Zero Energy Red Hook Green Gets Zero Help From City

Architecture, East
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Rendering of the proposed Redhook Green project (Courtesy Jay Amato / RHG)

Rendering of the proposed Redhook Green project (Courtesy Jay Amato / RHG)

Red Hook Green gets a red light from the NYC Department of Buildings.  Brooklyn’s touted “brownstone of the future” is up against the ropes after a zoning decision ruled the mixed-use building cannot proceed as planned.  Jay Amato’s ultra-sustainable, shipping-container chic Red Hook Green was denied its proposed accessory residential use on industrially zoned land, officially throwing the entire project into limbo.

Section through the proposed Redhook Green project (Courtesy Jay Amato / RHG)

Section through the proposed Redhook Green project (Courtesy Jay Amato / RHG)

Designed by Garrison Architects, Red Hook Green was to be a model of sustainability in the Brooklyn neighborhood.  The 4,000 square foot net-zero-energy structure would have provided live-work space with an array of green technologies including a solar car charging station, photovoltaic panels, and an ultra-insulated building envelope.

It was that residential component that ran Red Hook Green afoul with the DOB.  By law, the accessory residence cannot exceed 15 percent of the building’s gross area – and in fact the space in question only comprised 12 percent of the total area – but the city saw the entire structure as too small to warrant such a space to begin with.  Amato shares the latest on the RHG blog:

As of yesterday, my dream of building the first net Zero-Energy work live building in Brooklyn seems to be officially DEAD!

I was advised that given my particular use, I could  make an “M” zoned plot work.  What that means is that given the majority of my structure was to be dedicated to commercial use, the living quarters would be an ‘accessory’ to the true function of the building.  Therefore we would request the building department grant us permission to live in what would is called a “caretakers apartment”, which would be incidental to it’s primary use.

The Brooklyn Paper spoke with the architect about the current state of Red Hook:

Garrison saw his defeat as part of an ongoing conflict in Red Hook between residential and manufacturing.

“It’s been a battleground,” Garrison said because industrial businesses do not want Red Hook to become residential.

So Garrison’s lot remains zoned for manufacturing, even though it is actually too small to be used for anything except residential.

“Common sense is not prevailing here,” Garrison said.

Red Hook blog A View from the Hook shares this sentiment, pointing out that the lot where the project was to be built is next to two residential structures.

We’ll see how Amato proceeds from here.  Three options he’s considering – redefine the project as an office building, file for a zoning variance with its requisite costs and delays, or scrap the site and begin anew somewhere else – will surely add time, cost, and frustration to the already ambitious project.

Rendering of the proposed Redhook Green project (Courtesy Jay Amato / RHG)

Rendering of the proposed Redhook Green project (Courtesy Jay Amato / RHG)

2 Responses to “Zero Energy Red Hook Green Gets Zero Help From City”

  1. Amy says:

    What a gorgeous, airy building stuck on top of the most hideous, blank, inelegant, atrociously opaque base anyone could have possibly imagined. The base is one giant WTF (also I’m sorry, but what’s sustainable, exactly, about a two car garage in BROOKLYN?) that would be a monstrosity in any neighborhood. Industrial vs residential aside, this facade would be a crime against urbanism and streetscape anywhere.

    Whether or not any of this factored in DOB’s decision (and it doesn’t sound like it did), the designer needs to go back to the drawing board and put a minimum of thought into the streetscape and facade aside from “red brick=brownstone.” What a horror show that completely distracts me from everything above the first story.

  2. Jay Amato says:

    Amy, I don’t want to debate the ascetics of the masonry ground floor, but I did want to clarify the garage. I designed large to accommodate a good size shop (for wood work, etc.) and parking/charger for my Chevy Volt (promised an early one) with rapid charger and my bicycles and scooter. Hardly the ” Hummer Home” it’s size might suggest. Thanks for your comments..


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