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He Built This Borough (Badly)

Why one of Brooklyn’s most prominent architects might lose his license.


Architect Robert Scarano has helped shape the face of the Brooklyn boom, building dozens of condos in newly valuable neighborhoods. But his prolificacy may have come at a price: His buildings have, to some, become synonymous with shoddy construction. The Department of Buildings just halted work on two residential projects, 205 North 7th Street and 53 Java Street, where a truck tipped over, damaging a house next door. And those are just the latest incidents. Last year, Scarano surrendered his right to self-certify, a process by which architects affirm that their plans meet building codes and zoning laws. (Only one other architect lost self-certification privileges in 2006.) “Scarano, as lead architect, has a technical responsibility to make sure the work is conducted according to the approved plans,” says DOB spokesperson Kate Lindquist.

“To say that the architect has some all-encompassing role in the overall construction activity is not the way that this process happens,” Scarano says. “I am confident that the work we do is proper, accurate, complete, and meets all of the requirements of the zoning resolutions and build codes.” The DOB rep says the state’s Education Department, which licenses architects, asked that records on Scarano be sent to its Office of Professional Discipline. A look at some recent Scarano Architects projects.

Shoddy Meter:
Address: 53 Java Street
This building had already incurred seven major violations, two still active, before the truck fell. There have also been three stop-work orders.
Estimated Fines: $11,250

Shoddy Meter:
Address: 205 North 7th Street
This project has been cited for fifteen major violations—from neglecting to post a permit to “failure to carry out demolition in a safe and proper manner.”
Estimated Fines: $24,310

Shoddy Meter:
Address: 144 North 8th Street
Complaints here run the gamut from inadequate standpipe system—that’s part of what caused the Deutsche Bank tragedy—to improper storage of combustible materials.
Estimated Fines: $27,630

Shoddy Meter:
Address: 297 Driggs Street
Relatively problem-free, this eight-story building netted only a handful of DOB violations. But those few are serious, including another standpipe issue and a lack of safety netting.
Estimated Fines: $15,000

Shoddy Meter:
Address: 333 Carroll Street
This much-maligned project will add several stories atop an old warehouse, but work was halted once by the DOB earlier this year.
Estimated Fines: $1,180

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