High time! Downtown skyscrapers are now landmarks

The Brooklyn Paper
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City Council overwelmingly approved a controversial landmark district in Downtown and Brooklyn Heights that would preserve historic high-rises, but could raise the cost of living and trammel commerce in the communities, according to critics.

The Borough Hall Skyscraper Historic District — which includes nearly two-dozen early-1900s towers on and around Court Street — soared past its Council vote on Wednesday, passing 46–1 with two abstentions despite a salvo of opposition from residents of the architectural gems and Brooklyn’s most powerful landlords.

Preservationists hailed the city for protecting a slew of Romanesque Revival and Beaux-Arts structures, including the tiered co-op 75 Livingston St., which housed some of the designation’s most vocal opponents.

“We’re thrilled,” said Judy Stanton, executive director of the Brooklyn Heights Association, the powerful community group that helped push for the district. “The opposition exaggerated the negatives. This is going to be good for Brooklyn as a whole and very good for Downtown and Court Street.”

But residents of the now-landmarked co-op at 75 Livingston St. blasted the vote for subjecting them to the byzantine and potentially costly rules of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, claiming they’re already good stewards of their building, having spent $6 million in the last 22 years renovating its facade.

“I am appalled that a city agency is within the law to do this to us, and I am shocked that the City Council did not defend us against this unreasonable burden,” said Maxine Rockoff. “This will cause great harm to shareholde­rs.”

In a last minute push to defeat the landmarking, opponents met with Councilman Steve Levin (D–Brooklyn Heights) while the Real Estate Board of New York amped up its anti-preservation efforts with a mailing campaign.

Levin and Councilman Brad Lander (D–Cobble Hill), who came out in support of the zone last week, said that they secured a commitment from the Landmarks Commission that will make proposed changes to buildings pass through the agency more quickly. They also asked the city to be flexible with the co-op members’ requests.

“These are the last real examples of Downtown skyscrapers and in an era of aggressive development, they are worthy of recognition,” Levin said. “Increases to maintenance fees will be very minimal.”

Councilman Charles Barron (D–Canarsie) placed the only vote against the landmark zone.

Councilman Lew Fidler (D–Marine Park) abstained because he does legal work for two tenants in the district, but lashed out at the historic area before the vote.

“We are cheapening the landmarks designation with districts like this,” he said.

Councilman Jumaane Williams (D–Flatbush) also abstained.

The historic district comprises 21 buildings along Court Street from Montague Street to Livingston Street, including the already landmarked Borough Hall; 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.

Updated 10:33 am, February 2, 2012
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Reasonable discourse

Janine from Bkheights says:
Maxine Rockoff sounds like a real whackjob.
Feb. 1, 2012, 5:43 pm
Pot from Kettle says:
We are cheapening the City Council with Councilmembers like sidewalk-parking Lew Fidler.
Feb. 1, 2012, 11:24 pm
Bob Marvin from Prospect Lefferts Gardens says:
This landmark designation is a big plus for Brooklyn. I wonder if this newspaper's coverage would have emphasized the opposition anywhere near as much prior to it's change in ownership?
Feb. 2, 2012, 10:10 am
Lee P. from Manhattan Beach says:
When people who dissent are addressed by their opponents in this manner, the U.S.A. is no longer the land of the free and the home of the brave. We have descended into a state monitored sharply by thought police, and the result is very frightening. Yet another unwanted residual effect of the disastrous Obama presidency.

I've seldom if ever agreed with Charles Barron, but in this case, Hurray for Him, as well as those courageous council members who voiced their dissent via abstention.

In a true Democracy, civil discourse and disagreement are part of the process, We are rapidly devolving into something far far less free and far far more dangerous, as these comments (among myriad other factors) indicate.
Feb. 2, 2012, 1:17 pm
Caroline from Brooklyn Heights says:
Maxine Rockoff is not a whackjob....although I think she will get a kick out of being called one on the internet...
Feb. 2, 2012, 1:25 pm
Blayze from The Stuffy Interior of a Victorian Library, plotting against Maxine says:
It baffles the mind when people think landmarking is this great demon that will add undue costs. They've already spent the millions fixing the facade, the reward is landmarking and potential tax credits for upkeep if they choose to apply for the national register which after all this brouhaha, they probably won't to spite their opposition. This district is so small too compared to any other district in New York City, it's a handful of buildings at best but nonetheless, architecturally and historically significant buildings. Developments should continue to grow in downtown Brooklyn but not at the expense of it's existing building stock. Just because it's tall doesn't mean some wackjob developer might not want to knock the whole thing down for a supertall skyripper.

Oh well, the district is done. If Maxine and her opposition despise this designation, they are free to move out.
Feb. 2, 2012, 1:47 pm
John from Ditmas Park says:
Who knew that Brooklyn had "skyscrapers"? With this new district Broklyn Heights is closer to becoming the cemetery it really wants to be.
Feb. 3, 2012, 1:15 am

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