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Brooklyn Bridge Pierhouse Violates City-Protected Scenic View, Survey Finds

By Rosa Goldensohn | October 23, 2015 10:57am | Updated on October 25, 2015 9:41pm
 David Offensend and Hank Gutman, city-appointed members of the park's board of directors, picked up condos in the hotly disputed Pierhouse.
David Offensend and Hank Gutman, city-appointed members of the park's board of directors, picked up condos in the hotly disputed Pierhouse.
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DNAinfo/Rosa Goldensohn

BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — Brooklyn Bridge Park's embattled Pierhouse intrudes upon a city-protected scenic view from the Promenade by nearly 20 feet, according to a new surveyor's report commissioned by opponents of the project.

The Pierhouse, a luxury hotel and condo building constructed on public land along the East River, rises too high above the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, breaking the city's zoning rules by encroaching on the scenic view, the report, commissioned by Save the View Now, found.

The Department of Buildings, which is responsible for monitoring the scenic view zoning rules, said it would review the new findings.

DOB officials previously approved plans for the controversial building at 130 Furman St., saying they believed they would not breach the area's sight lines.

“At this time, there have been no changes regarding the Department’s previous determination," a DOB spokesman said.

"The Department will continue to work with the community and review any new documentation regarding compliance concerns for the project with the NYC Construction Codes or Zoning Resolution.“

The Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation, the private nonprofit that is responsible for the park and its condo plans, promised that the project would not encroach on the scenic view plane.

“Brooklyn Bridge Park takes its responsibility to protect the historic View Plane seriously," a park corporation spokeswoman said in a statement.

"Last year, at our request, the plans for this project were reviewed by DOB and found to be in compliance... Again, we have referred this to DOB for its opinion. As with all projects at Brooklyn Bridge Park, the Pier 1 development will not encroach on the Scenic View District.”

The six-story Pierhouse will include 108 condos priced between $1.1 million and $11.1 million as well as a hotel, according to state documents.

In September, a judge dismissed a case filed by Save the View Now that argued developers had changed their plans since the project was approved, obscuring views of the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan from Brooklyn Heights.

Activists said the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation board turned a blind eye to the changes.

"This is the latest example of how the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corp (BBPC), a not-for-profit outside of normal New York City government and controlled by the mayor, has failed to provide any meaningful oversight to the construction by Toll Brothers and Starwood on Pier 1," the group wrote in a press release.

"The BBPC has allowed the obliteration of the views of the Brooklyn Bridge from the Promenade despite assurances made to the public in 2005 to protect these iconic views."

Two of Brooklyn Bridge Park Board's members, Hank Gutman and David Offensend, purchased units in the Pierhouse, which they helped to approve, DNAinfo reported last month.

Two other board members, Joanne Witty and Steven Cohen, also own property in the park at One Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Cohen, who owned one of his two apartments before he was appointed to the board, was the only board member to disclose his interests and announce he would recuse himself from votes, according a park spokesman.

Parks officials added that "BBP was aware of [Cohen's] residency prior to appointment" and that "when he recently purchased another unit in the building, Director Cohen disclosed this to BBP management and, given that the purchase was taking place during the pendency of the Pier 6 development proposal, he has recused himself from voting with respect to that matter."

Cohen declined to comment.

A park spokeswoman said in a statement that one of Witty's children lives at 360 Furman St. owned by a trust.

"BBP management was made aware at the time of purchase in 2011. She has made all necessary disclosures regarding the apartment," parks officials said.

Witty did not respond to requests for comment.