Neighbors fight to protect Brooklyn Heights Cinema

Finally, a new owner for Brooklyn Heights Cinema
Community Newspaper Group / Kate Briquelet

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 [email protected] or by calling her at (718) 260-2511.