If you blinked, you might not have noticed the seven-story building that is going up at what has been an empty lot for years, at 480 Stratford Road, between Dorchester and Ditmas. Every time we pass it, it seems like another story has been added to this building, which you may remember as one that almost didn’t get built.
The Victorian house that used to be on the lot was knocked down by its new owner, Jay Loeffler, in 2006. In December 2011, The Brooklyn Ink explained the story of how Loeffler planned to build a new seven-story structure on the site, which zoning at the time allowed. He reportedly began work on the foundation, but then construction stopped.
In 2009, the neighborhood managed to create a new zoning map, which rezoned this block from R6, which allows tall residential structures to be built, to R3X, which only allows single-family homes.
So when in 2011, a potential new owner of this lot hoped to buy it to build a high-rise, that company, 10 Stratford Associates, wouldn’t have been able to do so. They’d missed the two-year window to refile the permits with the Department of Buildings under the old zoning, and had to appeal to the Board of Standards and Appeals.
Community Board 14, voicing the opinions of the community that had worked hard to create the new zoning laws, sent a letter recommending that the BSA deny the application of appeal. From The Brooklyn Ink:
The community board’s concerns toward the buyer, according to the letter, is that the applicant does not own the property but is claiming financial hardship if the appeal is denied. The allegation of “bad faith” on the part of the current owner is not spelled out, but seems to be the result of five years of tensions between him and the community.
After months of being pushed along the calendar at BSA, on August 21, 2012, they decided in favor of the owner, and allowed the old permits to stand:
WHEREAS, while the Board was not swayed by any of the Opposition’s arguments, it nevertheless understands that the community and the elected officials worked diligently on the Flatbush Rezoning and that the Building does not comply with the new zoning parameters; and
WHEREAS, however, the Board finds that the applicant has met the test for a common law vested rights determination, and therefore has the right to continue construction on the site pursuant to the zoning regulations in place prior to the Rezoning Date.
Therefore it is Resolved that this appeal made pursuant to the common law of vested rights requesting a reinstatement of New Building Permit No. 302228346-01-NB, as well as all related permits for various work types, either already issued or necessary to complete construction and obtain a certificate of occupancy, is granted for two years from the date of this grant.
And so, permits in place, construction started up recently and has quickly steamed ahead. There have been a couple of complaints to the Department of Buildings so far (one on January 25 for the fence not being closed after hours, and one on February 1 about the construction site being unsafe which was cleared the same day), but nothing significant. All the main complaints — that this building not be built at all — had already been voiced in 2011, and rejected by the BSA last year.
The new building will have 14 residential units, and according to permits, will have some space dedicated to “community” facilities. Bricolage Architecture & Design, which has added many brick and glass boxes to Brooklyn, is working on the project.
It will join two other multiple-story buildings that are located up the block, closer to Dorchester, which were built in the 1960s. The house between this site and the first apartment building remains boarded up. In the other direction, 496 Stratford Road is still an empty lot, the stalled construction site of a potential community center by the Islamic Circle of North America — a lot that also had plans for a seven-story building in 2006, and which was also owned at the time by Jay Loeffler.