Friday, June 22, 2007

To Maria Pagano and the Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association

June 11, 2007

To Maria Pagano and the Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association

June 11, 2007

(Published this week in the Brooklyn Eagle)

To Maria Pagano and The Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association (CGNA)

Here is an open letter I have written to the community re: 360 Smith Street. Please feel free to pass this letter on to Mr.DeBlasio, and any other elected public official, Mr. Klein, any community leader, businessman/woman and to any concerned resident of Carroll Gardens in support of “sane change, not just any old change”.

First of all, thank you for your clarification re: the June 4rth meeting. It is very positive to see that Mr. Klein did come to meet with to discuss various details of this project and seems to be negotiable regarding certain points re: the development of the 360 Smith Street site. I would not want to be overwhelmed by any crowd of people either! However we do need to convey to Mr. Stein that we are hardly a “crowd” but rather a collective of extremely intelligent, dedicated, and committed residents of Carroll Gardens. Many of us have been here for years, and we all share an enormous stake in its development. Essentially, our concerns are based on having our “eyes wide open” as to the 360 Smith Street project. With eyes wide open, and a decent visual imagination, it is easy and also very scary to see the results of any ill-planned development of 360 Smith Street. By that I mean any development that is out of scale, out of character, or out of touch with our historic neighborhood. I hope that we can get Mr. Stein to also come to see “with our eyes” so to speak.

I mean, when you think about all of the concerns the residents of Carroll Gardens have raised about this project, they are not coming out of left field. For example, the enormous scale of the building and specifically the proposed vertical height on Smith Street would be more than simply an eyesore for all of Second Street. It would be, in essence, an enormous wall/barricade blocking sun and light and air which are all critical to Second Street, Smith Street, and Second Place, and beyond. To get a good picture of this proposal, one merely needs to walk down Second Street a bit, turn around and look back up to Smith, and imagine this barricade. It is not a pretty picture (!) and I am not only talking about aesthetics, although why not talk about aesthetics as they are a primary factor in the character of this neighborhood.

Furthermore the traffic, both in terms of pedestrian and vehicular traffic, is an issue which will spill have repercussions all over Carroll Gardens, and will also, of course affect the subway system. I can not understand how such vast planning can occur (seemingly overnight, with little or no (!) prior knowledge by the surrounding community) without a full impact study and assessment for the community at large that carefully considers the development as a totality: e.g. the environmental issues, (air, sunlight, carbon monoxide, dust, rodents, etc.), the traffic issues, parking issues, public safety issues, the needs of the community etc. And, how can such building proposals occur without full disclosure by the developer to the public including architectural drawings, plans, etc. so that with “eyes wide open” we can consider the future of our streets? .! Furthermore, we need to seriously consider the disruption to our physical environment the physical construction of this building will cause that will surely affect everyone in Carroll Gardens, not just the surrounding blocks.

The beauty and scale and safety and lifestyle of Carroll Gardens is the reason many people have purchased such expensive homes (or are paying such high rent) to live here in the first place. It is also the reason the developers are here as they know a good thing when they see it as well. I believe building development can potentially increase the value of our collective investments in Carroll Gardens and also make a profit for potential developers, but I think it is also possible that development can bring the value of our neighborhood DOWN, not up. It all depends on the process, and the intent of those involved. If there is a “crowd” that has assembled around the issue of the 360 Smith Street development, it is because the very people who are investing daily in this neighborhood by living in it, utilizing it, improving upon it, etc. are also the same ones, unfortunately, who are being forced to play “defense” when it comes to a development process that imposes huge change and uncertainty upon their lives.

What strikes is this: Mr. Klein, is a private owner and yes, he has the right to develop this site, but is he alone to be trusted to determine what’s best for an entire community? As he has an obvious conflict of interest as the owner, it is very difficult for me to believe that he has our interest as a community truly in his heart. I have nothing against Mr. Klein, per se. But, is there no oversight committee to actually study his proposed project and its greater impact on the community at large? If there are not rules in place to have such oversight of this development project, isn’t it high time we created them?

I agree that 360 Smith Street is a great opportunity! I hope it will one day be the first development project on everyone's mind when they think of the concept: "sane development”, i.e. in neighborhood development that respects and enhances existing neighborhoods not monopolizes and dominates them. I sincerely hope that Mr. Klein’s reputation can one day rest on such laurels and that his profits increase as a result of this kind of action.

I also invite Mr. Bill DeBlasio to see 360 Smith Street as a “new beginning” in neighborhood development: a “kinder, gentler development” that respects the existence of neighborhoods as it also seeks to better them. I hope Mr. DeBlasio’s reputation can grow as a visionary. that his leadership can be rewarded by increased popular support.for him politically speaking. Mr. DeBlasio, sir, how about the creation of a new “win-win” development vision? The old style idea of neighborhood “take-over” development is surely obsolete is it not? Shall we sacrifice our neighborhood to people who have never lived here and never plan to live here, people who do not walk these blocks, use this neighborhood, or eat drive in it (except to pass thru it), i.e. people who are on their way to someplace else!

I believe if that if we want Carroll Gardeners to have a future as a community entity, we had better take a very serious look at this 360 Smith street development project both to ask questions of it, and to demand answers from it. For this we need to utilize professionals in the fields of planning, environment and engineering not just the proposal by private owner who can not help but have a serious conflict of interest as such. I propose we, as a community, immediately do whatever it takes insure that the Building Department does not grant any “acceptance” of any proposed building for 360 Smith Street until a reasonable environmental impact study/assessment can be made public to the residents of Carroll Gardens. Furthermore our neighborhood needs to immediately see any building prposal terms of actual detailed sketches not simply an old design that is already off the table. And. if old fashioned, bureaucratic, arcane laws exist that encourage ill-conceived building development by granting loopholes to land owners, builders, developers, architects, contractors alike, while they do not promote sane, healthy development for existing residents and communities, then HIGH TIME TO AMEND THESE LAWS AND GET RID OF THESE LOOPHOLES!

Sincerely yours,

Triada Samaras and The Second Street/Second Place Block Associations



With the "Protect Our Homes" petition, CORD was formed in May, 2007. This petition arose as an overwhelmingly negative response to the coming of the over-sized 360 Smith Street Development at the corner of Smith Street and Second Place (Aka Oliver House; aka 131 Second Place). This petition, which had well over three thousand signatures, led to a new zoning text amendment in summer of 2008.

To: Our Elected Officials, Community Leaders, The MTA:
(MAY, 2007)

We the undersigned Carroll Gardens homeowners and residents, are appalled by the "as of right" ruling which allows owners and developers to erect buildings in our neighborhood with no regard to the impact they will present to our quality of life and the value of our homes........