Tower dentists know the drill

The Brooklyn Paper
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Root canal patients and Novocaine junkies shuddered at the news last year that the Williamsburgh Bank Building — once home to 150 dentists, oral surgeons, hygienists and their victims — was being converted into luxury condos

But this hard-bitten columnist has learned that the pain will linger on long after Brooklyn’s tallest building goes upscale.

Sources said that more than a dozen dentists will be given new leases by the building’s owners, an investment group that includes Magic Johnson, which bought the building last May.

Since then, dentists have been fleeing the tower like kids from a periodontal exam. Today, the hallways have a deserted, Barton Fink feel to them, what with all but a handful of practices closed tighter than a teenager’s mouth after his first experience with chewing tobacco.

It’s too bad, because the views of Manhattan from the upper floors of this celebrated spire are so gorgeous that it’s worth getting simple chronic halitosis just to sit in a dentist’s chair and watch the sun sinking over Staten Island.

From its vantage point, near the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, the Empire State Building stands out in the Midtown skyline like a tooth waiting to be pulled.

“That’s what I’ll miss the most,” said Yakov Eisenberg, whose practice will be moved from the 13th floor to a space one story above street level.

He would relocate his practice were it not for the building’s historic pull.

“Everyone knows this as a dental building, and that’s a huge thing for getting patients,” he said. “Most of all, the building was a symbol of quality and professionalism. You can’t buy that.”

Eisenberg said he’d also miss the dental camaraderie. No, he’s not talking about those legendary all-night ether parties, but the academic environment that came from having so many specialists under one domed roof.

“If you needed a consult on an X-ray, you could get a second, third and fourth opinion in an instant,” he said. “It was a university environment.”

Another dentist, who requested anonymity because his new lease agreement hasn’t been inked yet, added that he wants to stay because the building is “a part of the great history of dentistry.”

“We survived when this neighborhood was almost destroyed by heroin in the 1960s,” he said. “We’re not going to leave now.”
Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President Ken Adams understands that feeling.

“They branded the building, so naturally they want to stay,” he said. “People always wonder why all those dentists wanted to be in the same place, but it offered them great economies of scale. If the X-ray machine repair man was in the building, he could fix a bunch of machines at once.”

And then get a quick cleaning on the house.

Gersh Kuntzman is the Editor of The Brooklyn Paper. E-mail Gersh at
Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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