Norah Jones Brooklyn window crisis averted
Singer Norah Jones, whose plans to install windows in the brick side wall of her landmarked $4.99 million Cobble Hill brownstone had her feuding with preservationist neighbors, has fended off a threatened lawsuit by filing a new building plan calling for fewer windows.
Jones' initial plans called for ten windows to be added to the traditionally windowless side wall of the building, which seriously pissed off the folks at the Cobble Hill Association. Association president Roy Sloane insisted that side windows, which he said were "out of character" with both Jones' home and the landmarked neighborhood, would set "a dangerous precedent" by opening the door to similar alterations in scores of other local greek revival brownstones with windowless side walls.
Sloane, whose e-mail correspondence with Jones mysteriously got into the hands of the Post, didn't-quite-suggest to them that Jones' celebrity got her around the usual Landmarks Preservation Commission approval process ordinary joes planning extensive renovations on their five million dollar Greek Revival brownstones in Cobble Hill would have to go through. He also said that she can afford really good legal talent, and that seems to be true, because she did sidestep the usual process to some extent.
Jones went before the Landmarks board, which held a full hearing in June, to have renovations approved, but the plans she submitted did not include the vext windows. Those were added later, in a filing which allows the Commission to approve "minor" changes to the already approved work without a public hearing. External structural changes are generally not considered to be "minor."
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The neighbors have also, seemingly, been a tad disingenous about the whole thing. The threatened lawsuit was going to claim that the windows would make the external wall structurally unsafe and pose a danger to nearby buildings, not a concern neighborhood aesthetes were raising in any other context. Dick Moore, the President of the Co-op next door, didn't quite confirm that a deal was cut to make the suit go away, citing an "agreement" which didn't allow him to comment.
Jones' current plans involve seven windows, three on the top floor and four on the bottom, which will still be non-traditional and less stable than brick, but which will number fewer than ten. Mr. Sloane of the Cobble Hill Association, who as recently as last month was suggesting that Jones wasn't a good enough neighbor to live in his neighborhood, was partially gracious in partial victory. "I'm still concerned that this sets a precedent," Sloane told The Brooklyn Paper, "but I'm always in favor of a compromise, if that's what happened here."
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