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

The tower at 16 Court St., at the corner of Montague Street, is for sale.
The Brooklyn Paper / Julie Rosenberg

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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