City blocks Clinton Street tower

Brooklyn Heights preservationists hailed a decision by the Department of Buildings to block a developer from adding six stories onto an already nine-story building at the corner of Clinton and Montague street.

Buildings officials would not comment on why they rejected the proposed addition, which would create a 185-foot tower within the footprint of the city’s first historic district.

The district’s zoning restrictions don’t apply to the commercial block of Clinton Street, but preservationists objected because the resulting building would dwarf nearby historic structures such as the old Spencer Church building and the landmark headquarters of Brooklyn Historical Association on the corner of Clinton and Pierrepont streets.

“It would be much too tall for that corner and would cast dark shadows into the historic district and onto very important structures” said Judy Stanton, president of the Brooklyn Heights Association.

A spokesperson for the Department of Buildings said the developer, Clinton Realty Holdings LLC, was free to resubmit new plans. Neither the New Jersey-based corporation, nor the project architect Edgar Rawlings, returned calls from The Brooklyn Paper.

Brooklyn Heights, though home to many real-estate developers, is notoriously sensitive to, preservation issues. In 1965, a coalition of residents led by lawyer Otis Pearsall forever altered the business of building in the city when it lobbied to create New York’s first historic district in the section of the Heights bounded by Atlantic Avenue and Court Street and Cadman Plaza West and the Promenade.

Within the district, new buildings are limited to five stories, and their facades must blend in with those neighboring buildings. Pearsall, a member of the city’s Art Commission, opposes the 75 Clinton St. tower because of the shadows it would cast in the low-rise historic district that he created.

Other critics said that the tower could set an inappropriate precedent for high-rise development inside the protected district itself.

“As the development gets higher and higher outside the district, you run into the danger of it creeping into the district itself,” said Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the non-profit Historic District Council.

While larger than most Heights structures, the proposed tower would be half the size of the one residential project that was built above objections in 1997, a 33-story, 331-foot residential tower at 180 Montague St. When construction began on that site, neighbors asked developer Ian Bruce Eichner to scale it down. A Brooklyn Heights resident himself, he declined.

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