Is Demolition Next at Prime Brooklyn Heights Site?
By Lore Croghan
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Take a long look at one of Brooklyn Heights' rare derelict buildings, 153 Remsen St. You won't be seeing it for much longer.
The forlorn eyesore depicted in our photos – the one with the faded Brooklyn Central YMCA sign hanging above shattered windows and the tattered awning of shuttered Saigon Garden restaurant – is about to be covered with a sidewalk shed.
The planned installation of the wood and steel shed is probably a prelude to its demolition – to make way for development at a prime site a half-block away from Brooklyn Borough Hall.
It's part of a three-building site with a combined 73,600 square feet of developable space, as the Brooklyn Eagle previously reported.
Neighborhood residents have been waiting to see what happens next at the sad-sack commercial property – which along with the other two buildings in the development site has unused air rights and is outside the neighborhood's two landmark districts.
The city Buildings Department issued permits on Jan. 10 for sidewalk sheds for 153 Remsen – as well as for 155 and 157 Remsen St., two neighboring five-story residential buildings with retail spaces.
The city requires the installation of sidewalk sheds when a building more than 25 feet high is demolished or a building more than 40 feet high is constructed. Two-story 153 Remsen is 29 feet tall.
Because the buildings are short, they are not subject to a city requirement that's the cause for many sidewalk sheds' installation – the one that requires landlords to hire engineers every five years to inspect the facades of buildings more than six stories tall.
All three belong to Upper West Side-based Quinlan Development Group, which paid two different sellers a total of $13.89 million for them last year, the Eagle has reported.
Developer Timothy Quinlan – whose firm is constructing a rental apartment building at 267 Pacific St. in Boerum Hill – is keeping silent for now about what he's got planned for the Remsen Street site. He didn't answer requests for comment.
The previous owner of 153 Remsen, the late Fred Musser, had big dreams for the tiny building. He wanted to add four floors to it and turn it into a small hotel.
After Musser died, his family faced a big estate-tax bill and was “under a lot of pressure not to spend money” – and so should be forgiven for letting the building fall into disrepair, a neighborhood real estate source previously told the Eagle.
As another prelude to development at the three-building site, a popular hangout for St. Francis College students, Wi-Pie, recently closed at 155 Remsen.
Students attending the college across the street from the cafe were drawn to it by pizza giveaways. Customers who “liked” the restaurant on Facebook got free slices on Fridays.
Before that, the hair dresser on the second floor of 157 Remsen closed, and three employees moved to another Brooklyn Heights salon.
The seller of 155 and 157 Remsen was Carl A. Zerbo, city records indicate.