Developer says plan respects Minerva statue's point of view

Wednesday, May 7th 2008, 11:56 PM

It's the moment of truth for Green-Wood Cemetery's famed Minerva statue.

Nearly two years after advocates claimed victory, the two sides are hoping today to put to rest once and for all worries over whether a revised construction project on 23rd St. will block its historic salute of the Statue of Liberty.

Armed with a measuring tape, workers will use a cherry picker to solemnly rise 42.9 feet in the air and prove to a gaggle of
advocates huddled at the 88-year-old statue that the historic view from Battle Hill will be unharmed.

Despite the hoopla, it's not exactly a nail-biter. "Why in the world would you have a press event if you weren't sure it was going to work?" quipped longtime critic Aaron Brashear, adding that if it works, "then the community can finally get on with their lives."

Indeed, developer Aaron Lebovits, whose Park Developers and Builders bought the embattled site last spring, said architects have shaved about 7 feet off their project to make sure the view won't be blocked.

"They took me up there, and it is a nice view. I wouldn't want to the be the one to block it," said Lebovits, who has met repeatedly with concerned neighborhood groups, cemetery officials and Community Board 7 about the hot-button issue.

"When I bought it, I knew there was an issue I can't block the view, but I didn't know the community was so into it," he added. "This project should have finished a long time ago."

If today's elaborate stunt works, it will bring to an end three years of controversy.

Originally, beleaguered architect Robert Scarano and developer Chaim Nussencweig sought to beat a scheduled rezoning of the area and build an unpopular seven-story condo at the site.

But they ultimately lost before the Board of Standards and Appeals in 2006, and the site sat vacant for more than a year.

Lebovits' new plans already are more popular with the neighborhood. Instead of a hulking condo, Lebovits is planning to build 11 single family townhouses, each 14.5 feet wide with four floors and a roof deck that overlooks the very view that stalled the project for so long.

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