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Schwartz Co. chimneys to be demolished

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"The stacks are coming down, unfortunately. We had no choice" said Cheskel Schwimmer, a partner with CGS Developers, the Brooklyn firm behind a $100 million project to convert the industrial relic into 400 luxury condos. Initial designs had the four, 275-foot-high smokestacks bracing a 10-story glass skyscraper jutting from the top of the former generating station for the Penn Central Railroad, Schwimmer said. That plan was nixed when the city Department of Buildings told Schwimmer he would need a variance to build higher than 120 feet. An engineering study also revealed weaknesses in the chimneys. "It seems like certain pieces are starting to fall off," Schwimmer said. CGS opted to widen the top half of the complex rather than build higher, displacing the smokestacks to appease zoning standards. It will cost $250,000 to raze them, according to city Buildings Department documents. Demolition was slated to start this week. Schwimmer did not have a completion date. Area residents had mixed reactions to losing the smokestacks, which were immortalized in the 1920s by painter Georgia O'Keefe in her series "Across the East River." "It's unfortunate," said Talitha Whidbee, co-owner of Ten63 on Jackson Avenue in Hunters Point. The cafe began selling T-shirts last year depicting the power plant as an emblem of the neighborhood's industrial past. That is a history that 75-year old Dominick Masotti said he wants to forget. A lifelong Hunters Point resident, he recalled how the chimneys made life miserable when he was a boy. They spewed soot on hanging laundry and dusted cars on the street with black ash, he said."I'm so happy they're coming down because I've got bad memories of them," Masotti said. His friend and fellow Hunters Point lifer, Frank Carrado, 75, agreed. "I think they should come down because they are an eyesore," he said. Community Board 2 Chairman Joe Conley said there was a push in the neighborhood years back to landmark the building. "It's a shame if the towers are coming down just to make way for more housing," Conley said. "People have a real affinity for them. It's kind of like one of those landmarks that you look for in the area. You grow attached to them."Reach reporter Matthew Monks by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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