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Neighbors fight to protect Brooklyn Heights Cinema

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Preservationists are rallying to save the Brooklyn Heights Cinema from the wrecking ball, claiming the squat Henry Street building contributes to the neighborhood no matter its use.

“Everybody loves the little cinema, but if even if it were a fast food restaurant I’d be saying the same thing,” said Judy Stanton, executive director of the Brooklyn Heights Association. “You can justify preserving that building.”

Neighbors were alarmed this month when The Brooklyn Paper broke the news that landlord Tom Caruana plans to tear down the theater at the corner of Orange Street to make room for a five-story apartment building.

But Caruana unexpectedly canceled a presentation of his plans at Community Board 2’s Landmarks Committee last week — giving both movie-lovers and preservationists a chance to galvanize their opposition.

“It’s not a dilapidated lot — it adds to the character of the community,” said Dino Mastropietro, who lives behind the twin cinema. “It adds value, and we don’t want to see it go.”

Caruana did not respond to calls from The Brooklyn Paper, but his architect said their plans for the site are not yet ready to be shared.

Since it was erected in the 1890s, the one-story corner structure has housed a variety of tenants, including a pharmacy and coffee house.

“It’s an intact piece of history,” said architectural historian Francis Morrone, who is working with the Heights Association on an in-depth history of the building. “A major part of what makes Brooklyn Heights what it is is this historical physical fabric.”

The property, which sits on the edge of the Brooklyn Heights historic district, became an independent theater in 1971 and has managed to stay afloat ever since, even while weathering several changes in ownership.

Local musician Kenn Lowy bought the cinema last year from longtime proprietor Norman Adie, who was recently convicted in a Ponzi scheme.

Lowy said that there’s no ill will toward Caruana, who has been honest with his tenant about his future plans for the building.

Lowy has, however, received e-mails from people interested in buying the building.

“There are a lot of people who want to keep it around,” said Lowy, who hopes to find a new home for the theater if the building can’t be saved. “It makes it easier to move forward knowing we have all this support.”

Reach Kate Briquelet at kbriquelet@cnglocal.com or by calling her at (718) 260-2511.

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Reader Feedback

ty from pps says:
Oh No! Change! Acckk!
Jan. 23, 2012, 1:49 pm
ty from pps says:
By the way, this is the same sort of people that FREAKED out about Norah Jones installing windows on the side of her house in Cobble Hill.... because they would destroy the historic character of the neighborhood and they are "out of place" etc etc etc. A barren brick wall was deemed more attractive than historically appropriate windows. The end result was 7 windows instead of 10 -- a compromise the preservationists were "still concerned about."

Don't worry, if this guy gets approval to demolish this crappy little building, it will take 79 iterations of his architectural plans and a couple years before they approve a single brick being laid. That should prove to amuse the preservationists with plenty of shadenfreude.
Jan. 23, 2012, 2 pm
jj from brooklyn heights says:
considering the crap across the street (cadman towers) it's hard to argue against development of this site.
Jan. 23, 2012, 4:07 pm
jj from brooklyn heights says:
if "neighbors" are really concerned about this block, where were they when 75 henry redid its deck and street-frontage over the last few years, maintaining its cold, barren, ugly appearance (when they actually had an opportunity to return some heart and soul to the street!).
Jan. 23, 2012, 4:09 pm
ty from pps says:
jj -- 75 Henry is on the other side of the street... outside the precious historic district. So, obviously that building and it's concrete Logan's Run-style deck has nothing to do with the character of the neighborhood. :-)

Folks walk with their bodies turned at a 45-degree angle when they are on this street... nothing exists on the east side of the street. But the west side is chock full of character and historical treasures.
Jan. 23, 2012, 4:18 pm
seen it all from downtown says:
its really ashame , little by little the builders and investers will destroy everything, and it looks like no one is going to stop them ,they are knocking down the small building on henry street and building a 6 story condo it going to happen all over .. too late .
Jan. 23, 2012, 10:21 pm
Tom from Flatbush says:
Screw history. Screw architecture. Screw sentimentality.
Jan. 23, 2012, 11:43 pm
ty from pps says:
architecture?
Jan. 24, 2012, 1:38 am
Phil from Bklyn Hts says:
JJ--thanks for making the preservationist points for us!

Crappy, ugly, out of place Cadman Towers replaced several blocks of historic row houses. It was before the preservationist movement got started and the developer called it urban renewal by clearing a slum...in Brooklyn Heights! But as we know, developers will say anything for a land grab.
Jan. 24, 2012, 7:15 am
jj from brooklyn heights says:
The worst part of all this is that the BHA, which USED TO stand for preservation, now accepts all kinds of "modern" crap that it thinks is somehow contextually acceptable. Of course, the BHA rejects anything (crap or not) by SELECTED hated developers -- like the Walentases, most of whose work is not even in Brooklyn Heights!
Jan. 24, 2012, 7:41 am
Todd from Brooklyn Heights says:
Everyone I know in the neighborhood loves this little cinema. It is a slice of old NYC, when small movie houses could survive in nearly every neighborhood. I far prefer seeing films at the Heights Cinema rather than than soul-less multiplex where people YAP like they're at home watching Netflix. In fact, at this rate, we may all be forced to go to overstuffed, overpriced, bed bug riddled monstrosities like Union Sq, etc. Save the Heights!
Jan. 24, 2012, 6:54 pm
Richard Grayson from Apache Junction, AZ says:
I loved seeing "Scenes from a Marriage" there in 1973, when I was 21 years old. Also lots of other movies.

But things change. I don't have an opinion on this, but I know this theater won't be there forever, just as perhaps 40 other Brooklyn movie theaters I went to have disappeared.

Two years ago I attended a lecture by Cezar Del Valle on "The Movie Houses of Brooklyn" at the Grand Army Plaza library. That put the demise of this theater and hundreds of others in perspective: http://who-will-kiss-the-pig.blogspot.com/2010/04/wednesday-night-at-grand-army-plaza.html
Jan. 24, 2012, 10:02 pm
PW from North Heights says:
Yes, things change, but who makes the changes and are they for the better are the questions. All proportions kept, folks were gulled into believing that the new Penn Station would represent a change in the direction of modernity. The developers, of course, cared little for the nice judgments of architects and community activists, but history's judgment is harsh on the topic and NYC lost a treasure. In fact, I agree the the Heights Cinema is no architectural gem, but the very fact that it is a movie house means that it's is a boon to the community and one more boring condo for the 1% and their hangers-on and the spoiled children of those hangers-on won't add a whit of value to our already lamentably bland neighborhood.
Feb. 4, 2012, 3:28 pm

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