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Despite pleas for reconsideration, the city’s Landmark Preservation Commission has decided not to give Grammy Award-winning recording artist Norah Jones’ worrisome window proposal on her Cobble Hill home another look.
Commission spokesperson Lisi de Bourbon told this paper Wednesday that there are no plans to hold a hearing on the Amity Street property between Clinton and Court streets regardless of complaints from the Cobble Hill Association and other concerned parties who believe that Jones’ new windows would be “out of character” in the landmarked block.
“We have no plans to have a hearing and there is no basis to rescind the existing approval,” de Bourbon said about the songstress’ request to install “ten new masonry openings” as well as “two-over-two double-hung windows within the openings” on the side of her home.
Neighbors balked at the renovations, which were scheduled to begin this week, claiming that the changes were “inconsistent with the building’s 19th-century, Greek revival architecture” and that Community Board 6 had not been told about the renovations.
“This is a significant change, and it should have gone to a full [city Landmarks Preservation Commission] hearing because of the size, scope and significant impact it poses,” Cobble Hill Association President Roy Sloane said when he took the matter directly to Jones in an e-mail exchange. “Greek-revival buildings of your type do not have side windows, and breaking this precedent is wrong.”
Jones’ neighbors also told reporters that they were considering legal action, claiming that the windows’ proximity to their homes created a “safety hazard.”
While her voice may be sultry and calm over the airwaves, Jones’ response to Sloane was a bit fiery, recounted the New York Post.
“With respect to the Cobble Hill Association, my windows went through the approvals process with Landmarks,” she wrote, saying that her windows were not “out of character” with the neighborhood.
Jones’ contractor reportedly went in front of the Landmarks Commission back in June, receiving their approval for some modest interior changes to the $4.9 million brownstone the singer bought in January.
The changes were approved without any community objections, Commission officials said.
Contractors returned to the Commission a few months later with the window request, which was approved on October 22.
Residents said that Jones’ changes had somehow wormed their way through a “loophole” that allowed them to be approved without public consideration.
Yet de Bourbon said that there is no loophole to speak of, since Jones’ plans fit well within established criteria.
“Ninety-five percent of our permits are reviewed and approved by staff when the work meets the rules outlined in the Landmarks law,” she said. “Only about five percent of the requests that come through our door are granted at the commission level.”
The approval was just business as usual, she said, claiming that the Commission wasn’t swayed by Jones’ chart-topping siren song.
“No preferential treatment were given to the owner,” she said. “We approve work like this on many occasions.”
“If someone has a disagreement with the rule then I’m sure something can be done to change the rule,” she added.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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