Tower power! CB 2 pushes ‘Skyscraper District’ plan forward

Number 16’s ‘Court’-ing bids
The Brooklyn Paper / Julie Rosenberg

Brooklyn Heights’ community board narrowly backed a “Skyscraper Historic District” for Court Street on Wednesday night, bucking many locals who actually live in the proposed landmark zone.

At its monthly meeting, Community Board 2 voted 16–10 in favor of the new district, which would designate certain towers on Livingston, Court and Montague streets as worthy of historic preservation. The vote came capped a contentious meeting where many property owners complained that renovation or repairs in their buildings would end up costing more due to requirements inside landmark districts.

“Any additional costs that landmarking would impose will get transferred to tuition,” said Ray Levin, a lawyer for Brooklyn Law School, which opposes the designation. The school’s residence hall at 184 Joralemon St. is included in the proposal.

Four of the nine opponents who spoke against the proposal live at 75 Livington St., the residential tower that is included in a 20-building zone that is mostly comprised of commercial office buildings such as 16 Court St. The residents said that 75 Livingston should be excluded from the zone because it already has put more than $5 million into historic preservation.

And co-op owner Paula Ingram added that the buildings in the zone aren’t even worthy of historic district designation given how paltry the Brooklyn skyline is compared to the one across the river.

“Court Street is not Fifth Avenue. Court Street is not Central Park West,” said Ingram, who works as a broker for commercial properties. She was echoing a letter that building officials sent to the city last week, which argued that the historic district would merely enshrine a “sad chapter in Downtown’s economic, political, social and cultural history.”

But the Landmarks Preservation Commission dismissed concerns about added costs and about the area’s worthiness, arguing that the proposal would not require buildings spend any money to restore facades prior to being designated as landmarks.

“One thing that a designation provides is stability and predictability,” said Mary Beth Betts, the agency’s director of research.

And Jane McGroarty, president of the Brooklyn Heights Association, which has been pushing the designation, defended the decision to create such a zone to protect “the heart of Brooklyn.”

“I believe in historical preservation and its positive effect on areas that are designated,” said McGroarty, an architect. “And the costs associated with landmarking are over-inflated.”

Brooklyn Heights, after all, was the city’s first historic district. And, some pointed out, that didn’t turn out so bad for the neighborhood.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission [1 Centre St. at Chambers Street in Manhattan, (212) 669-7817] will vote on the proposal on Dec. 14 at 9:30 am