Will Someone Buy the Heights Cinema Building to Preserve It?

Kate Briquelet’s Brooklyn Paper story quotes Brooklyn Heights Cinema owner Kenn Lowy as saying he has “received e-mails from people interested in buying the building.”

The Brooklyn Paper: “There are a lot of people who want to keep it around,” said Lowy, who hopes to find a new home for the theater if the building can’t be saved. “It makes it easier to move forward knowing we have all this support.”

The story also quotes landowner Tom Caruana’s architect (not named) as saying “plans for the site are not yet ready to be shared.” Architectural historian Francis Morrone, author of An Architectural Guidebook to Brooklyn, who the article says “is working with the [Brooklyn] Heights Association on an in-depth history of the building”, is quoted thus: “It’s an intact piece of history, …A major part of what makes Brooklyn Heights what it is is this historical physical fabric.”

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  • Karl Junkersfeld

    I, for one, am waiting anxiously for the “in depth history of this building” from Francis and the BHA.

  • Curmudgeon

    Great news. I think we should wait and see what turns up. There is no reason to rush and obviously many feel it is worth saving,

  • Brooklyn Tea

    Some buildings just aren’t worth saving and this is one of those buildings. Change is good. I’m hoping it is torn down and replaced with something new, fresh and exciting! The same holds true for the Brooklyn Eagle building.

  • Luke C

    I hear that George Washington stopped in here to catch Thomas Paine’s premier of Rights of Man. His chewing gum with one of his false teeth is still stuck under a seat.

  • nabeguy

    I can’t necessarily agree with Brooklyn Tea that change, like greed, is good, although they’re often linked. In this case, nostalgic fool that I am, I still can’t really find any compelling reason to save this particular builiding, as its historical siginificance is minor. Saving the theater, on the other hand, is another thing altogether, but let’s not confuse the two. A landlord shouldn’t be handcuffed by the business they rent their property to, and I say this not only as an ex-Heights resident, but as an ex-landlord as well.

  • jarbro

    Tear it down and put in a bank :sarcasm:

  • AEB

    Tear it down, replace it with a drive-in….

  • EHinBH

    If it wil be preserved, that is great. If not, then I say develop it because the place is falling apart.

  • Gerry

    This is not a very attractive building looks really crummy to me

  • stuart

    A drive-through nail salon would be state of the art.

  • AEB

    Actually, a combination laundromat and miniature golf course would be nice….

  • Hicks on hicks

    Maybe a check cashing store. We don’t have any such services in the N Heights/Dumbo

  • Karl Junkersfeld

    The Landmarks Preservation site says this building was built circa 1945. Anyone looking at the building can see it wasn’t built in 1895. Where are these historians getting their dates from?

    It is possible the basement was built in 1895 but the structure above ground is doubtful. Please stuart or whoever, where are you getting this 1895 figure from?

    You can see just by going inside that the entire place is retrofitted for the movie theater. Nothing original. A look at the 1959 picture of Paradise Supermarket has a partial glass exterior. (NY Public Library)


  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/13189502@N02/ Eddyenergizer

    The DOB records go back to 1901 but they are not viewable online, so one would have to go there to see what they were issued for. The earliest one you can view is a Certificate of Occupancy from 1938, which states “date of construction 1935″ However that does not necessarily mean that’s when it was built, it could just mean a substantial renovation… but it is fair to say the 1945 date is probably erroneous.

  • Karl Junkersfeld


    Nice work. I went to the DOB site and there was a complete rebuilding of the interior in 1971. Another words, it was entirely gutted to build the movie theater. Obviously. I saw the construction in 1935 and plumbing in 1938 of six stores (6). The exterior has changed radically from the 1959 photo of the Paradise supermarket and the interior is 1971 so the what is 1895? What beams and bricks are the historians talking about? My guess is the basement. Yes the basement has historical significance. lol. Quote from article in Brooklyn Paper:

    Both Robert Perris, district manager of Community Board 2, and Judy Stanton, executive director of the Brooklyn Heights Association, told the Eagle that this decision followed a meeting between the building owner and the Heights Association’s own Landmarks Committee. She said that the committee, which contains three architectural historians, did research on the building’s history and came to the conclusion that it was an integral part of the Brooklyn Heights Landmark District and should not be demolished. The circa-1895 building was always a commercial building, but had a varied history, before it was converted into a cinema around 1970. Stanton said that research has revealed that the building, as originally constructed, was made of fine brick, had cast-iron columns and other details that were consistent with the neighborhood. Even though many of these details were later covered up or painted over, she says, “four-fifths of the original masonry still exists.” “After the presentation, the owner apparently decided he had more homework to do.”

    The above statement needs more specificity. The beams in the theater were taken out so they must be in the basement with the old ovens from prior establishments. Oh yea, there are ovens in the basement probably from prior food diners that inhabited this spot. The last sentence is obnoxious IMHO when the writer editorializes and says “apparently the owner decided to do more homework.”

    I’ll do more homework tomorrow and see if I can comer up with something factual about the date of construction if earlier than 1935. This is very interesting.

    picture 1959:


  • stuart

    Give it up Karl. people who are much smarter than you about these things date the building to circa 1895 after three frame houses facing Orange Street stop appearing on city directories. They get the info from old tax maps and city directories. Aerial photos taken in 1924 -yes, they exist- clearly show the building. Additionally, the brickwork on the piers is obviously 19th century brickwork although it has been painted white. The building is nowhere near intact but a lot of the exterior masonry dates to over a hundred and ten years ago.

  • Karl Junkersfeld


    No need to get insulting. As ignorant as I may be, I’ll do my due diligence and confirm the dates. Surely you have no problem with that.

    Unfortunately, I don’t have your ability to look at painted brickwork and know, with certitude, that it was built in late nineteenth century. Congrats to you for being able to pare it down so close to the 1895 date provided by our esteemed historians. Anyone who has that kind of ability has my permission to be condescending.

  • stuart

    Karl, Karl, Karl, please do not be offended. no offense is intended.
    we all love ya.
    But you can’t tell old brick from new.
    I would be happy to take you on a tour and point out how to tell the age of brick and mortar joints.
    I agree w/you that the interior is completely new.
    The Landmarks Commission will need to decide if the building, such as it is, retains any history integrity or if it has been too diluted of its historic fabric and significance. I would tend to bet on the latter outcome but nonetheless, I think the BHA is very right to raise a fuss.
    You know there are a lot of other one and two-story commercial buildings in the nabe. I do not think they are all expendable.

  • JT

    Love it!

  • Karl Junkersfeld

    I apologize stuart. I had a tough day and was a bit sensitive. You know I respect you greatly.

    Went to aerials for 1924 and you are correct that it appears to be the same building. Took a little air out of my balloon I must admit.

    I’m still going to do a little more homework tomorrow just to satisfy myself completely. I enjoy this stuff so it isn’t any effort to go to the municipal building and look at some records if they are available for 70 Henry.

    I have always disliked the slippery slope argument and prefer to have each building stand on its own merits but I can appreciate the concern.

    I truly appreciate your knowledge of the neighborhood. In the vast majority of cases, you are a voice of reason.

  • nabeguy

    This obsession with circa this and circa that is a straw-man argument. Look at the building and be honest…in comparison to the rest of the neighborhood, does it really add anything to BH’s architectural vernacular? I appreciate the yearning to preserve anything that existed pre-20th century, but we’re talking about bricks and beams that would cost more to restore than to remove and preserve. As long as due diligence is taken in guarantee that any new structure meets and, more importantly, adheres to the stringent LPC and BHA rules that govern new construction in the Heights, then let it happen.

  • BronxKid

    new building, old building, 19th century, pre-war…..we just need a movie theater in Brooklyn Heights

  • lois

    I agree with BrooklynTea and Nabeguy that there is nothing special about this building as it stands now. We do need a theatre, but not necessarily the one that is there. ALSO, thanks Karl for your taking on this project to do some research on it. Stuart’s comment to “give it up Karl” was insulting and out of line. You were not being super-sensitive to be offended by it. We appreciate your many contributions to the BHB.

  • Karl Junkersfeld

    Thanks lois. Although I don’t know stuart personally i feel like I know him well from his daily post here but especially from his posts on the Brownstoner blog. I’m sure he didn’t mean to be insulting. He is a great Brooklyn Heights resident like yourself. In fact, I should of recommended him for the top Ten list of Brooklyn Heights residents considering his volumes of posts on Brownstoner and his education of the masses about BH as a community. His one fault is he is a bit condescending, at times, but considering the daily knowledge he imparts to other Brooklyners it is a small price to pay. lol Trust me when I say I have no beef with stuart and appreciate him greatly.

  • PBL

    I really want this theatre to stay exactly how it stands today! My father took my mother on one of their first dates there (to see “A Clockwork Orange” … smooth Dad, real smooth), and it saddens me to think that this quaint neighborhood mainstay will be replaced by another residential building. These are the types of spots that make our neighborhood so unique.

  • hw

    I’d hate to see the building go. It plays an important role in the streetscape as a low rise commercial building. New condo buildings in Brooklyn almost always lack commercial space on the street level, and are built to the maximum buildable height without regard for surrounding architecture. The current building is an attractive counterpoint to the surrounding buildings, and provides commercial space to serve the community– whether it be as a movie theater or something else.

    I also happen to think it’s quite a handsome building, and I love the movie theater.

  • Maura Marlin

    Can we convert it to become the Brooklyn Heights Children’s Theatre?

  • David on Middagh

    I’ve decided that those who called the building “ugly” and want it gone are probably looking down on the roof, perhaps from one of the ugly buildings in the area. At street level, the brickwork is elegant. It should stay.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/13189502@N02/ Eddyenergizer

    The building does have some interesting brick work and would look fine if it had a “facelift”…. If it were to remain a theater, which would be much better than more condos.
    Imagine if the horrible white paint and decrepit plastic signs were removed, the brick and mortar restored the aluminum framed windows replaced with nice wooden ones. Perhaps add a period cornice around the top for some definition and to help conceal the air conditioning units… and maybe a retro marquee? Could be a pretty nice place…

    Of course the interior is another story…

  • BH’er

    I, too, would like for this theatre to stay around for a while

    Truth-be-told, it’s a bit of a lonely place…. the only way to save it is to start making it profitable enough that the owner isn’t forced to sell

    Bottom line: let’s start going to the movies more often! Everyone who wants it here (myself included), start taking in a movie or two a week (with a popcorn and soda)

    This is the most powerful message we can send