I had a very disturbing experience today.
I was advised that the garage being built at 66 White Street now had windows on the second floor. I would refer you back to my earlier blog on this. Basically, the owner of this property received a variance to build a garage that was not supposed to be habitable. The plans showed no utilities to the garage. In fact, a representative of the contractor told the Zoning Board of Appeals, in answer to neighborhood concerns, that they had no plans for plumbing in the project. In spite of this, following the approval by the ZBA, the contractor dug a ditch to run water and sewage to the property. A neighbor reported this to the building inspector. Aside from the fact that the plans submitted to the ZBA had not included utilities, the work required a plumbing permit that the contractor had not bothered to secure. A stop work order was issued. The builder got the permit and continued work on the garage.
At the ZBA meeting at which the approval was granted (see earlier post), a member of that board asked whether the ZBA needed to stipulate that no bathroom or other amenity be allowed on the second floor. Chair William Moore dismissed the question by saying that it would be illegal to do so. I was told that when subsequently the building inspector questioned the contractor about the purpose of the ditch for plumbing he was told they planned to put a bathroom in but declined to tell the inspector where it would be put.
The important thing to understand is that this structure is not supposed to be habitable. So I decided to go and photograph the new windows to let the readers decide whether this suggested a possible change in the approved use of this building. I also wanted to see whether there would be room to put the bathroom on the ground floor.
I do not know how clear it is in the picture, but there does not appear to be much space on the ground floor if there are cars in both bays and a stairway in the back.
As I was taking the pictures from the sidewalk, one of the men on site approached me and asked what I was doing. I told him I was taking a picture with my phone for a blog I write. In a very threatening tone he asked me for my name, address, and phone number. I told him that he had no authority to require me to give him this information. I then began walking home. This person followed me down the street. I decided to take a picture of him as he was quite large and his manner rather menacing. It all had a bit of a film noir quality. I was shocked when he grabbed my cell phone out of my hand. I asked him to give the phone back. He refused and told me that I was not going to take his picture. I asked him repeatedly to return my phone, but he refused. I then told him that if he did not return my phone I would call the police. He still stood in a rather intimidating pose and held the phone above his head. I then turned to go home to call the police. At that point he put the phone on the ground. I retrieved my phone and took a picture of his back as he walked away. I could have followed him and waited to take a picture of his face but decided that this could very well lead to a further escalation which would do no one any good. I have also decided that it would serve no purpose to include in this blog any picture of him.
It is really rather discouraging that in addition to the troubling handling of this project by the building inspector and the Zoning Board of Appeals, we should have this kind of behavior in what is really a very lovely, friendly neighborhood.