The landlord of the Riverside Apartments in Willowtown, the Pinnacle Group, has long sought to develop an underground commercial parking garage in the courtyard between the building and the elevated Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.  Presently an order by the state’s Division of Housing and Community Outreach (DHCR) blocking the project is in effect.  The order states that Pinnacle must obtain all appropriate permits and licenses before it can submit a new application to the DHCR.

In June 2014 Pinnacle used the so-called Article 78 special proceeding to challenge the DHCR’s decision in the state’s Supreme Court.  The landlord tried to make the point that new permits were not needed.  The Riverside Tenants Association has joined the DHCR as an “intervener” in the case.

Our member of the New York City Council, Stephen Levin, via his housing and community liaison, Metin Sarci, verifies that all of Pinnacle’s previous permits have expired and that it would have to start the process all over again including a new public hearing before the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission.  The process would also require the approval of Community Board 2, the city’s Department of Buildings (DOB) and Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).  The latter is necessary because the site is within 100 feet of the train beds under Joralemon Street for the 4 and 5 subway lines. 

Pinnacle is reportedly responsible for moving documents through the various government agencies to get the needed approvals and then to self-certify that all is in order.  Throughout this long struggle the landlord has shown that it is not above trickery.  For example, the real-estate lawyer who represents Pinnacle, Ken Fisher, on one occasion submitted voided documents to the landmarks commission and then claimed there were no objections to a second plan.  There never was a second plan.

If Pinnacle won the Article 78 proceeding and again moved ahead with the garage project, the results could be devastating.  Construction could easily undermine one of Willowtown’s most significant historic structures.  If this happened, the city could condemn the property and evict all of the tenants on short notice.  To destroy it completely would be to Pinnacle’s profit and may well be the actual goal. 

Metin Sarci is expected to monitor Pinnacle’s possible submission of a new application for a construction permit to the DOB and alert us.  The public will have only limited time to review the plans and respond to the application.  Care is needed to make sure that everything is covered should the garage project again advance.

Contributions to the Willowtown Association, which are tax-deductible, can be designated for the legal costs of the Riverside Tenants Association.