The creation of a Downtown Brooklyn Skyscraper Historic District is unwarranted, and would add burdensome costs for local property owners and retail tenants.
The Real Estate Board of New York believes the landmarks law has benefits the city by providing a way to protect significant historic buildings in order to preserve its great architectural heritage. In fact, Brooklyn’s “brownstone belt” is an excellent example of where landmarking has, in general, worked.
But there is no need to create a special historic district in this area of Downtown. The 21 buildings in the proposed district, on the whole, do not warrant landmark status. In fact, the designation report of the Landmarks Preservation Commission notes that several of these buildings have no distinctive architectural style worth protecting, and have undergone numerous renovations over the decades. There is no public benefit to landmarking these undistinguished buildings.
More troubling, creating a special historic district would impose millions of dollars of additional costs on existing property owners and retail tenants. Once an area is landmarked, there are significant added costs attached to property improvements; one must acquire additional city approvals, and it takes longer to secure such approvals, and all improvements are subject to review. Many require further review by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which often requires plans to be redone, and certain materials to be used, which adds time and cost to any renovation. This review makes any project more expensive, and requires hiring additional consultants and staff. These delays often result in massive losses for retailers and landlords because space sits empty while awaiting commission approval.
The commercial office market on Court Street is already suffering with a 17 percent vacancy rate. The landmark designation will essentially impose an additional tax on such space, making it more difficult to rent and provide less incentive to upgrade.
This proposal will harm, rather than help, the properties in this district. That is why we urge the city council to reject this proposal.
Steven Spinola is the president of the Real Estate Board of New York.