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Fight the tower: Co-op dwellers say ‘Skyscraper’ district will make costs soar

The Brooklyn Paper
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A controversial new historic district in Downtown is sailing toward approval despite outcry from residents, businesses, and the borough’s most powerful landlords, who fear it will hurt commerce and raise the cost of living.

Locals are furious about the city’s plan to preserve nearly two-dozen early-1900s towers along Court Street in the so-called Borough Hall Skyscraper Historic District — a plan that earned the backing of Councilman Steve Levin (D-Downtown) and cruised through the Council’s landmarks committee with a vote of 4-0 with two abstentions on Tuesday.

The city says the new district will help keep history alive, but some tenants at 75 Livingston St., the only residential building in the district, say all it will do is make their lives more difficult.

“This is a stupid, stupid mistake!” said Paula Ingram, a real-estate broker who lives in the 32-story co-op. “It’s going to negatively affect the business community and all it will do is save a few lintels.”

In recent months, co-op members and business groups have amped up their campaign against the “Skyscraper” zone, claiming that the intricate rules of landmarked districts would cause maintenance fees to soar and prevent commercial growth.

The Real Estate Board of New York even mailed flyers to local homes, warning that the preservation effort would “send Court Street back to the bad old days if we don’t act now.”

“This is another case of the city landmarking away its economic future,” said Steven Spinola, president of the Real Estate Board, adding that Downtown is already scrambling to find tenants with vacancy rates are hovering around 17 percent.

The district comprises 21 buildings along Court Street between Montague and Livingston streets, including the already-landmarked Borough Hall; the 13-story Temple Bar Building on Court Street; the 35-story Montague-Court Building at 16 Court St.; and the Municipal Building, which will soon be transformed into a mini-mall.

Levin and Councilman Brad Lander (D-Park Slope), chair of the landmarks committee, said in a statement that the district would boost development “while preserving the graceful, historic, early-generation skyscrapers that make it Brooklyn’s civic center.”

They said that they’d ask the city to ease rules for storefronts and work with Livingston Street residents “without imposing hardships on the co-operators.”

But those co-op dwellers hope to persuade lawmakers to nix the plan altogether.

“If [Levin] doesn’t protest now and hold off his vote when he has some leverage, what do you think he’ll be able to do once this goes through?” said Maxine Rockoff, a longtime resident of 75 Livingston St, who is demanding that the Landmarks Preservation Commission disclose statistics on any added costs that the owners of landmarked buildings must pay.

“I’m terrified that this will pass,” she said. “[The city council] is our only protective against menacing government interventi­on.”

The proposed landmark district will go before the full council on Feb. 1.

Reach Kate Briquelet at kbriquelet@cnglocal.com or by calling her at (718) 260-2511.
Updated 9:43 am, January 25, 2012
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Reasonable discourse

Auroris Verbussum from Brooklyn Heights says:
75 Livingston is not the only residential building in the district. There are at least 2 others, on Court St. IDK why the BP & other sources continue to print that lie!
Jan. 26, 2012, 12:06 am
Pete from Park Slope says:

These buildings are Classic New York.
Fact is that Land-marked districts are all very high value
BECAUSE of the Land-marking.
What "rise in costs"?
Can we be specific here?
Jan. 27, 2012, 1:02 pm
Evelyn from Carroll Gardens says:
How would land marking the Court Street district affect co-op owners or tenants of this buildings? I would think that it would be a good thing therefore the buildings cannot be changed from the original structure and they can restore and maintain the beauty of each building? If its the powers at be decision to restore it should not cost dwellers anything after all someone owns these properties. I would prefer they put a stop to building anymore skyscrapers in the residential areas because it is already over populated and becoming like Manhattan. Brooklyn does not need the smog and congestion of the Manhattanites.
Jan. 27, 2012, 1:16 pm

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