Things are gonna stay quiet for a while at the site of the Oliver House—better known as 360 Smith. At an Aug. 28 Community Board 6 Public Land Use Meeting, held at PS 32 on Hoyt Street in Carroll Gardens, developer Billy "As Of Right" Stein was denied an extension that would allow him to finish the foundation of his highly unpopular, seven-story building, and thus skirt new 55-feet-tops height regulations created by the recent passage of Carroll Garden's new "narrow streets" zoning text amendment. The Land Use board will now pass along their recommendation to the full CB6, which will likely follow suit.
The auditorium held a crowd of about 150—not bad for the Thursday before Labor Day weekend. Would-be speakers were invited to sign either a "pro" or "con" list. The fight was a bit lopsided. A total of four signed up to speak in favor of the project. The remainder, a couple dozen, spoke on the "con" side.
The first "pro" speaker was—hilariously—Buddy Scotto himself, Mr. Carroll Gardens incarnate, Mr. pro-development. Gee, how'd that happen? He said 360 was the best thing to happen to that ugly corner of Carroll Gardens in his memory. Also speaking "pro" were a seemingly reasonable man who said he was an architect; a woman with beady, pin-wheeled eyes and an out-of-it air—a CB6 member, it turned out—who blamed the community for creating a bad situation because it didn't really want to get along with anyone for any reason; and a breezy, boozy, Country Club guy (the husband of the previously mentioned woman) who mentioned a loophole in the new zoning amendment that would allow for a 12-story needle building. He recommended Billy Stein build such a structure, apparently out of revenge.
The "con" group were more measured, quietly passionate and well-prepared. No one screamed, no one got emotional. One mentioned that Stein had been "tone deaf" all along to the community's concerns about the scale of his building from the first. The same man mentioned that several pages of renderings of 360's foundation plans were missing from the materials Stein submitted. Another man thought it ironic that, after months of telling Carroll Gardeners that the site was "as of right" and he could do as he pleased, that Stein should feel ill used when "the tables are turned." One MTA worker asserted that she had knowledge of the Carroll Street subway station and that it couldn't support the bulk of 360 as proposed. "The engineers of the Titanic said it would never sink," she remarked.
Stein spoke little. He mainly let a female legal mouthpiece do the talking. She talked a lot about the 90 piles that had been driven into the ground to support the structure that, by dint of cost and labor, added up to more than 50% of the foundation having been laid—a contradiction of the DOB finding that only 20% had been completed. The lawyer also made a bitter observation that she had never heard of the DOB making such an estimate in the past.
Stein, meanwhile, leaned against the lip of the auditorium's stage, a study in negative body language. Deeply tanned and immaculately groomed, his deep navy suit, white shirt and pink tie hung beautifully off his trim, athletic frame. He betrayed no emotion or anxiety, blandly frowning at the gathered crowd. To my eye, he was a picture of ingrained smugness. If there had been a button in the room that triggered a trap door to make the crowd disappear, he would have hit it, then breathed on his fingernails and polished them against his lapel.