Find Out Why We Won’t See Renderings Of The Brooklyn Heights Cinema Building At 70 Henry Street Until Next Month

After the LPC told the owners of 70 Henry Street to go back to the drawing board last year with their proposal to build a mixed used structure on the site (pictured), architects Gerner Kronick and Valcarcel‘s revised plan was presented to CB2 this week. Brownstoner reports that the firm is not allowing publication of the renderings until the Brooklyn Heights Association reviews them next month.

While hiding the design from the general public doesn’t sound like the greatest idea to us, Brooklyn Heights Cinema owner Kenn Lowy tells BHB, “I really like the new plan. It preserves much of the look of the current building and gives us a brand new space which we can design ourselves. The down side is that we will have to find a way to make it work with one screen. I’m confident that we’ll be able to do that by using the new lobby as a small performance space for singer-songwriters and comedians.”

As for that design, Brownstoner says:

“The theater will remain on the ground floor with an entrance on the corner of Henry and Orange Streets, but it will get a new sign that looks like a film strip. Also, it will be soundproofed so that residents above and next door won’t be bothered by noise from the movies. The apartments will have their own entrance on Orange Street, as well as an internal courtyard on the northwest end of the property.

The owner’s original plan was to demolish the current building. Brooklyn Heights hero/preservationist Otis Pearsall warned that would mark the first time since 1967 that a building in the Brooklyn Heights Historic District was razed. “We’re at a watershed moment,” he said. “Stop and weigh the inevitable irreversibility of your action.”

As discussed on Homer Fink’s Brooklyn Heights Walking Tour (ahem…next one is October 5 get your tickets here), Pearsall was referring to the Norwegian Club which was located on the corner of Columbia Heights and Pineapple Street. It was demolished, making way for Ulrich Franzen’s Watchtower building, which ultimately won a “Certificate of Appropriateness” from the LPC.

The punchline here? The BHA allowed the demolition of the Norweigian Club after it hand picked Franzen as the architect for the project. While demolition appears to off the table, could history be repeating itself here?

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  • Curious Neighbor

    As someone who lives right next door, I am curious as to why the Brooklyn Heights Association get to see something first that will affect both the value of my apartment and possibly my quality of life. Why do they get this special treatment? Why does Judy Stanton get a say in the design before we who actually live here? Sounds like a deal is in the works.

    Inquiring minds want to know?

  • HenryLoL

    I agree that the BHA has zero right to see the plans first – though I do generally support them (when they are not using our private donations to fund public schools). I liked the old design better than preserving the brick box at the bottom. Also – not sure what Pearsall is talking about. There certainly were buildings taken down post 1967. Just recently the Brooklyn Eagle Building was taken down.

  • Heights Observer

    Oh no! Henry LoL, the real estate industry shill, is on to this one. Watch out! Preservationists beware. His billionaire buddies want to set new LPC rules that will allow them to gut the Heights so they could build more.

  • HenryLoL

    Well that, nobody here wants. But am all for tearing down crumbling old places and replacing with something smart. Whatever happened to the new ‘brownstone’ that was to be built on the empty lot on Cranberry Street??

  • Cranberry Beret

    This is how the Landmarks process works. Any proposal that needs a Landmarks public hearing must go to the community board for review before going to the Commission; it’s customary for the local neighborhood association to do a review also. Usually the BHA looks first and its recommendation is considered when CB2 meets. I assume the order is reversed here because it’s a revised proposal. Nothing really out of the ordinary here…

  • Cranberry Beret

    Supposedly breaking ground soon. The developer chose to push the limits of what zoning and Dept of Building rules allow and that met with a lot of push-back from the city…hence 2 years of delay. What goes around, comes around…

  • Robert Perris

    The architect showed two alternative designs at a public meeting on Wednesday, so “hiding the design” doesn’t seem the right characterization.

    Henry, I believe the distinction Mr. Pearsall is making is, this would be the first 19th century building (remnant?) torn down since the historic district was created. (My theoretical deconstruction should not be construed as confirmation of that as fact, nor as an opinion on whether or not the current building should be saved.)

  • BrooklynBugle

    Here’s the screenshot of B’stoner author’s comment on BHA seeing renderings first

  • Cranberry Beret

    I think Robert’s point is that anyone could have showed up at the CB2 meeting to view them and the architect couldn’t stop them. The architect’s permission would be needed to have them reproduced in posted photos, however.

  • BrooklynBugle

    Correct. However, this is the 21st century and the means are readily available to show the renderings to the public who may not have been able to attend the CB2 meeting. Otherwise it just feels like smoke filled room stuff whether or not it is the intention of any of those involved.

  • suzanne goss

    Ace wire brush company got torn down just a few months ago.

  • DIBS

    The building, as it stands, is an eyesore. What architectural significance is there to preserve? Absolutely none. The corbelled brickwork on the side??? The signs are tacky.

    Don’t get me wrong, I like it and I go and I want to see it remain but all this whining about preserving something is ridiculous.

  • Karl Junkersfeld

    DIBS, you are absolutely correct. The interior has been totally retrofitted from multiple stores in the 50’s to a movie theater and on the outside, 95% of the bricks are, at minimum, post 1950 and painted on many times over. This building has nothing historical left materially excepting the basement. My guess is there are original materials there. I love preservation but let’s not go overboard and deem buildings as historical which are not.

  • Karl Junkersfeld

    One more note, in my opinion, what may be historical about that location is not the building itself but the height and width of the corner structure. I have seen some old pictures of this location and the height and width has been consistent. That is what is cool about this lot not the building itself.