While many people may look at 1882 East 12th Street in Sheepshead Bay–now an empty lot surrounded by a chain-link fence–they may see neglected land and real estate blight. But it represents something very different to Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn) and neighbors on the block who waged a frustrating, relentless, eight-year battle with the city and the Board of Standards and Appeals to have a monstrous construction project cancelled and ultimately demolished.
“When an out-of-scale home crops up, it is almost unheard of for the city to order it torn down,” Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said. “East 12th Street was an unusual case because of the safety issues. Even then it took eight years and cost neighbors many thousands of dollars for the city to take the appropriate action,” he said.
Extensively reported on previously by local neighborhood blog Sheepshead Bites, the home had been condemned for its gaudy, outsize display and unsafe conditions since its inception. To the lawmaker and neighbors, the now-empty lot, located on a quiet block between Avenues R and S, represents a hard-fought victory to remove the half-built, unsafe monster of a home that sat precariously atop a bungalow and towered over the structures around it.
Following a meeting arranged by Assemblyman Cymbrowitz with Brooklyn Buildings Commissioner Ira Gluckman earlier this year, the Department of Buildings ordered the demolition of the home, a virtually unprecedented move. This painstaking demolition work, which required disassembling the home piece by piece (so as not to harm the houses on either side), was only recently completed.
For the Assemblyman, the victory and the neighbors’ dogged persistence serves as a cautionary tale for architects and engineers who attempt to skirt the law by “self-certifying” improper building plans. This problem has been seen in residential neighborhoods throughout the city, not just in southern Brooklyn, and largely the people who commit the violations get off scot-free because of lack of oversight, he said.
During the last legislative session, Assemblyman Cymbrowitz introduced a bill (A.1536) that would suspend the licenses of professional engineers and architects who abuse their privileges allowed under New York City’s self-certification program. The program essentially allows licensed architects and engineers to approve the plans themselves and avoid a full-scale review by a Department of Buildings inspector. Cymbrowitz plans to re-introduce the legislation during the upcoming session.
“We fought too long and too hard not to see this through to the end,” he said.
But the problems are not over on East 12th Street, where residents are concerned about the future of the site, which has been owned by Dr. Joseph Durzieh since 2005. The Assemblyman said he’ll continue to monitor the issue and will work with the Department of Buildings to ensure that any plans that are submitted comply with current zoning regulations.
Dr. Joseph Durzieh did not return a request for comment.