08 December 2009

DeBlasio Abandons Secret Hannah Senesh Amendment

That was fast.

After a furious blogstorm erupted last week over his plan to help private school Hannah Senesh buy the City-owned courtyard next to its Smith Street building for $1, outgoing Brooklyn Councilman Bill DeBlasio "has backtracked on his secretive effort to allow a politically connected private school to move ahead with a two-story extension atop of the courtyards that give Carroll Gardens is very character," reported Brooklyn Paper.

DeBlasio’s initial effort to insert an exemption for the Hannah Senesh School into a city administrative code was immediately discovered by local preservationists and bloggers last week, prompting the kind of outrage typically reserved for large-scale development projects, not a two-story addition atop a school parking lot.

But the parking lot in question, along First Place at the corner of Smith Street, is not merely a piece of city-owned land, but an architectural feature that is fundamental to the neighborhood. Indeed, such deep lots along First though Fourth places are what give Carroll Gardens its name.

After widespread complaints that DeBlasio’s exception would set a dangerous precedent, the Councilman, who becomes the public advocate on Jan. 1, withdrew his amendment.

“I’m pleased to report that Councilman DeBlasio agreed to hold off on the amendment,” DeBlasio’s successor, Councilman-elect Brad Lander, announced at a meeting at the Hannah Senesh School on Monday night, winning one of his first semi-official rounds of applause from the crowd of 50.

The exemption that would have laid the groundwork for an extension at the school will now be taken up as part of the normal public process that accompanies any request for a land-use change.

Former Councilman Ken Fisher, now a lobbyist, estimated that the new proposal would be prepared within three months.

But winning the battle did not calm many angry locals at Monday night’s meeting. After all, the “battle” has only begun.

At the meeting, architect Larry Horowitz passed around a rendering of the proposed addition, which attendees called "hideous."

Obviously, Hannah Senesh—still not sensing the fervent, absolutely adamant opposition to their idea to build over Carroll Garden's heritage and very essence—is still going forward with its bid to claim one of the neighborhoods defining courtyards for its private use.

I appeal to Hannah Senesh once again: Show you are a part of the community by walking away from this project and admitting it was a wrongheaded proposal. You are a well-liked and respected institution at present. Continue to pursue this and you will invite a public relations distaster. You will incur the resentment and anger of the community (which is tenacious and passionate in its protection of the area), and come to be seen as an entity apart from the surrounding neighborhood which doesn't care about the rights of its neighbors. People will come to think of Hannah Senesh the way they do developer Billy Stein, builder of the much-loathed 360 Smith development right next door to Senesh.

According to Brooklyn Paper, on Monday night, Amy Glosser, vice chair of the board, emphasized her school’s connection to the community and the need for more space in its two-year-old building. “We need room for a full-sized gym, a computer room, or a theater,” she said. “We certainly need more classrooms.”

We do not doubt is, Ms. Glosser. But it's a big City. Build those needed things elsewhere. If you need help finding available lots or buildings in the immediate area, I can put you in touch with a real estate agent.

In the meantime, I think its times proposals be put forward to put that courtyard, currently a parking lot, to better use. A garden of some sort. Any ideas?

1 comment:

Bluejay said...

"Any ideas?"

I like the theater idea. How about a Greek-style outdoor theater for use by acting troupes, musicians, etc? It could double as a place to sit and have lunch...