The big pucks! NHL team owner buys Brooklyn Law building for $35M

Come and get it: Brooklyn Law School is selling 2 Pierrepont St., a 12-story Brooklyn Heights building which an expert says will likely converted to condominiums.
Photo by Steve Schnibbe

He is no cheap skate.

The billionaire owner of a professional hockey team shelled out $35 million to buy an apartment building on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade from Brooklyn Law School earlier this month, according to property records.

A holding company helmed by Brooklyn native Vincent Viola, who made his fortune as a Wall Street trader and owns the Florida Panthers hockey team, snatched up the 12-story structure at 2 Pierrepont St. on Sept. 10, as first reported by the Real Deal.

The cash-strapped college put the building on the market in July, after last year selling six other Heights properties it had been using as student housing to developer Jared Kushner for a reported $36.5 million.

The brick apartment block is not much to look at, but it offers one thing many other Heights properties can’t — altitude. The building dates back to 1949, before the city designated the neighborhood as a historic district and imposed a maximum height restriction of 50 feet — or about five stories — on new construction.

When the law school put the property on the market, some speculated that a buyer might demolish the bland building and replace it with modern condominiums. But the height limit would force the new owner to sacrifice around seven levels — and their valuable waterfront views — if he builds something new, which one local real-estate insider said would be madness.

“If you were building a new building there you’d essentially have to be putting up three-story townhouses,” the source told this paper in July.

Brooklyn Law, which has suffered from declining enrollment numbers in recent years, now owns just one building of unfurnished student housing at Clinton Street and Aitken Place, plus the dormitory that it built at State Street and Boerum Place in 2002.

Viola and his family live in Manhattan but his Brooklyn ties run deep. He grew up in Williamsburg, the son of a truck driver, and attended Saint Cecilia’s elementary in Greenpoint and Brooklyn Tech in Fort Greene. The former gasoline trader used to own a stake in the Nets and was an early investor in the controversial Atlantic Yards project, which encompasses Barclays Center.

Viola purchased the Panthers for a reported $250 million in 2013 — a bargain compared to the $485 million Forbes claims fellow Brooklyn Tech alum Charles Wang sold the Islanders for last year.

Reach reporter Harry MacCormack at hmaccormack@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow him on Twitter @HMacBKPaper.

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