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Re: Those New construction 2 Families
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Roaring20s wrote:
Had Jersey City the gumption to have a similar type of conservation district, Lincoln Park as well as other neighbourhoods could be protected...but because we don't subscribe to purist ideals, we're left buck naked for exploitation.


Actually, I don't think my block on 7th DESERVES exalted "Historic District" status, even if I was as purist as Mr. Parkhurst! With 7 empty lots when we moved here, it ain't no showcase even though it has some of the oldest houses in the area. But it deserved better than to have 2 hideous white brick, setback 2 families stuck between 3 impressive 4 floor corniced bricks, like poodles among mastiffs.

A "conservation district" zoning could help heal blocks like mine back to former glory, instead of ignoring them like Historic did, cutting cleanly around it. I believe there's plenty of other blocks in JC similarly distressed, but getting no help from indifferent zoning.

Posted on: 2005/12/27 5:43
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Re: Those New construction 2 Families
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JPhurst wrote:
If you're going to go through the work of preserving the neighborhood, go for the real deal. The Conservancy is happy to support such efforts.


I would think that the Landmarks Conservancy would support ANY effort that helped to preserve the fabric of the neighbourhoods, whether it was for a Historic District or not.

What kills me over and over again is that the purists in the preservation movement don't understand that not everyone wants to be a historic district but definitely supports protecting their neighbourhoods from the developers that are ruining our areas.

I lived in the Lincoln Park neighbourhood for 6 years and worked diligently to educate the masses about the benefits of becoming a historic district. However, over and over again, everytime I would win a minor battle, some purist would come in and ruin the whole thing and erode any support that I'd managed to gain for LP becoming a Historic District.

As I told one of my purist neighbours one day after he commented negatively on a fountain in the front yard that wasn't original to my house...you need to remove all your electricity and indoor plumbing before you start critisicing others...you're home didn't have indoor plumbing or lights when it was built...remove them and then tell others what to do.

I support historic districts but I flat refuse to live in a time capsule! Had Jersey City the gumption to have a similar type of conservation district, Lincoln Park as well as other neighbourhoods could be protected...but because we don't subscribe to purist ideals, we're left buck naked for exploitation.

Posted on: 2005/12/27 3:59
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Re: Those New construction 2 Families
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JPhurst wrote:
If you're going to go through the work of preserving the neighborhood, go for the real deal. The Conservancy is happy to support such efforts.


Unfortunately, making the only option to be a full blown "Historic District" may be why there is so little under protection in JC at large. From reading this thread, what people are reacting to is contemporary style infill in a period neighborhood, which is exactly what Historic designation would require!! They would likely be perfectly happy with what you disdainfully call "theme park" type preservation, calling for period looking infill and features without being precious about it.

Such a "Conservation District" would probably get far more support and be extended to more contiguous areas of JC, rather than a few patches worthy of the museum treatment. Your way is NOT the only way, which if you bothered to read the Dallas documents you would see. I'm sure plenty of other cities have a multitiered approach. "All or nothing" has done exactly nothing for the rest of JC, or even the downtowners outside the districts.

Posted on: 2005/12/27 3:12
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Re: Those New construction 2 Families
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If neighborhood residents are willing to commit the time and effort toward historic designation, it is an excellent idea.

As you may have seen in this and other threads, there will always be some people who claim that the historic designation is too onerous.

The real problem here is for the most part a lack of manpower and resources from the city, as there is only one Historic Preservation Officer for all of Jersey City. If enough Jersey City residents express a strong desire for historic preservation, however, this can be changed.

The guidelines themselves are not the problem. Although I cannot speak for the specifics of a proposed "Conservation District," the various proposals that were made to water down the Jersey City ordinance would have 1) essentially made compliance voluntary, and 2) created guidelines that would allow for "theme park" type preservation.

If you're going to go through the work of preserving the neighborhood, go for the real deal. The Conservancy is happy to support such efforts.

We plan to lead at least one tour of Jersey City Heights during preservation month (May, 2006) and, if the community expresses enough interest, can organize more such tours and events.

Joshua Parkhurst
President
Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy

Posted on: 2005/12/27 1:43
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Re: Those New construction 2 Families
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brewster wrote:
Yup, that's it EXACTLY!!

Too many times governments large and small act like nothing exists beyond their borders as examples of other approaches to problems.


If you haven't already, check out the .pdf file at the bottom (Introductory Packet) of the page. It has a lot of info and FAQs that would be useful when trying to comprehend the difference between a historic district and a conservation district.

Posted on: 2005/12/26 19:18
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Re: Those New construction 2 Families
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Roaring20s wrote:

Here in Dallas we have what is termed "Conservation Districts" that are basically the Historic District Lite that you mentioned. Perhaps Jersey City should look into creating similar type conservation districts.

For info on them you can look here:
Dallas Conservation District


Yup, that's it EXACTLY!!

Too many times governments large and small act like nothing exists beyond their borders as examples of other approaches to problems.

Posted on: 2005/12/26 19:02
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Re: Those New construction 2 Families
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Be careful what you wish for, in Hamilton Park Historic District there's plenty of disgruntled homeowners who believe some of the rules or their application are hurting more than helping. How does $2000 per new window sound to you?

As I also live outside a historic district, I wish there was some designation of "historic lite". Not the anal restrictive museum preservation of the current districts, but a design guideline like many cities have. Things like: historic color bricks (no white, etc), no chain link fences, flat roofs in a row of flat roof town houses, no dish antennas visible from the street and some review of teardowns. I'm sure anyone can come up with more.

There should be a middle ground between the absolutes of the Districts and the "anything goes" outside them. If Santa Barbara can require red tile roofs as a matter of design code, JC can surely have some aesthetic codes too.

FWIW, I said as much to Mariano Vega years ago and his only response was "extend the historic district". So don't look to the Council for vision.


Here in Dallas we have what is termed "Conservation Districts" that are basically the Historic District Lite that you mentioned. Perhaps Jersey City should look into creating similar type conservation districts.

For info on them you can look here:
Dallas Conservation District

Perhaps someone there with the time and energy to fight for such a district in JC can make a real difference so these grand old houses that are becoming an increasingly scarce commodity can be better preserved and the historic fabric of the neighbourhoods can be preserved.

Edited to add: A similar type conservation district may be far more palatable to those homeowners who do not wish to live by the encumbrances that living in a historic district can bestow but still wish to protect their neighbourhoods.

Posted on: 2005/12/26 18:28
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Re: Those New construction 2 Families
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Nuada wrote:
Is it possible to designate Sherman Place as historic? What's the procedure?


Be careful what you wish for, in Hamilton Park Historic District there's plenty of disgruntled homeowners who believe some of the rules or their application are hurting more than helping. How does $2000 per new window sound to you?

As I also live outside a historic district, I wish there was some designation of "historic lite". Not the anal restrictive museum preservation of the current districts, but a design guideline like many cities have. Things like: historic color bricks (no white, etc), no chain link fences, flat roofs in a row of flat roof town houses, no dish antennas visible from the street and some review of teardowns. I'm sure anyone can come up with more.

There should be a middle ground between the absolutes of the Districts and the "anything goes" outside them. If Santa Barbara can require red tile roofs as a matter of design code, JC can surely have some aesthetic codes too.

FWIW, I said as much to Mariano Vega years ago and his only response was "extend the historic district". So don't look to the Council for vision.


Posted on: 2005/12/26 17:28
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Re: Those New construction 2 Families
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Thank you for the input. I will bring this up with active members of the Sherman Place Block Association. We've done a pretty good job with trees on the block and possibly could extend into other areas.


Posted on: 2005/12/26 17:19
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Re: Those New construction 2 Families
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To get Sherman Place and the surrounding Victorian area designated as an official historic district, the following has to occur:

1. HOMEOWNER SUPPORT. There has to be a significant amount of support from this vital base. Significant in the sense that virtually all want it, need it, demand it, rally for it. Without homeowner support Councilman Bill Gaughan, who needs to be in favor, will balk and axe it in one mighty swoop.

2. EDUCATION. Read up on the financial and cultural benefits of becoming a historic district. The State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) in Trenton specializes in this. Contact Bob Craig. Invite him and other SHPO officials for a tour of the area. If they are not excited (like Gaughan must be) then the process, if it begins, hits a serious snag. Check out the New Jersey Historic Trust website for detailed info on matching restoration grants--invite them also. Reach out to the Downtown historic districts--all have active neighborhood associations.

3. ORGANIZE. Get people in the area mobilized; hook up with local neighborhood groups like Sherman Place Block Association, etc. Form a "Victorian Heights" preservation group. Invite Gaughan and Mayor Healy to a meeting. Start talking it up, creating a campaign. Website anyone?

4. MEDIA ATTENTION. Tired of the cookie cutter syndrome ravaging the Heights? Upset with the erasure of historic homes? Think about the Victorian lady on Sherman Place, about to be leveled. Think about the early 19th century farmhouse on Oakland Avenue, taken down this summer for a cookie cutter. Think about the equally aged house on Sherman Avenue, with demolition tape winding around its facade. Think about these and talk to the press. The Jersey Journal. The JC Reporter. The NY Times. News 12 NJ.

5. NETWORK. Reach out to Preservation New Jersey; ask them for assistance across the board; it's their specialty. Befriend Dan Wrieden and members of the Historic Preservation Commission--you will need their backing as well.

6. PERSERVERANCE. Go the distance. Acquire landmark status at all costs. Protect other old homes from outside developers who could care less about the quality of life and the historic fabric of your neighborhood.

It is the truth:

Landmark it or they will come.

-historyrules


Posted on: 2005/12/26 16:24
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Re: Those New construction 2 Families
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You know I think I may go on an illegal "bonus" hunt soon.>>

Please do it!

What fries me are the ads on Craig's List for NEW construction with a "bonus" apt.

I suppose I'm equally annoyed by the realtors who chirp about the "cashflow" benefits of a "bonus" apartment. An illegal apartment is an illegal apartment. Realtors who tout these units should lose their licenses.

Posted on: 2005/12/26 15:19
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Re: Those New construction 2 Families
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Is it possible to designate Sherman Place as historic? What's the procedure?

As a homeowner on Sherman Place, I can support this. The block between Sanford and Summit is still pretty good, and the block between Sanford and JFK is OK.

Posted on: 2005/12/26 15:16
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Re: Those New construction 2 Families
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The worst thing is the zoning sometimes requires crappy infill.

There's rows of grand brick 4 story 25 wides that infill code requires 3 story, 2 families, 20 ft wide and unattached. At least they got rid of the front setbacks like on 7th across from Academic, but this is still not fitting into the block.

If you were a developer buying one of these lots, you wouldn't be able to build as dense as the buildings surrounding you. This may be a reason for the cheap construction. High land and construction costs relative to the sq footage you're allowed to build forces them to cheap out. Not that some need a reason, but the numbers are bizzarre.

Try this:

I was told a lot downtown costs $300K and decent construction costs can average $150/ft. The new construction at Coles & 7th, a 2 family of ~4000 sq ft, sold for $500k each. Thats a theoretical margin of $100k, which doesn't account for legal fees or bridge loan debt service, etc. That doesn't sound like a way to make money to me.

I wandered through the open house there and for $500k you got the same $350 range I put in my rentals, Oak floors already cupped and trim details that looked like someone didn't know what a miter joint was, or how to sand putty for that matter.

Anyone have an explanation, other than they spent lots less per foot? It sure looked that way. I'd love to know the numbers there and the places in the heights. I do know the numbers they use for "replacement" in appraisals have nothing to do with reality.



Posted on: 2005/12/26 6:40
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Re: Those New construction 2 Families
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Very true. There's really very little left in Jersey City, especially when sheer geographical area is considered, of historic architecture strongly characteristic of its era. Most of our notable older buildings have been left to deteriorate (take a look at the Apple Tree House, one of our city's worst embarassments), or just seemingly taken for granted. This house on Sherman Place is a glum example of that - a great example of late Victorian grace and beauty - it shines through despite the obvious neglect and disrepair - now scheduled for demolition. No point in saving such a wonderful, old urban mansion - no reason in preserving a much-needed element of beauty in this city. Money seems to be everything nowadays.

You put it perfectly - it's all about landmarking now, in order to prevent this sort of thing from happening more and more. Believe me, I'm off to check out whether or not my block is protected in any way at all - my little house can't remotely compare to that of Sherman Place's beautiful old manse, but I'll be darned if I don't do what I can to protect it. Yeesh, I'm so angry right now...

Posted on: 2005/12/26 6:36
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Re: Those New construction 2 Families
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Allow me to add:

If the Sherman Place residential area had been designated an official historic district (like Downtown Jersey City's now 5 historic districts) the Victorian lady about to be leveled would, more than likely, have a fighting chance. The Jersey City Historic District Commission would never have allowed it to be taken down for no good reason other than to build structures that detract from the area's 19th century architectural fabric.

Not to sound alarmist or even negative, but this should be a wake up call to the homeowners of Sherman Place (though in truth other undistricted neighborhoods in Jersey City have sounded the "save our history" sirens before, only to see them grow silent again).

My advice in any case:

Landmark it or they will come.


Posted on: 2005/12/26 6:24
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Re: Those New construction 2 Families
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historyrules -

It really makes me sick to hear about this sort of thing - even worse, by far, to see that great old house come down. I have some good friends who live on that block, and I've loved that, along with the neighboring house, since first sight. When the other house (you can see the gingerbread a bit in your pic) was fixed up, I had hopes for the green one, as well... what a terrible shame to hear of its unfortunate fate.

Between indescriminate architectural butchering like this and the prevalence of aluminum siding hack jobs, Jersey City is looking bleaker and bleaker. This just makes me want to vomit.

Just edited to add that, owning an 1895 rowhouse in the Heights, I take this sort of thing to heart. We bought this house as a fixer upper, which has been an ongoing labor of true love for us. Even with its quirks and qualms, I can't ever imagine selling this house for the purpose of being knocked down for a new development. It really hurts to see that house again, knowing what's to come. For shame.

Posted on: 2005/12/26 5:53
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Re: Those New construction 2 Families
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You know I think I may go on an illegal "bonus" hunt soon. Although the last time I wrote in about parking 2 years ago, I believe referring to the JCPA as the "parking gestapo" and was then treated to a meeting with the then Director, and an officer, a parking officer, and someone from the incinerator authority all with a copy of my complaint in hand. I digress though

I actually considered getting a lot before purchasing my house and throwing a WeeHouse prefab on it.

I thought and still think it would be fantastic if someone who had a lot would just throw a double stack of these on (pdf here at http://weehouses.com/notsoweehouse.pdf ) or some variation there of.

I guess not even modern but, actually what irks me is that there is an opportunity to add some architectural detail to these cookie cutter boxes during construction, but instead they go for the cheapest grey-yellow brick facade and home Depot doors. They rip down fixer uppers that could be rehabbed and restored to some original beauty, and instead replace it with buildings that would be better suited in brooklyn circa 1984.

And I totally understand that there are some builders doing better jobs. Here in the very same area you have the total opposite going on with the restore on the corner of Franklin and Webster 69 Franklin, and also ther is this guy/company Jaime Restoration that has been doing top notch work around here and in downtown as well.

All said it's just a shame that while some people are making a concerted effort to beautify parts of JC, there are others inadvertently destroying it. *sigh*

Posted on: 2005/12/26 5:25
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Re: Those New construction 2 Families
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Unfortunately, they're not just in the Heights. Been to Greenville lately? Fewer have been going up downtown recently because most of the land is already spoken for, but even there, five in a row went up inside the Van Vorst Park Historic District (on York Street between Grove and Barrow) during the Cucci administration when he disbanded the Historic Preservation Commission. It requires a slightly more expensive architect to design a better house, but the "build and run" developers choose not to do it because there is an insatiable demand for ugly. Unfortunately, and surprisingly, most of the market doesn't seem to care about the look of their houses, more concerned with space for themselves and a "bonus" unit or two. Realtors even tout these ugly houses as attractive. Education of the buying public is sorely needed to help drive the market toward better design.

The cookie cutters slide under the radar because most of them don't hit the threshold for Planning Board approval and instead are approved in-house by Zoning. They're generally in 1-2 family zones and quickly become illegal threes, also, under the radar. The way to stop the "bonus" units (which are not computed into the property tax assessment) is to document when you know there are more than the permitted two families, using photos of mailboxes, etc. Once you've got the evidence, take it to Zoning at 30 Montgomery and there is a high probability that you will get action. Although Zoning doesn't go looking for more work, it's different when you report it. To help assure action, send copies of your evidence to the Director of HEDC and the Planning Board.

A long shot, but within the realm of possibility if citizens of all wards pressure their councilpeople and mayor, is to draft stricter design standards for 1-2 family houses. The law allows it but political will is necessary to make it happen.

Posted on: 2005/12/26 3:18
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Re: Those New construction 2 Families
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Many historic homes in Jersey City and other parts of Hudson County are being leveled for those architectural eyesores--and elected officials, planners and local architects are not blinking a single eye.

Witness this 19th century Victorian mansion on Sherman Place in the Jersey City Heights: it is about to be demolished to make way for the classic cookie cutter infill. I believe two are set to go up in place of this magnificent, irreplaceable structure.

And two old-growth Sycamores at the front edge of the vast property will be cut down to make way for car port right-of-ways.

This, ladies and gentleman, is but one egregious effect of the current real estate boom.

Every lot--empty or occupied--is lucrative. Everyone, now, is a developer, a builder, a landlord without a conscience.

Look, again, at what we are sacrificing in the name of progress and prosperity.

-historyrules

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Posted on: 2005/12/26 2:29
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Re: Those New construction 2 Families
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I mean it's honestly crazy. On my Part of Webster, they knocked down a really nice, old (though in need of some updating) single family, and now are putting up TWO of these monstrosities. The family across the street from me has one and while they have a drive way big enough for two cars, they park on the street anyway. I know it's an "urban" environment and it may sound extreme, but there needs to be a rule or something that if you have a driveway you can not park on the street. It's just not fair.

And yes with these bonus apartments, that's yet another spot lost on the street.

The cut ins you mention can in no way be legal, though I'm sure that they probably are grandfathered in since they've been here so long.. I live in that row of Row houses on Webster by the loft, and they ALL, save mine, have a cut-in "drive way". The cars ALL STICK OUT ONTO THE SIDEWALK. This can not be legal at all! My neighbor has a conniption if we pull in front of his "driveway" to unload the car before finding a spot elsewhere.

I realize life is unfair, but between car insurance, tickets and the general inconvenience of parking, why have a car in the Heights?
Oh wait, maybe it's because you need to drive to get to a decent grocery store, or that the stupid 87 stops running at 8pm on weekends and you have to share a 7 dollar cab with 8 other people all needing to go to 14th st and Washington.

Don't get me wrong, I like my house and that I have a yard, and I love the convenience to Manhattan, but JC is like an abusive spouse, and I'm the codependent husband.

Posted on: 2005/12/25 19:22
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Re: Those New construction 2 Families
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And don't many of those houses have an illegal "bonus" apartment carved out of much of the garage! I've seen for sale listings on Craig's List that say as much. Why aren't city inspectors all over these places?

Posted on: 2005/12/22 16:34
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Re: Those New construction 2 Families
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I'm with you 100%. They are horrifying, truly. Another addendum to what JPHurst is saying: there's one guy who has been at the new construction in the heights gig for a long time, and I'm sure he's been off at least once or twice on a thing or two permit/payoff-wise.

What's so strange is, there are new construction buildings (I'm thinking of one off Webster and Reservoir, southeast side) that are really decent and nothing to complain about. Is it really that much more expensive?

Don't even get me started on the cutaway driveways. You just can't convince me that even 1/4 of those are legal. Meanwhile, on my block, we can't even get a permit!

Posted on: 2005/12/22 1:27
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Re: Those New construction 2 Families
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John Gomez wrote an excellent Legends and Landmarks Column a few months ago concerning the "cookie cutter" architecture which is going up in some parts of the city.

There are some individuals who choose to do it differently, both withf new construction and with restoration of older buildings. Unfortunately, the desire to make a quick buck often trumps this work.

Some protection exists in historic districts. But outside of the historic districts, there are very few limits on what can be approved, particularly if the owner is in compliance with existing zoning.

Joshua Parkhurst
President
Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy

Posted on: 2005/12/22 1:19
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Those New construction 2 Families
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Is there ANYONE who can stop the construction of these two story box houses going up all over the heights? I mean I'm all for new construction but they are all identical, and butt ugly to boot. On New York Ave. & webster alone there are about 10 of these things, not to mention that they have driveways, removing one street space per house at the least. Who keeps handing out these building permits? Is there any ordinance limiting the amount of like styled houses? More importantly, who was the architect, for he needs a beating.

Posted on: 2005/12/21 22:16
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