Petition garners hundreds of signatures; meeting planned for Saturday, Jan. 3
A Brooklyn Heights man is spearheading a campaign to save the iconic tower-to-tower view of the Brooklyn Bridge, as seen from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.
That view – supposedly protected by the Special Scenic View District regulation — has been partially obstructed by the construction of the Pierhouse hotel and condo complex in Brooklyn Bridge Park, which exceeds a carefully-negotiated height limit of 100 feet by 30 percent.
As of Wednesday, more than 600 Brooklyn residents and visitors had signed the Change.org petition started by Steven Guterman, who has lived with his family in the Heights since 1997.
The petition calls for a halt on Pierhouse construction and the removal of the unauthorized 30 feet that are rising beyond the negotiated height limit.
“This is about a view that must be protected,” Guterman told the Brooklyn Eagle on Wednesday. “It was clearly protected in the FEIS [Final Environmental Impact Statement], and clearly protected in the Pier 1 presentation proposal – which is now being completely ignored by the developer.”
Guterman, a former Wall Streeter who now runs a molecular diagnostics startup, says he has never been involved in civic actions before. He told the Eagle that he and his wife Betty are acting because he, “like many others, was appalled” when he realized that the Pierhouse was going to exceed the negotiated height limit.
Guterman is aiming to hold the first organizational meeting on Saturday (details to come). Dozens of Heights residents have emailed him with offers of support, he said.
In November, the Brooklyn Heights Association (BHA) voiced its concerns over the height addition in a letter to the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation.
Regina Myer, president of BBPC, responded by defending the Pierhouse height addition, saying that changes in FEMA regulations after Hurricane Sandy made it necessary to move the mechanicals and backup equipment to the roof.
In her response, she wrote that BBPC had made clear during several meetings that “Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), would 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.”
BHA responded, “Unfortunately, our Board did not find anything in that letter that addresses the error BBPC made in disregarding the Park’s commitment to this community for the buildings on Pier 1 to be no higher than 100 feet, including mechanicals-a commitment that was confirmed in writing and in the Final Environmental Impact Statement.”
Guterman says the proposal clearly states that the maximum height of Pierhouse would be 100 feet, and that NYC zoning allowances for bulkhead height doesn’t apply to the park, as it is on state land. Myer “cannot justify this,” he said.
The petition states, “Love the Manhattan Skyline and Brooklyn Bridge views from the Promenade? We are in danger of losing them; we have been misled; it is time to fight back.”
It continues, “These iconic protected views are for millions to enjoy. They have been featured in countless movies and draw tourists from around the world. Strolling up and down the Promenade and enjoying the views is a favorite pastime for Brooklynites and New Yorkers alike. The views deserve to be protected and not simply given away so that only those few that can afford them can appreciate the full vista.”
Scores of petition signers thanked Guterman for taking up the cause.
“It’s a travesty for all who live here and for the people of the world who come visit,” commented Brooklyn resident Lisa Kalb-Schaffer.
Former Brooklynite Will Cunningham, now a resident of San Francisco, wrote, “As a former resident, I used to cherish walking along the Promenade as a favorite activity on clear days. So much so, in fact, that I proposed to my (now) wife on the Promenade. PLEASE don’t ruin this for future generations with short-sidedness.”
New Yorker Charles Cano wrote that the Pierhouse construction causes “a significant loss of one of Brooklyn (and NY’s) historic and iconic treasures by obstructing the view from the Promenade — not to mention a violation of trust and goodwill for the sake of profits by the developer.”
Carrie Montgomery, a visitor from France wrote, “J’ai grandi a Brooklyn Heights et de garder le Promenade et son vue de Manhattan est tres presieuse pour moi.” [“I grew up in Brooklyn Heights and to keep the Promenade and its view of Manhattan is very precious to me.”]
On Wednesday, tourists thronged the Promenade, as well as the Fruit Street Sitting Area, a pocket park on the street level above the Promenade.
Visitors to the Fruit Street Sitting Area posed for photos. Instead of the once-touted view of the Brooklyn Bridge, however, a solid wall of Pierhouse served as their backdrop.