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They may have had a door %u2013 or should we say window %u2013 slammed in their faces, but the Cobble Hill Association is not giving up on the neighborhood’s historical architecture, even if a Grammy-winning singer wants it changed.
Although the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) turned down their pleas to stop crooner Norah Jones’ plans to place ten windows on the side of her 19th Century Greek revival home, members hope to mend a few fences and change a few laws with a “more detailed technical response,” Association President Roy Sloane said.
The response, outlined in a letter sent to the LPC last week, included a survey of the landmarked neighborhood that showed that Jones’ $4.9 million brownstone on Amity Street between Court and Clinton streets would be the odd-home-out if she decides to install “ten new masonry openings” as well as “two over two double hung windows within the openings.”
“We found out that there are 52 buildings in the area that were built pre-1850,” Sloane said. “About 12 of them had additions to their walls over the years, but none of them had ten windows.”
“We felt we proved that this is a precedent setting decision,” Sloane said. “That’s our concern -- a new precedent like this shouldn’t be made without a public hearing.”
The LPC has yet to respond to the letter, although Sloane said that their request for a public hearing is gaining momentum. Community Board 6, outgoing City Councilman Bill de Blasio and incoming Councilman Brad Lander are all backing their play.
LPC officials continue to contend that their approval was above board and that they did not %u2013 as some have claimed %u2013 give preferential treatment to the sultry songstress.
City officials said that Jones’ contractor went in front of the Landmarks Commission back in June with some modest interior changes in mind. The LPC approved the changes, which did not raise any red flags with the community.
The contractor returned to the LPC a few months later with their window request. Considered additional changes to an already approved permit that fit within established criteria, the LPC approved them in house, explained Lisi de Bourbon, an LPC spokesperson.
“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, adding that only five percent of the approvals are done through public hearings.
Sloane believes that these follow up approvals are nothing more than legal loopholes to circumvent the public review process that need to be closed.
Yet he doesn’t believe that Jones is complicit in this would-be scam.
“She has the legal right to do what she did,” Sloane said. “We think it’s more a flaw in the LPC regs. We’re sure that Norah Jones would be perfectly happy having to undergo a public review.”
“Moving into a good neighborhood involves being a good neighbor,” he added. “Norah Jones doesn’t have to live in a historic district, but she plainly made a choice to do so. She wants to enjoy the benefits of living in a landmarked neighborhood, but she therefore has a responsibility to recognize and maintain its character.”
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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