Robert Scarano, Jr.
|Robert Scarano Jr.|
September 23, 1959 |
Gravesend, Brooklyn, New York
|Awards||15 time winner of SARA local and national awards, 10 time winner of local Brooklyn AIA awards, winner of AIA national awards.|
|Practice||Scarano Architects, PLLC|
|Buildings||297 Driggs Ave, Brooklyn, NY|
Robert Michael Scarano, Jr. is an architect based in Brooklyn, New York City. In 2006, in response to alleged building code and zoning violations, Scarano surrendered his self-certification privileges to the City of New York. The subject of much criticism, the architect and his work have been popular subjects on New York City architecture and real-estate blogs.
- 1 Education and career
- 2 Firm
- 3 Controversies
- 4 Politics
- 5 Works
- 6 Gallery
- 7 References
Education and career
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Scarano attended the City College of New York, where he received a Bachelor of Architecture, Bachelor of Science in Architecture and Environmental Design, and a certificate in engineering. He later studied at New York University and received certificates in construction management, building construction, real estate development and real estate finance.
He started his own firm, Scarano Architects PLLC, in 1985, the same year in which he became a Registered Architect in New York State. Prior to striking out on his own, Scarano worked for HLW Architects, SLCE Architects, Liebman & Liebman Architects and Costas Kondylis Architects.
Scarano is a member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Society of American Registered Architects (SARA), and is the long-standing chair of the Design Action Committee of the Brooklyn Chapter of the AIA.
Begun in Staten Island in 1985, Scarano Architects PLLC today has a staff of about 50, including designers from Brazil, Bulgaria, Colombia, Israel, Russia and Ukraine. Based in DUMBO, Brooklyn, their office adjacent to the Manhattan Bridge features a glass and steel addition atop a hundred-year-old building.
Building codes and zoning
Many of the buildings designed by Scarano’s firm are instantly recognizable for being much larger than neighboring buildings. This is often due to the double-height spaces and mezzanine levels commonly used on his residential projects to maximize building height, floor area, and lot coverage. Under the New York City building codes, mezzanines (defined in part as spaces with ceiling heights of less than five feet) are not included when calculating the square footage of a building, but it has been alleged that many of Scarano’s building plans classified habitable space as mezzanines.
In February 2006, the Department of Buildings charged Scarano with "violating zoning or building codes on 25 projects in Brooklyn, including several cases in which it alleged that new buildings he designed were larger than they should have been."
Speaking with a reporter in April 2006, Scarano defended himself, saying:
If you’re allowed 60 percent lot coverage and 55 feet (17 m) in height and the allowable floor area is a 2.0 FAR and that gives you three-and-a-half floors, what do you do with the extra height? We pushed that into the living spaces, creating double-height units with mezzanines. And you want that space in the living room and dining room and maybe the main bedroom, but not in the other rooms (kitchens, baths, home office etc). And we were allowed to exclude the mezzanines from the floor area based on memorandums that were circulating in the 1980s.
With the publicity and increased scrutiny, the City required modifications to several of his buildings before granting the final Certificates of Occupancy.
As of August 2007, approximately 20% of Scarano-designed projects had City-imposed stop work orders. The city-wide average at the time was 2.2 percent.
Construction accidents in New York City rose significantly in 2005 and 2006. The City reported 29 fatal construction accidents from September 30, 2005 - September 30, 2006, most from falls. At Scarano-designed projects, three workers were killed around this time period:
- On August 29, 2005, a worker was killed at 187 20th Street in Greenwood Heights, Brooklyn, a Scarano-designed project. The worker, Arturo Gonzales, 27, was positioning a 800-pound steel girder when it fell and crushed him. Some community members alleged that developers were rushing work in an effort to complete the building’s foundations before the neighborhood was downzoned.
- On November 2, 2005, a worker was killed after falling from the third floor of a Scarano-designed building under construction at 207 South First Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The contractor, Leeco Construction Corporation, was issued citations and fined by the Department of Buildings and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
- In March 2006, construction worker Anthony Duncan was killed at a Scarano-designed project under construction at 733 Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn, when a retaining wall gave way and the adjacent structure collapsed.
Loss of self-certification privileges
In an effort to streamline the approvals process, in 1995 the New York City Department of Buildings instituted a program of Professional Certification (more commonly known as "Self Certification") whereby Registered Architects and Engineers can certify that a project complies with all applicable laws and codes. This allows a project to proceed without a full review by the Department (though some twenty percent of applications are randomly selected for audit).
In response to the alleged building code and zoning violations, Scarano was brought before the City's Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings. The allegations were mutually settled in August 2006, with Scarano surrendering his Self Certification privileges and the DOB agreeing to keep private "any information or documents that form the basis for the [department's] assertions and allegations."
Administrative charges and loss of filing privileges
The New York City Department of Buildings announced on June 12, 2008 that administrative charges had been filed against Scarano, "alleging that he made false or misleading statements on applications submitted to the Buildings Department in connection with two new buildings in Brooklyn."
As the result of these charges, on March 3, 2010 Scarano was barred from filing projects with the Department of Buildings, severely limiting his ability to practice as an architect in New York City. According to the New York Times, "the judge, Joan R. Salzman, accused Mr. Scarano of 'deliberately overbuilding' and said some of his filings were 'so deceptive that they call to mind out-and-out fraud.'"
Scarano has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Buildings, seeking to overturn the city statute that "can be used to bar an architect from filing for permits". The suit alleged that the statute was "unconstitutional because it lacked due process; it was poorly drafted with a "meager" standard; and could be applied arbitrarily". The case is currently under review.
In a June 15, 2010 Order, Justice Paul Wooten, a Supreme Court, New York County Justice, stayed enforcement of Commissioner Limadri's determination to bar Scarano from filing documents with the Department of Buildings pending a determination of Scarano's matter in the Appellate Division. Justice Wooten held that Scarano had presented compelling arguments demonstrating a likelihood of success on both his constitutional challenges to the Administrative Code and on the merits of his other claims.
Tony Duncan et ano
In an October 22, 2008 Order, the Kings County, Supreme Court dismissed all claims asserted against Scarano concerning the death of Anthony Duncan. The Court found that Scarano, as an architect, had no responsibility in connection with the construction incident that resulted in Duncan's death.
Scarano filed suit in June 2008 against Blesso Properties, a Manhattan development firm, claiming the company had not fully paid him for work on a Harlem condominium project.
Blesso Properties filed a counter suit in September 2008, "...seeking in excess of $3 million from Scarano for architectural malpractice, fraud and breach of contract." Blesso filed an additional suit several weeks later, alleging "fraud, breach of contract and negligence, and seek(ing) damages in excess of $1 million for a project at 234 West 20th Street in Chelsea."
Speaking to the press in 2008 regarding the lawsuits, Scarano blasted Blesso president Matthew Blesso, saying "I've never worked for a baby like this guy. They are too stupid to be building in New York City."
Response to critics
Scarano has continued to defend his work to the press and sometimes directly to critics.
In May 2006 he showed up unannounced at a press conference in Queens organized by the Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance. After sarcastically announcing to the crowd, "I'm the poster boy for what's wrong with Brooklyn," he defended himself, saying "I'm practicing for 20 years [...] I can't be the be all end all of the evil around here, even if I have 150 properties. The Borough President's office thinks I'm the greatest thing since sliced bread."
The architect has been a popular subject on New York City architecture and real-estate blogs, and he has been known to reply to critical articles.
In April 2005, Scarano received the first annual “Brooklyn Icon” award, presented by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz at a ceremony at Scarano’s office attended by over 100 builders, developers and architects.
City Councilman Bill de Blasio has recently come out as an opponent of Scarano, holding a June 6, 2007 press conference on the site of a proposed Scarano-designed building in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, and publicly petitioning the New York State Department of Education to revoke Scarano's license to practice architecture. Some have accused de Blasio of political grandstanding, as he has supported a number of other controversial developments such as Atlantic Yards. In fact, a number of placards were prominently displayed with criticism of De Blasio's pro- development stance on other Borough projects.
- 110 York Street (2004) - Home to the offices of Scarano Architect PLLC, this project features a glass and steel addition atop a hundred-year-old building. This project received a 2005 Design Award from Metal Architecture magazine, and a 2005 Certificate of Appreciation from the Brooklyn AIA.
- 234 West 20th Street (2005) - Penthouse addition to an existing building in Chelsea. Received a 2005 Award of Excellence from the Brooklyn AIA.
- 401 Hicks Street (2005) - Adaptive reuse of a 19th-century church building in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. Received a 2005 Certificate of Appreciation from the Brooklyn AIA.
- Armory Towers (2000) - An adaptive reuse of an old armory in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Developed with assistance from the New York City Housing Development Corporation (NYCHDC), this 110 unit building received an Excellence Award from the NY Council of SARA, and an Excellence Award from the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.
- The Douglass (2005) - New construction at 279 West 117th Street in Harlem. 138 units, with 42 units reserved for low-income tenants. Honored as 2005 Project of the Year by the New York State Association for Affordable Housing.
- Manhattan Park Condos (2006) - 14 unit, seven story building at 297 Driggs Avenue, adjacent to McCarren Park in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. This project received a Housing Award of Merit from the NY Council of SARA.
- Toy Factory Lofts (2004) - Once home to a factory that manufactured electric football games, this 64,000-square-foot (5,900 m2) building at 176 Johnson Street in downtown Brooklyn was converted to 56 luxury condominiums. This project won a 2004 SARA Design Award of Honor, and was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation from the Brooklyn AIA.
- 333 Carroll Street (2006–present) - now called the "Hell Building" by critics, owner Isaac Fischman hired Scarano to design an addition and renovation to convert this 19th century building in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn into luxury condominiums. Construction has been halted three times, most recently March 2008, after the Building Department determined that "...Scarano had inaccurately claimed the building was zoned to allow for the additional stories." Scarano was removed from the project in January 2008; the building remains unfinished.
- 360 Smith Street (2007) - this proposed building in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, to be designed by Scarano for developer William Stein, would be built on the site of the south entrance (and adjacent plaza) of the Carroll Street subway station. Many neighborhood residents oppose the project's size and appearance, saying that the proposed eight-story building will be out of scale with the surrounding two- and three-story brownstones. In response to this and other projects, the Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association has proposed seeking re-zoning or landmark designation for the neighborhood.
At a community meeting on February 11, 2008, the developer announced that Scarano was no longer involved with the project, and the building would instead be designed by Armand Quadrini of KSQ Architects.
- 614 7th Avenue (2005–06) - this condominium project in Greenwood Heights, Brooklyn drew community opposition to its proposed 70-foot (21 m) height, which would have blocked a historic sight line between the Statue of Liberty and the statue of Minerva in Green-Wood Cemetery. Neighborhood residents successfully petitioned the city to rezone the neighborhood to prevent tall buildings. The developer, Chaim Nussencweig, argued that the building's foundations had been laid before the rezoning took effect, giving him the right to complete the structure, and offered to have Scarano "cut out" a portion of the building to preserve the line of sight. The City disagreed; the Department of Buildings alleged zoning and building code violations, and in September 2006 the New York City Board of Standards and Appeals ruled that the building had to comply with the new zoning.
- 979 Willoughby Avenue (2007–10) - built in Bushwick, Brooklyn and marketed as a "small building big on design", this Scarano-designed condominium comprises eight apartments from 500 to 1,000 square feet (93 m2). The $3.8-million project was filed as a four-story building, but towers over neighboring structures due to high ceilings and mezzanine spaces. The street wall is an uninviting row of garage doors, as each dwelling unit features a small private garage bay opening onto the sidewalk. Speaking of the project in 2007, Scarano told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle that "to design a new building in an emerging area, one cannot help but feel like a pioneer during the early days of the development of America." Marketed by Century 21 NY Metro, the apartments failed to attract buyers and in 2010 the project developer Benjamin Glasser contracted with Ashley Khan to operate the building as a for-profit residence for recovering drug addicts. Khan, who lives in the building's triplex penthouse, is currently seeking to increase the number of beds from 18 to 60.
- Bowery Tower (2004–06) - this Scarano-designed project at 4 East Third Street in Manhattan was originally filed with the building department as a dormitory building. Questions were raised about the building's compliance with zoning regulations, and the unfinished building was eventually sold to another group of developers. A new architect was brought on board, the facade and interiors redone, and the building now serves as a hotel.
- Finger Building (2005–present) - Scarano partnered with developers Mendel Brach and Moshe Oknin on this project at 144 North 8th Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Commonly known as the Finger Building, it was designed for 16 stories and 42 residential units. To construct a building of this size in this neighborhood required that the developers purchase air-rights from adjacent buildings. The project was halted at 10 stories after the owner of an adjacent property, Scott Spector (himself a real estate developer), filed suit alleging that he had never sold these air-rights, and that portions of the building were being constructed over his property. Lawsuits and city reviews halted construction for three years, and in late 2008 the unfinished building was acquired by G.F.I. Capital. The new owners plan to complete construction in 2010.
- Washington Condominium (2006) - At this project in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, the City objected to areas within the building labeled as 'storage lofts', but with ceiling heights greater than five feet (the limit for a non-habitable mezzanine). The developer added raised plywood floors to lower the ceiling height. When critics charged that buyers would easily rip out the retrofits to gain access to the full-height of the space, the City held up the Certificate of Occupancy until the floors were rebuilt with concrete.
88 Conselyea St.
333 Carroll St.
Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
- Collins, Linda: "DUMBO-based Architect Deplores Sameness, Uniformity", Brooklyn Eagle (2006-04-21)
- Scarano Architects
- New York State Office of the Professions
- Real Estate Weekly."Award-winning architect looks back on 25 years" (2006-08-28)
- Neuman, William: "How Big is Too Big?", The New York Times, (2006-04-16)
- Cohen, Ariella: "City charges architect with super-sizing his designs", The Brooklyn Paper, (2006-04-22)
- Neuman, William: "More Accusations Against Architect", The New York Times, (2006-05-28)
- Ryley, Sarah: "Things Slow Down At Brooklyn Architect Scarano’s Firm, But Controversy Is Not The Cause, He Says", The Brooklyn Eagle, (2007-08-07)
- Chan, Sewell: "Fatal Construction Accidents in the City Rise Sharply", The New York Times (2006-11-22)
- Smerd, Jeremy: "Zoning battle heats up in South Park Slope", The Real Deal (2005-10)
- Hack, Charles: "Feds Take Action Following the Deaths of Construction Workers", Park Slope Courier (2007-03-03)
- New York Daily News. "Architect of Ruin?", (2006-03-09)
- Cohen, Ariella: "More charges hit architect", The Brooklyn Paper (2006-06-10)
- New York City Department of Buildings: Professional Certification
- New York City Department of Buildings: Policy and Procedures Notices
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- Pincus, Adam (2009-04-24), Scarano suit calls DOB statute unconstitutional, The Real Deal (Magazine)
- Tony Duncan, Jr. et ano. v. Robert M. Scarano, et al., Supreme Court, Kings County, Index No. 4203/08
- Pincus, Adam (2008-09-26), "Developer battles Scarano in court", The Real Deal (Magazine)
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- Collins, Linda: "Markowitz Presents 'Brooklyn Icon' Awards to Architect, Developer", Brooklyn Daily Eagle, (2005-04-15)
- Real Estate Weekly. "Scarano is Brooklyn Icon" (2005-04-27)
- Berman, Russell: "Yassky Campaign Cancels Fund-Raiser at the Last Minute", The New York Sun, (2006-08-31)
- Fittro, Bob: "2005 Metal Architecture Design Awards", Metal Architecture (2005-08)
- Real Estate Weekly: "Scarano's project of the year" (2005-06-15)
- Brooklyn Daily Eagle: "Scarano Wins 2 From NY-SARA" (2007-07-17). Retrieved on 2007-07-17.
- Real Estate Weekly. "Converted Brooklyn toy factory gets ready for playtime" (2004-09-08)
- Real Estate Weekly: "Playing it straight earns firm top design award" (2004-06-30)
- Sederstrom, Jotham (2008-10-30), "In Carroll Gardens, 'hell' tower freezes over as eyesore still unfinished", New York Daily News
- Mooney, Jake: "Twilight of the Trainspotters?", The New York Times, (2007-06-17)
- Cohen, Ariella: "Scarano caves to Gardeners", The Brooklyn Paper, (2007-06-02)
- Miller, Shane: "Nabe Wants Scarano Out of Project & Out of Biz", Queens Ledger, (2007-06-14)
- O'Connel, Chris: "Slim hope for rezoning Carroll Gardens quickly", The Brooklyn Paper, (2007-06-16)
- Calder, Rich (2008-02-12), "'Heavy Metal' Architect Axes", New York Post, retrieved 2008-02-12
- Cosier, Susan: "Deal saves Minerva’s Liberty view", The Brooklyn Paper, (2006-02-04)
- Hack, Charles: "Minerva Gets a Leg Up On Developer", Park Slope Courier, (2006-05-19)
- Hack, Charles: "Minerva And Lady Liberty to Remain In Sight - BSA Rejects 7th Avenue Development", Park Slope Courier, (2006-09-15)
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- Clark, Patrick (2010-01-28), Ex-Cons Get Luxury Digs, Times Newsweekly, retrieved 2010-03-04
- Paddock, Barry (2010-04-21), Bushwick luxury condos turn into halfway house for drug addicts run by paroled felon, New York Daily News, retrieved 2010-04-21
- Landman, Beth: "Maritime on the Bowery Runs Aground", New York Magazine (2006-03-27)
- Guie, Phil: "Despite Steel Scare, Finger Stays at Ten", Queens Ledger (2006-07-20)
- Muessig, Ben (2009-06-03), Going up! ‘Finger’ building will keep rising, The Brooklyn Paper, retrieved 2009-06-26
- Rubinstein, Dana: "And It's All Legal: Scarano uses sleight of hand, plywood to beat zoning laws", The Brooklyn Paper (2006-11-18)
- Rubinstein, Dana: "City to Scarano: Get buildings up to code", The Brooklyn Paper (2006-12-02)