Daniel Goldstein, the Brooklyn gadfly who made a name for himself in his relentless and ultimately losing battle against developer Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, was ultimately forced out of his home in Prospect Heights through eminent domain. True, he won a $3 million settlement from Ratner when he finally agreed to move, but, ironically, he's now in a nasty fight in his new neighborhood, where his neighbor is on the warpath over an extension he wants to build on his Park Slope house. Is he his own Bruce Ratner?
Goldstein has yet to even file plans for the extension, but his neighbor Kathryn Roake, an administrative law judge who's lived in her house for 22 years, says she knows what he's up to—and it's going to kill her garden. She was standing outside her home one day in May when "these two guys showed up with plans. So I said, 'What's up?' And one guy said, 'Hi, we're the architects.' I had to ask them three times what they were going to do to the house. They go into a song and dance and they finally said it was a three-story, 18 feet extension."
Roake continues, "The conversation deteriorated from there. I said, 'You're going to wreck my garden and cut off the sunlight.' He said, 'Well, only the morning sunlight.' I said, 'That's all I have!' He asked me my name, but I said it was none of his business and walked away. Then I turned and said, 'I hope their house burns down.' " Welcome to Park Slope, Goldstein.
Days later, Roake says she encountered Goldstein and his wife in their back yard. "His wife comes up to me acting all friendly, and told me the extension was going to be 18 feet, but with setbacks. I told her it would block the light to my garden. So Goldstein yells up, 'It will not!' I said, 'I have diagrams!' She says, 'Oh, I'm so sorry.' I said, 'I bet you are.' And I walked inside as he called after me asking what my name was. I didn't reply. But I did my research, went down to DOB and spoke with the Deputy Commissioner." An engineer also told Roake the renovation "was a high risk job," and that her backyard shed "would be in danger of collapse" because the project would require excavation.
And so on and so forth. Goldstein maintains that whatever plans he ultimately files will only utilize "as of right zoning," with "no special treatment whatsoever." But it's been over a year since he's locked horns with Ratner, so at least he had a chance to catch his breath before next Brooklyn land war. "The irony here," Goldstein says, "is that under the blight New York State did for the Atlantic Yards footprint, a gas station that is zoned, for example, to be three stories would be considered 'underutilized' and therefore 'blighted' if it's only one story. My new home would currently be considered 'underutilized' and 'blighted" under the state's 'blight' criteria. Our renovation will bring the property above that arbitrary threshold."
Roake, of course, isn't interested in irony, she's interested in her garden, and vows to fight the plans the moment Goldstein files them. "They do need our permission because the 'party wall' between the houses belongs to both of us." Unfortunately for Roake, this means that if Goldstein's house burns down, it's probably going to take hers out, too.