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Big controversy over ‘Skyscraper District’ plan hits CB2 tonight!

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Call them faulty towers!

Critics this week slammed the proposed “Skyscraper Landmark District” slated for Downtown, calling the Brooklyn Heights Association’s long-dreamed-of plan an underhanded move to save a few old and historically unattractive towers — while raising the cost of living for tenants in the area.

Many of the opponents live at 75 Livingston St., the only residential building in the proposed 20-building district surrounding Borough Hall. These foes claim, among other complaints, that the plan would prompt skyrocketing maintenance fees in their building and do nothing but enshrine a “sad chapter in Downtown’s economic, political, social and cultural history,” the co-op owners wrote in a letter to the city.

“It would immortalize six buildings that were left after Downtown Brooklyn first failed to become a competitor to Manhattan near the turn of the last century,” tenants Terri Matthews and Michael Whang wrote to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which will vote on adopting the district on Dec. 14.

The commission has already studied the proposal, which dates back to 2006, calling it the savior of a “distinguis­hed commercial zone along Court Street from Montague Street to Livingston Street, one that is filled with handsome early-1900s Romanesque Revival and Beaux-Arts buildings.

Matthew and Whang disagree, seing see a district whose “insignific­ant” and structurally “neglected” buildings represent a Downtown that struggled and failed to emulate Lower Manhattan’s financial district in the late 1800s. They also claimed that 75 Livingston St. tenants would face skyrocketing fees to maintain their building under the Byzantine rules of historic districts.

The borough’s business community also isn’t too pleased.

“We have some concerns because of the additional costs when buildings are landmarked,” said Carl Hum, president of the borough’s Chamber of Commerce. “In this environment right now, the chief complaint we hear from our members is the high cost of doing business.”

Judy Stanton, executive director of the Brooklyn Heights Association, described the opponents’ tone as “insulting.”

“They seem to regard designation not as a matter of pride as we do — it’s a very positive thing, and property values invariably go up,” Stanton said. “When we studied the district, we thought these buildings are beautiful and we’re proud to have them. … We don’t want these torn down for mediocre stuff.”

Indeed, the residential tower and commercial buildings like the Temple Bar Building on Court and Joralemon streets have at least enough historic allure that the commission hailed them as “the borough’s most-architecturally distinguished business buildings.”

If board members approve the district later this month, the critics at least want 75 Livingston St. to be kept out of the zone. But so far, the commission has leaned toward the Heights association, and Stanton doesn’t want to give that building up.

“I’m sorry, but that’s a piece of wedding cake,” she said.

Community Board 2 will take up the issue at its monthly full board meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 8 at St. Francis College [180 Remsen St. between Court and Clinton streets in Brooklyn Heights, (718) 875-6811) at 6 pm.

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Reasonable discourse

jj from brooklyn says:
Frankly, many of the people who live in 75 Livingston (formerly with a grand entrance at 66 Court) are idiots.

They were too stupid to prevent construction of the "sliver" building (now a college dorm) on their Manhattan-side — and thus numerous apartments lost invaluable cityviews and light.

They were too stupid to realize that buying in a building where an —— developer continue to control the retail space would create the longest-running piece of —— street space in the neighborhood.

They have no appreciation of their building's grandeur and history, and most are not particularly fond of Brooklyn Heights — they live there because it's close to Manhattan. End of story.

Whatever decision is made about a skyscraper district, these jerks' narrow and misinformed view shouldn't be decisive.
Dec. 8, 2010, 7:12 am
Mike says:
These people sound a little nuts. But JJ, how do you propose they should have prevented construction of the sliver? Wasn't it as-of-right on a separate lot?
Dec. 8, 2010, 10:15 am
jj from brooklyn says:
I remember the sliver fight vividly. The owners at 75 Livingston arrogantly expected that the developer would never build on so small a lot, and when he insisted he would, they tried to apply political pressure to stop him (but they were ill-advised novices in the political game and their effort was doomed). At that point, they should have purchased the sliver lot — the developer expected as much. Instead, they feebly kept trying to stop the project.

BTW, I looked at a Manhattan-view apartment in 75 Livingston when the building was first converted (from its previous use as a magnificent office building with an entrance at 66 Court Street). I noticed right away that the windows faced not only Manhattan but a neighboring lot that could be developed, and for that reason I did not consider buying there.
Dec. 8, 2010, 10:23 am
John from Red Hook says:
Please, these concerns are minimal and the whole failure to compete with Manhattan? Stupidest excuse in the books.

Landmark it, and make this Whang (I'll call him Wang cause he probably lacks a decent sized one) pay a couple extra thousand bucks a month to keep the windows clean.

Or send Wang back to Lower Manhattan. He can enjoy his glassy corridor of condos.
Dec. 8, 2010, 10:44 am
Mike says:
By the way, JJ, what sliver building are you talking about? I don't see anything I'd describe as a sliver on Court or Joralemon right around there.
Dec. 8, 2010, 11:15 am
Mike says:
Oh, I found it. 67 Livingston.

http://www.nytimes.com/1985/06/30/realestate/projected-26-story-neighbor-troubles-brooklyn-co-op.html

If you buy an apartment with lot-line windows, you can't complain when someone builds next to them.
Dec. 8, 2010, 11:18 am
jj from brooklyn says:
If you buy an apartment with lot-line windows, you can't complain when someone builds next to them. —Mike

Exactly.

But, boy, did they complain.
Dec. 8, 2010, 12:48 pm
smarter the jj from brooklyn says:
If JJ knew much about coops, then he would realize the sponsor always keeps the retail leases for a fixed amount of time. Chances are he couldn't afford to live in the building, or they rejected him.

Its a little unclear how JJ would have prevented the sliver building construction, if they had the right to build it. I am pretty sure its not a matter of intellect. Try to understand property rights JJ before you pipe off. How would your big intellect have prevented construction that the owner had a legal right to perform?
Dec. 9, 2010, 8:43 pm

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