in March led us to believe that the Condo Building would be in compliance with SV-1. We now know that Toll Brothers drew the SV-1 framing line west of the correct location so as to increase the size of the penthouse.

Toll Brothers added the penthouse and other structures to the Condo Building roof in August 2015. At that point, we began suspecting the building did not comply with SV-1. We filed a complaint with the DOB, but they found the building was being built to plan. Our only option was to hire an independent surveyor who found that the penthouse was, in fact, illegally protruding into SV-1 by approximately 20 feet.

On October 16th, after reviewing the survey and report, Senator Squadron and Councilman Levin submitted the information showing the breach to the DOB commissioner, in order for the DOB to take action. The BBPC also received a copy of the information. After reviewing the material for over 7 weeks, the DOB told us they would do nothing. DOB was also refused to meet directly with us to discuss the violation. Therefore, the BHA and STVN were forced to file the current lawsuit.

Q2. What is the Brooklyn Heights Promenade Special Scenic View District?

A2. In 1974, New York City passed a regulation protecting the extraordinary views from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade (“Promenade”). The regulation protects “the panoramic view of the lower Manhattan skyline which includes such landmarks as the Brooklyn Bridge archway, the South Street Seaport, the Whitehall Ferry Terminal, and the vistas of the Statue of Liberty and Governor’s Island.”

Q3. What are the boundaries of the Brooklyn Heights Promenade Special Scenic View District?

A3. The Brooklyn Heights Promenade Special Scenic View District is bound by the “view reference line” and “framing lines” defined in the regulation. The views start on the Promenade at roughly eye level and extend out 2300’ to sea level. The view reference line runs from the north side of Orange Street to almost Remsen Street. From Orange and Remsen Streets the view framing lines fans out to the north and south as shown in the diagram below. The north side fans out at a 160° angle, while the south side fans out at a 145° angle.

Save the View Now's photo.

Q4. How are the north and south boundaries described in the SV-1 regulation?

A4. The regulation precisely describes the boundaries in four short paragraphs; sections 102-611 to 102-614. Paragraph 102-611 states:

“the northwesterly edge of the ‪#‎view‬ plane# which forms an angle of 160 degrees measured in a horizontal plane with respect to the #view reference line# at point A;”

Paragraph 102-612 provides the definition for point A and the view reference line:

“The #view reference line# of the SV-1 Special District is a line at an elevation of 66 feet located along the westerly vertical face of the Brooklyn Heights Promenade and which is approximately 4 feet above the Promenade. The #view reference line# is formed by joining two end points, A and A1, as shown in Diagram 1.

Point A is located at the intersection of the westerly face of the Promenade and the prolongation of the north side of Orange Street.

Point A1 is located 50 feet north of the intersection of the westerly face of the Promenade and the prolongation of the north side of Remsen Street.”

In simpler English, you take the north side of Orange Street and draw a line until it hits the western railing on the Promenade giving you point A, and then draw a straight line to point A1 located on the railing 50 feet north of Remsen Street. In case you are wondering why Point A1 is located 50 feet north of Remsen Street, it is because the railing does not extend to Remsen Street but stops before that point. The writers of the regulation did not want any part of the view reference line floating in the middle of the air.

Q5. Where did Toll Brothers draw the View Framing Line?

A5. In an apparent effort to maximize the size of the penthouse, Toll Brothers shifted the northern View Framing Line about 20-30 feet west. They justify this by inventing a new concept, the extension of the westerly face of the Promenade. To be perfectly clear, in no place in the regulation does it mention an extension of the westerly face of the Promenade. Toll Brothers made this concept up in an obvious effort to maximize the size of the penthouse and deny the public the benefit of the extraordinary view from the Promenade.

Anyone who walks along the Promenade can see that the northern side of the walkway curves east towards Columbia Heights. Toll Brothers, by inventing the concept of the extension of the westerly face of the Promenade, places point A 20-30 feet out into the middle of the air over the Brooklyn Queens Expressway instead of in the correct position on the western face (railing). This ignores the curve on the Promenade and moves the view framing line in a deceitful attempt to justify their increase to the size of the Penthouse.

It is disgusting that Toll Brothers is trying to maximize their profits by filing Misleading Drawings hoping no one would notice their deceit. What is also outrageous is that the DOB and the BBPC agree with Toll Brothers’ re-interpretation of the SV-1 regulation. There is no place in the SV-1 regulation, a highly-detailed document, which refers to an extension of the westerly face of the promenade. The SV-1 regulation, instead, says that point A is at the intersection of the westerly face of the Promenade and the prolongation of Orange Street. This is yet another land grab by Toll Brothers with the full support of the New York City agencies who are responsible for overseeing the developer.

Q6. Didn’t the RFP have a picture of the Scenic View Plane?

A6. Both the RFP and the Leases for Pier 1, written by the BBPC show the below site plan confirming point A is on the railing. Even if you thought there was any ambiguity in the SV-1 regulation, which there is not, the site plans in both the RFP and the Leases confirm the correct placement of point A is on the railing.

Save the View Now's photo.

BHA and STVN file lawsuit

For immediate release

BHA and STVN file lawsuit against Toll Brothers and Brooklyn Bridge Park Corp to ensure Pierhouse compliance with SV-1

Brooklyn, NY – December 4, 2015. The Brooklyn Heights Association (“BHA”) and Save the View Now (“STVN”) have joined forces to ensure that the construction of Pierhouse on Pier 1 in Brooklyn Bridge Park is completed in compliance with the Special Scenic View District (commonly referred to as “SV-1”). Yesterday, the BHA and STVN filed a lawsuit against the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation (“BBPC”), the City of New York, the Department of Buildings (“DOB”) and Toll Brothers, among others, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief to ensure that Pierhouse is brought into compliance with SV-1.

As previously announced, a survey was completed revealing that the penthouse of the condominium building of Pierhouse intrudes into SV-1 by approximately 20 feet. On October 16th a complaint was filed with the DOB regarding the violation.  A copy of the survey and of the report by the licensed surveyor was also submitted to the DOB and BBPC. For nearly 7 weeks, we heard through Senator Squadron’s and Councilman Levin’s offices that the DOB would provide a timely response.  We finally learned two days ago that the DOB would not be taking action. 

This violation of SV-1 is another example of Toll Brothers’ overbuilding of Pierhouse in disregard of the project plans. It also exemplifies BBPC’s failure to properly oversee the project and uphold the commitments it made to the community. It is regrettable that we must resort to litigation as BBPC and DOB were unwilling to meet with us to discuss the survey report and explain why no action would be taken to address the significant intrusion into SV-1. 

STVN has also begun its appeal relating to the Pierhouse hotel complex’s exceeding the 100 foot height limitation mandated by the project documents and by BBPC’s commitment to protect the view of the Brooklyn Bridge. STVN is pleased to announce that the BHA has made a significant contribution to fund this appeal.

For more information please contact: Peter Bray, Executive Director, Brooklyn Heights Association; 718-858-9193, or Steven Guterman, Save The View Now, at savetheviewnow@gmail.com

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Toll Brothers’ Crafty Invention

We received copies of Toll Brothers documents from the DOB today. It appears they invent a new method of drawing the scenic view plane framing lines to show they are in compliance. The critical point is “Point A” which is defined as the intersection of Orange Street and the Western Face of the Promenade. Toll Brothers has redefined the western face of the promenade as a point out in the air over the BQE / Furman St instead of the rail line on the Promenade at Orange Street. To define Point A as “in the air” and not on the promenade defies the language and intent of SV-1 and common sense.

More to come on Friday.