Brooklyn Paper: Brooklyn Heights Cinema Endangered?

According to Kate Briquelet’s story, the beloved Brooklyn Heights Cinema, recently rescued and revitalized by BHB Ten honoree Kenn Lowy, may be demolished to make way for (what else?) a five story residential building.

Brooklyn Paper: Next Wednesday, building owner Tom Caruana will present plans for a new structure at 70 Henry St. at Community Board 2’s Landmarks Committee — an early step in gaining city permission to demolish an edifice in the landmarked neighborhood, according to District Manager Rob Perris.

The article quotes Caruana as unwilling to reveal details of his plans, but saying he will “move forward” as soon as possible. Lowy is quoted as saying he will do whatever is necessary to keep the Cinema going, even if he has to move it to DUMBO.

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  • GHB

    I love having a small local movie house in the neighborhood. New York has so few of them left.
    @Stuart, “I have to admit I stopped going to the Heights Cinema. it would be considered sub-par in Lagos, Angola.” Hey genius, Lagos is in Nigeria!

  • Master Of Middagh

    I haven’t seen a movie there in many years either. All of those independent movies just look super boring and/or depressing. I might’ve seen “Tinker, Tailor…” there, but by the time it opened here, I had already made a special trip into Manhattan to see it.

    I don’t want to spend good money to see a movie I’ve never heard of about how some novice filmmaker came to understand herself by reading her mother’s journal after she died of cancer or whatever. I’m sorry, but that isn’t how decent people spend their evenings…

    What would get me in to see movies? Show classic movies like “A Hard Day’s Night”, “Heathers” or “The Seventh Seal”. I’ll pay for a ticket if I know I’m getting something good in return. Perhaps I’m not the only person who feels this way- are you more likely to go to your local theater to see “Be Kind, Rewind” (whatever the heck that might have been) or “Ice Station Zebra” (yay!)? And they could show children’s movies too, that’s not a bad market either for the matinee crowd.

    I like having a movie theater so close- I just wish they played something I wanted to see. The current line-up are all first run pictures and NONE of them interest me. And don’t most folks who want to see those movies go see them in a larger louder place anyhow? Even if they screen the upcoming “Avengers” movie there, which I plan on seeing, I don’t think I wanna see it on such a small screen with only satisfactory sound. You gotta show movies I can’t see on a big screen anywhere else in town, if you want to compete with Court Street and other larger venues.

    I’m not saying any of my assertions are absolutely correct, but my opinion as a consumer is relevant to this discussion.

  • GHB

    @Master Of Middagh – Really? Heathers and The Seventh Seal? THAT’S a double bill for the ages! I get what you’re saying (sort of), but I like the mix of “big” films (The Descendants) and the smaller indies and foreign films that I might otherwise have missed. Maybe YOU should be the programmer, so that they’ll only show films that YOU approve of….

  • Master Of Middagh

    You think a half-baked George Clooney vehicle is better than one of the greatest foreign films of all time? It’s a matter of taste, I suppose. I have some…

    I think I made it very clear that my proposal was subjectively based, so there’s no need for the “YOU” embellishments. The theory is that it’s possible more people will go see a movie they KNOW is good rather than trying their luck with what is most likely to be another boring as tears small indie. Your mileage may vary.

    I thought the problem was that they aren’t filling enough seats because they are currently catering to the minority of neighborhood patrons with YOUR tastes, GHB,

  • Hicks on hicks

    Doesn’t the owner of the building have a right to develop his property in an economically viable fashion? So many contributors of this blog are spouting their opinions to preserve a lame theater that they barely go to. If you truly care, raise the money, buy the property and preserve it. Otherwise you’re just full of hot air.

  • Master Of Middagh

    @Hicks on hicks- In case you haven’t noticed, this is PRECISELY the venue for opinions. Your logic indicates you believe that only the person who owns the building has a right to comment on this thread.

    And what are you blowing, may I ask? Cold air? Even if folks don’t agree with each other, our opinions are far more valuable than you jumping in to play “Captain Of The Obvious”. Re-read your remark and bask in it’s pointlessness…

  • EHinBH

    Have been a handful of times in the past few years — I just went to see that end of the world movie there… the heat is broken, the place is dirty, and the movies never start on time. I do have respect for the landmark district, but the building is not anything special — it’s a rectangle box with peeling paint. There is no reason why something new shouldnt replace it. If it could include a single-screen independent fim house, all the better… If not, fine. i think the BHS should do some sort of formal study. What do people really want? It’s odd that the hood is so packed with people, yet they wont patronize much of what opens on Henry.

  • Liz

    I love having BHC in the neighborhood. I go monthly and appreciate the movies they screen. I think it would be a real loss to the neighborhood to see it go.

    I’ve always thought it would be smart for to BHC follow the same model as the McMenamins Theater Pubs in Portland, OR. A way to differentiate the movie going experience, expand offerings and update and preserve classic one/two screen theaters.

  • hicks st guy

    @Hicks on Hicks, of course the owner has the right to develop his property, but I don’t think that’s the topic here.

  • GHB

    Master Of Middagh, first of all, I loved The Descendants. You got a problem with that? Second, I love classic foreign films and I’d be the first on line every week if that was what they were showing at BHC. The Seventh Seal is one of my favorites, and I was only commenting on The Seventh Seal/Heathers juxtaposition. Sadly, Fellini, Bergman, Kurosawa and Godard wouldn’t draw enough viewers to keep a theater going in the Heights. Those films can’t even keep Manhattan theaters going. Home video put an end to that. Film Forum, one of the few theaters to still show old classics, also brings in new indies to draw younger viewers. You don’t like MY tastes? Who cares?

  • It Is What It Ain’t

    This is an outrage. Development, development, development. Soon we will be packed in like sardines! What is the purpose of landmark designation, if every two-bit developer is able to circumvent the landmark restrictions with a wink of the eye and a bag of cash? And, where in heck is the Brooklyn Heights Association? They’re supposed to be keeping these barbarians at bay! Am I wrong?

  • Curmudgeon

    Well done @It Is What It Ain’t

    I couldn’t have said it better!

  • stuart

    this new building will house what? five families?
    there are rent-stabilized brownstones in the neighborhood that have like twenty apartments in them. A throwback to the old boarding house days of the Depression.
    If you want to make the neighborhood less dense, get rid of the old rent protections and let people rehab the old brownstones back to single family use.

  • Knight

    @Stuart: great idea. I’d like to start with that beautiful house on the SW corner of Henry & Pierrepont. I’m told that in it’s heyday it was a brothel, but now it is so subdivided that it may as well be an SRO hotel. I don’t want it to be a brothel again but it would be quite stately if it were just a 1 or 2 family.

  • kenn lowy

    Yes, the owner is reading this thread. He lives here and is one of your neighbors.

    For the record, I know many of the top people at the BHA. The owner showed them the plans recently. I was a but surprised that no one from the BHA, people I’ve known for over 10 years, even told me about it. The Community Board gave me a heads up.

    I can’t respond to all the posts, and have no desire to, but I can tell you that when the theatre is run well and serves the community, it can a make a small profit. I think it’s viable enough that I have every intention of keeping it going at a new location. My staff feel the same way and so do all the customers that come through the door. And the simple fact is that my little theatre can do things other theaters don’t or won’t do. Keep the comments coming. As for Stuart, come by the theatre. I’d love to speak with you in person (seriously).

  • Curmudgeon

    Dare I say it? Stuart seems like a shill for the owner. Or perhaps the owner himself? Get rid of rent regulations? What next I wonder?
    This part of Henry St. is going to turn into “condo alley.”

  • Master Of Middagh

    @GHB- I didn’t say I didn’t care for your tastes, just that you HAVE NO TASTE. And I would’ve retracted that if you hadn’t been such an adamant supporter of “The Descendants”. A friend of mine who lost a child while giving birth recently described it as- “Absolutely insulting to anyone who is actually grieving. I was sobbing in the theater and so angry afterwards. The way they handled death, heck, the way they handled love made me so mad. I felt emotionally ambushed, it was supposed to be a dark comedy. We stuck in it until the end, hoping for catharsis, but it fell flat. I wish people would just speak for themselves and tell the truth; both Clooney and the director are divorced childless men, why not write about what they know?”. So yeah, your liking that movie probably doesn’t speak well of you…

  • Karl Junkersfeld

    Mr. Buddy Holly,

    Methinks you need to take a course in basic Economics. The fact that rent control/stabilization exists is a primary factor for the housing shortage in New York City not the opposite. If rent controls were lifted, I can assure you that the rents on open market apartments would be lower due to increased supply. Rent regulations were not initiated to block greed. In 1942, Franklin Roosevelt signed an “Emergency Price Control Act” into law to halt inflation. Almost all reputable economists today are in agreement that “price controls” is a poor way to control inflation. (Nixon 1971) We now know that controlling interest rates is much more effective.

    The landlords cannot charge whatever they want. They are subject to market forces like supply and demand. A couple of years ago we saw exactly that when developers were giving up to 3 months free rent if you signed a 3 year lease.

    Your rant about slums, misery is erroneous. New York City is the only major city in the United States with rent controls. Are you suggesting that the rest of the country is suffering from slums, crime and misery.

    I live in a rent stabilized apartment and pay $900. Is that fair to the landlord who could probably rent it for 3X more? Of course I’ll take advantage of this ridiculous law but I am also smart enough to know it is unfair and violates every economic principle known to man.

    I’ll leave the arguments about this law effects on buildings renovation etc to another day but would you put money into a building that is populated with rent controlled tenants. I don’t think so.

  • Regina

    Mr. Junkersfeld, If you think its so unfair why don’t you simply pay your landlord market rate? I’m sure they would have no objection. Then you could sleep soundly, knowing you are not a hypocrite.
    “I am also smart enough to know it is unfair and violates every economic principle known to man” Really? Isn’t rent stabilization an economic principal. And what about socialist principals, are they not “known to man”?
    One last point. You must not get out of NYC much because if you did you’d realize; much of this country is “suffering from slums, crime and misery”.

  • Karl Junkersfeld

    Not a hypocrite just playing by the rules. At least I acknowledge that there is an injustice to the landlords. I sleep very soundly thank you.

    Yes, socialism is an economic principle and a bad one. And no, rent stabilization is not an economic principal but an artificial construct that bastardizes the free market enterprise. I’m a liberal democrat but it is unfortunate that extreme liberals have made capitalism a bad word. It is the foundation of this country or haven’t you noticed.

    As far as socialism, we see the results of socialism in Europe with astronomical debt burdens that will take years of hardship and de-leveraging for all concerned. The austerity these countries will experience in the coming years is frightening. Believe it or not, I’m for a certain amount of income distribution and tax rates should increase on the wealthy but that is the governments responsibility not the landlords. Creating a rent control on landlords is not socialism and burdens landlords to an inordinate degree. Lastly, United States is not suffering from slums, crime and misery compared with many other countries in the world. We are not perfect but our economy is doing pretty well in comparison. If you are suggesting that a move to socialistic principles from free market capitalism would improve our country’s economic outlook then you are sadly mistaken.

    Stuart, aren’t you happy I took some of the heat away from you. The self righteousness of so many extreme liberals is nauseating.

  • Karl Junkersfeld

    Buddy Holly,

    First I appreciate your civil response. The attacks on stuart for having a differing opinion were obnoxious.

    There is a lot of new housing under the rent stabilization banner if the developer gained tax breaks from the city. (421 tax abatement etc.) This is fair to both parties since both are benefiting. Another words, it is not a decree from a government entity that has no idea about how business works. Avalon Bay, for example, in Fort Greene has rent stabilized apartments and it was built 2 years ago.

    You and I both know there are tons of housing units across the city that are not being rehabilitated because of rent regulation. If the landlords could get market rents these building would be operable and tons of new apartments would hit the market. Basically, I think you are agreeing with me that vacancy rates in NYC are low and new housing is needed. Again, more supply lower rents. The rents just can’t be so low that landlords don’t find it cost effective to rehabilitate their buildings. They need incentive.

    As far as vacancy rates in luxury apartments in Downtown Brooklyn, Williamsburg and elsewhere in New York, they are seeing purchases increasing and rentals are booming. I think it took 2 minutes for the apartment house on Pineapple to fill up. If the developer prices his apartments appropriately, he will get a purchaser/renter and if not he will absorb the costs until such time he can get his price. That is his prerogative as an investor.

    As far as rent regulated properties doing well, what can I say. I disagree. That may be an isolated example. a 5.8% increase on a low base is not very profitable. Again, Holly, appreciate your civil manner and not asking me to leave the Heights or calling me a hypocrite. We will just have to agree to disagree.

  • Heightsguy

    I was not aware that Europe was socialist. I don’t think that European socialists think that it is! Such sloppy definitions of socialism. Look at the websites of socialist parties in the US to get a working definition. None of them push “big government” but rather democratic control of the economy, expansion of democracy from the poitical into the economic and social realm, grass-roots democratic planning, a society at the service of human needs, etc. Probably the opposite of what existed in the USSR! There is no model to point to, actually, it’s been in peoples heads and never came to fruition or lasted more than a year. I know this is off thread, sorry.

  • Andrew Porter

    That building is now a co-op apartment building, NOT “so subdivided that it may as well be an SRO hotel”. Get your facts right before you post, please.

  • Andrew Porter

    And the last dozen or so comments are related to the Heights Cinema how???

    Interestingly, one person I spoke to who is very adamant that the Height Cinema be preserved admitted that they have not seen a film there in several years. If people don’t support our local businesses, they deserve what happens to them.

  • greatgazoo

    Karl – hate to quibble (and certainly agree that the attacks left the realm of civil discourse quite some time ago) but I believe stuart started it with this:

    stuart January 12, 2012 at 7:28 pm #
    are so many people really this unhappy in Brooklyn Heights? Is it just age or what?
    This is a disgusting filthy ugly little crappy cinema.
    What are you dingbats TALKING ABOUT???

    The thread had civil disagreement about development and the theater until around that entry, give or take.

    I trust that if stuart can dish it out, he can take it as well.

  • Master Of Middagh

    With the crass words you use Dave, you sound like you belong in an adult video store- so I don’t see what you’re complaining about…

  • cw

    Those who love the cinema so much should simply buy the building from the owner then you and the BHA can do as you think best. You can subsidize all the card shops and any other quaint uses you like.
    If you read the landmark law one of the first lines is to insist that Landmarking NOT be used for zoning.

  • Dean Collins

    Agree, this place is a dump, let it be dozed but ensure the replacement building has a certain period style in the replacement.

    Preventing someone from exercising their property rights is abhorrent.

  • kenn lowy

    The heat is not broken, it’s not dirty and the movies do start on time. If you don’t like the place fine. But at least be honest about it.

  • kenn lowy

    Soe of us are trying to do that. He doesn’t want to sell.