In a modern-day David and Goliath-like scenario, developers are planning on building a nine-story structure behind the landmarked Angel Guardian Home on 63rd Street and 12th Avenue in Dyker Heights — and members of the community are up in arms at the thought.
The new building would be on the former site of the 22,732-square-foot “sister building” — also known as the Convent Building — which was demolished this past June. However, unlike the 140,000-square-foot Angel Guardian Home, it was not landmarked.
A rally this past Wednesday evening, July 19, organized by Guardians of the Guardian — a grassroots group of neighbors representing various concerns of the community — took place in front of the demolition site of the former Convent Building on 1222 63rd Street, and brought out roughly 75 community members and a handful of elected officials who spoke out against the new development.
However, no representatives from the opposition showed face.
Candidate for NYC Council District 43 Vito LaBella said that the proposed development is “wholly inappropriate, and threatens the unique character and livability of the neighborhood.”
LaBella also alluded to foul play on the part of developers. Most notably, a pass-through that generated a loophole that would allow them to build the nine-story structure.
“They submitted a disingenuous permit application for an ‘alteration,’ and then the developers demolished all but a quarter of one wall,” he said, adding that such an act will forever change the magnificent grandeur of the landmarked building and landscape along 12th Avenue.
“Why is there still a loophole that you can leave part of a wall up and call it an alteration? It’s not. It’s a demolition!” Guardians of the Guardian member Frank Grassi said emphatically. “Will you just sit back and let the developers have their way? You’ve got to get involved.”
“I’m mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take it anymore!” exclaimed Carl Esposito, another Guardians member.
LaBella previously tweeted that “it is vital to preserve the low-rise character of this block. A nine-story building is significantly taller than anything else in that area.” He added that such an imposing structure would dominate the skyline, casting shadows on nearby homes and drastically alter the aesthetics of the Angel Guardian Home, which the community worked so hard to landmark.
He also noted that 63rd Street is residential with low-density homes, and it is already struggling to manage the existing traffic flow, so this construction project will only exacerbate the issue.
“More residents and visitors to the building will undoubtedly lead to increased congestion, and difficulty finding parking spaces. Also, a nine-story residential building will inevitably overlook neighboring properties, invading people’s privacy, and altering the peaceful character that has existed on that block for years,” LaBella said.
State Sen. Iwen Chu called the situation “unfortunate to see,” and noted that if you want to build up, you first need community input.
“I cannot emphasize that more,” Chu said. “I live right across the street [from the proposed building site], and I stand together with our neighbors and our families.
“I don’t know what the structure will be — medical, residential — just that it will be nine stories high no matter what, and our quality of life will be impacted. I will do everything I can to work with our community board.”
Fran Vella-Marrone, president of the Dyker Heights Civic Association and a member of Guardians of the Guardian, said that the community does notwant a nine-story building simply because “it’s out of character.”
“I understand developers need to make a profit, but they should really be working with the people that live here,” Vella-Marrone explained. “We don’t even know what it’s going to be. The developers said they’d be in communication with us, and the next thing you know they knocked down the building. The only recourse we have is to do this rally — and to hopefully get the developers to reconsider what it is that they are doing.”
Community Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann also pointed out that the community board recently requested an audit of the approved plans of the developers “to make sure all regulations and zoning is up to snuff,” which could conceivably slow down the potential building process.
“The next step for us is to follow up next week with the Department of Buildings, and also touch base with the community,” Beckmann said. “I believe there is still some time.”
It should be noted that several efforts were made to reach out to developers for comment, but none responded before press time.