The Department of Buildings has ordered the demolition of a hulking, half-built home at 1882 East 12th Street that has ensnared neighbors in a legal battle for the last eight years, marking a win for the community and Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz, who fought the city relentlessly on their behalf.
“For eight years the people of East 12th Street battled the Board of Standards and Appeals, battled the Department of Buildings and battled a bureaucracy that seemed stacked against them even though common sense was on their side,” Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said.
“Anyone who saw this five-story monster of a house at 1882 East 12th Street knew it didn’t belong there. Neighbors lost sleep because they imagined the structure falling down around them. At last, justice has prevailed,” he said.
Brooklyn Buildings Commissioner Ira Gluckman requested the emergency declaration to raze the Homecrest structure. The owner, Joseph Durzieh, has 60 days to submit new plans or tear down the home. If the owner fails to follow through with either option, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development comes in and demolishes the building.
The structure was built atop an existing bungalow and towers above the other two-story homes on the block. Neighbors argued that the foundation was unable to support the building’s weight and that the house was built in violation of city zoning laws as an alteration instead of new construction. In August, the city Board of Standards and Appeals allowed construction to proceed even after Kings County Supreme Court Justice Yvonne Lewis called BSA’s original ruling “arbitrary and capricious.” In 2010, Judge Lewis issued a temporary restraining order.
In late January, Assemblyman Cymbrowitz arranged to meet with Commissioner Gluckman along with Community Board 15 chair Theresa Scavo and homeowners in the hopes of forcing the agency to clarify its position on the issue. Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said after the meeting that the Commissioner expressed “deep concerns that the architect’s plans did not accurately deal with structural issues in the building.” DOB issued a stop-work order in response to this meeting.
The problem of out-of-scale development has been heard in neighborhoods throughout the city. Assemblyman Cymbrowitz has introduced legislation (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. Self-certification allows licensed architects and engineers to approve the plans themselves and avoid a full-scale review by a Department of Buildings inspector.
Assemblyman Cymbrowitz is also looking into the absence of oversight of BSA that led to the nightmare on East 12th Street. In a letter to Mayor de Blasio in January, he sharply criticized BSA, saying that “middle-class homeowners are being victimized by a body with no accountability.”