Robert Scarano Jr.

Infobox Architect

caption = 110 York Street, Brooklyn, NY
name = Robert Scarano Jr.
nationality = United States
birth_date = birth date and age|1959|9|23
birth_place = Gravesend, Brooklyn, New York
current residence = Gravesend, Brooklyn, New York
death_date =
death_place =
practice_name = Scarano Architects, PLLC
significant_buildings= 297 Driggs Ave, Brooklyn, NY
significant_projects =
significant_design =
awards = 15 time winner of SARA local and national awards, 10 time winner of local Brooklyn AIA awards, winner of AIA national awards.|

Robert Michael Scarano, Jr. is an architect based in Brooklyn, NY.

Education & Career

Born in Brooklyn, NYCollins, Linda: "DUMBO-based Architect Deplores Sameness, Uniformity", "Brooklyn Eagle" (2006-04-21)] , Scarano attended the City College of New York, where he received a Bachelor of Architecture, Bachelor of Science in Architecture & 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. [ Scarano Architects] ]

He started his own firm, Scarano Architects PLLC, in 1985, the same year in which he became a Registered Architect in New York State [ [ New York State Office of the Professions] ] . 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). He 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 [Real Estate Weekly. [ "Award-winning architect looks back on 25 years"] (2006-08-28)] , 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 & Zoning

Under the New York City system of zoning, buildings are regulated for things such as height, floor area, setbacks, and number of dwelling units. These regulations vary by neighborhood and street.

Many of the buildings designed by Scarano’s firm are instantly recognizable for being much larger than neighboring buildings.Neuman, William: [ "How Big is Too Big?"] , "The New York Times", (2006-04-16)] This is often due to the double-height spaces and mezzanine levels commonly used on his residential projects. 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 was alleged that many of Scarano’s building plans classified habitable space as mezzanines. [Cohen, Ariella: [ "City charges architect with super-sizing his designs"] , "The Brooklyn Paper", (2006-04-22)]

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."Neuman, William: "More Accusations Against Architect", "The New York Times", (2006-05-28)]

Speaking with a reporter in April 2006, Scarano defended himself, saying "If you’re allowed 60 percent lot coverage and convert|55|ft|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%. [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)]

Worker Deaths

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. [Chan, Sewell: [ "Fatal Construction Accidents in the City Rise Sharply"] , "The New York Times" (2006-11-22)] 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. [Smerd, Jeremy: [ "Zoning battle heats up in South Park Slope"] , "The Real Deal" (2005-10)]

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).Hack, Charles: [ "Feds Take Action Following the Deaths of Construction Workers"] , "Park Slope Courier" (2007-03-03)]

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. ["New York Daily News". [ "Architect of Ruin?"] , (2006-03-09)] [Cohen, Ariella: [ "More charges hit architect"] , "The Brooklyn Paper" (2006-06-10)]

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). [ [ New York City Department of Buildings: Professional Certification] ] [ [ New York City Department of Buildings: Policy and Procedures Notices] ]

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. [Neuman, William: [ "Brooklyn: Architect Settles Charges"] , "The New York Times" (2006-08-04)]

Administrative Charges

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." He faces "possible suspension or revocation of his ability to file documents with the Buildings Department,"citation | title=City Files Charges Against Architect Robert Scarano | publisher=New York City Department of Buildings | date=2008-06-12 | year=2008 | url= ] which according to the New York Times "could potentially put him out of business in the city."citation | last=Neuman | first=William | title=Zoning Rules Are Flouted by Architect, City Says | newspaper=The New York Times | date=2008-06-13 | year=2008 | url= ]

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." [Kovak, Nic: [ "Scarano Crashes 4BNA Event"] , "Greenpoint Star" (2006-06-01)]

The architect has been a popular subject matter on New York City architecture and real-estate blogs, and 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. [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)]

City Councilman David Yassky scheduled an August 2006 fundraiser to be held at Scarano's office, but canceled at the last minute. [Berman, Russell: [ "Yassky Campaign Cancels Fund-Raiser at the Last Minute"] , "The New York Sun", (2006-08-31)]

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, [Fittro, Bob: [, "2005 Metal Architecture Design Awards"] , "Metal Architecture" (2005-08)] 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. [Real Estate Weekly: [ "Scarano's project of the year"] (2005-06-15)]

* 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. [Brooklyn Daily Eagle: [ "Scarano Wins 2 From NY-SARA"] (2007-07-17). Retrieved on 2007-07-17.]

* Toy Factory Lofts (2004) - Once home to a factory that manufactured electric football games, this 64,000 square foot 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. [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)]

Controversial Works

* 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. [Mooney, Jake: [ "Twilight of the Trainspotters?"] , "The New York Times", (2007-06-17)] 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. [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)] In response to this and other projects, the Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association has proposed seeking re-zoning or landmark designation for the neighborhood. [O'Connel, Chris: [ "Slim hope for rezoning Carroll Gardens quickly"] , "The Brooklyn Paper", (2007-06-16)]
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. [citation | last=Calder | first=Rich | title='Heavy Metal' Architect Axes | newspaper=New York Post | year=2008 | date=2008-02-12 | url= | accessdate=2008-02-12 ]

* 614 7th Avenue (2005-06) - this condominium project in Greenwood Heights, Brooklyn drew community opposition to its proposed convert|70|ft|m|sing=on 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, argured 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. [Cosier, Susan: [ "Deal saves Minerva’s Liberty view"] , "The Brooklyn Paper", (2006-02-04)] The City disagreed; the Department of Buildings alleged zoning and building code violations, [Hack, Charles: [ "Minerva Gets a Leg Up On Developer"] , "Park Slope Courier", (2006-05-19)] and in September 2006 the New York City Board of Standards and Appeals ruled that the building had to comply with the new zoning. [Hack, Charles: [ "Minerva And Lady Liberty to Remain In Sight - BSA Rejects 7th Avenue Development"] , "Park Slope Courier", (2006-09-15)]

* 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. [Landman, Beth: [ "Maritime on the Bowery Runs Aground"] , "New York Magazine" (2006-03-27)]

* 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. [Guie, Phil: [ "Despite Steel Scare, Finger Stays at Ten"] , "Queens Ledger" (2006-07-20)] Spector is now seeking to have the entire structure razed, and has vowed to take action to prevent Scarano from practicing architecture in the future. ["The Real Deal". [ "Call to tear down Burg's Finger"] (2007-05-10)]

* 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. [Rubinstein, Dana: [ "And It's All Legal: Scarano uses sleight of hand, plywood to beat zoning laws"] , "The Brooklyn Paper" (2006-11-18)] 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. [Rubinstein, Dana: [ "City to Scarano: Get buildings up to code"] , "The Brooklyn Paper" (2006-12-02)]


Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Bushwick

outh Brooklyn


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