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Developers Look to Please On Battery Avenue

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Changes in plans for a new development on Battery Avenue reflect requests made by nearby residents. The condominium development that is going to be built, as-of-right, at 183 and 187 Battery Avenue, has been tweaked as a result of a pair of meetings with people living nearby, said Victor Gomez, the developer. Gomez, who used to live in one of the houses on the double 100 by 130-foot lot, stressed that his intention, in working with the community, was to, “Build a reputation that we’re a little different.” Gomez said that he and his partners are potentially interested in doing other developments in the area. “We’re trying to build our reputation and style from the onset,” stressed Gomez. “We’re trying to build something that doesn’t necessarily reap every dollar of profit,” but which, he said, is more acceptable to people living nearby. While, said Gomez, he could have put in as many 12 apartments, he limited the development to eight. He also said that he had decided to forego putting a community facility on the first floor, “Even though it’s zoned so I could do that, and even though it would have generated a nice amount of money.” Among the changes to emerge from the meetings between residents and the developer and his architect, which were organized by City Councilmember Vincent Gentile, are certain alterations in materials. “His design plans have been changed in response to some of the community’s suggestions,” noted Gentile, who said that he was “pleased with the progress being made.” Balcony railings will be wrought iron rather than concrete, and retaining wall materials will be brick to match the structure rather than faux stone. In addition, the apparent height of the building was reduced, said architect Alfred Bartolomeo, by “dropping” the building a foot and a half below the sidewalk level. The result, he noted, is that the visible height of the new development will be, “Similar to the buildings on each side, in the context of the block. We want to make something that looks contextually a little more amenable.” The entire development is four feet shorter than zoning would have permitted. “We are trying to be good neighbors,” said Bartolomeo. To respond to neighbors’ concerns about garbage piling up, Bartolomeo said that the complex will have a trash room with a compactor for organic garbage, individual kitchens will have garbage disposals, and the building will be set back six feet, to widen the sidewalk. One change that is less desirable is a reduction in the number of underground parking spaces from 16 (two for every apartment) to eight (one for every apartment). This, however, was necessitated by the makeup of the soil, said Bartolomeo. “The soil is like rock,” he explained. “If we wanted to excavate another 10 feet down, we would have to blast, and we don’t want to do that to the community.” However, while originally the plan was for two curb cuts giving access to the underground garage, there will be only one, with the revised plan. Overall, the goal was to design a building, said Bartolomeo, that is a far cry from the Fedders houses that have raised so many hackles in the community. This, he said, was accomplished through such devices as creating an indentation in the building. “It’s not a box,” Bartolomeo explained. “It has a lot of in and out articulation. “We are also keeping central air conditioning for each unit,” Bartolomeo added. This obviates the need for the through-the-wall air conditioning units that characterize the Fedders houses, he emphasized. Gomez said his ultimate goal was to create, “Something I would live in. Working with the community was something I decided to do at the onset. I think it works better that way.” “How often do you see a developer bending over backwards?” asked Mary Nilsen, an area resident and the founder of the Victory Block Association. “It shows he really cares. “The biggest win for the community is that there is no community facility,” Nilsen added. “I feel that working together was a very good thing. We avoided the disaster of 118 Battery Avenue,” a multi-story condominium complex with a medical center on the first floor that has been a bone of contention since it was under construction. “I think he’s certainly trying to work with the community to get a better design,” remarked Victoria Hofmo, the founder of the Bay Ridge Conservancy and the chairperson of the preservation committee put together by Gentile. “But, do I think that it’s okay for two perfectly fine, beautiful old houses that are livable to be demolished for profit?” Hofmo went on. “No, I don’t think it’s okay. But, in terms of what’s going to replace them, it’s better than most.” The Fort Hamilton area, she added, has been “hurt so badly” by recent development. Gomez estimated that the apartments would be ready by the end of this year or early in 2007. Their average size is approximately 1,400 square feet, and each has a balcony and outdoor space, as well as storage space in the basement. There will also be an elevator, “For the baby boomers who might want to stay in the neighborhood but who don’t want to climb three stories.”

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