Brooklyn Heights Blog » Development http://brooklynheightsblog.com Dispatches from America's first suburb Thu, 21 Sep 2017 21:56:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 Update On Pier Six Towers: New Justice Takes Overhttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/84514 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/84514#comments Tue, 15 Aug 2017 04:19:32 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=84514

Our last report on the Brooklyn Heights Association’s lawsuit against the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation and the developers to prevent the construction of two high rise residential towers on the uplands of Pier Six noted that Justice Lucy Billings had orally declined to issue a temporary restraining order requested by the BHA to prevent any construction work until the court issues its decision in the case. Nevertheless, Justice Billings warned that any construction done prior to the court’s decision was at the developers’ peril, as the court could decide not to allow it to proceed. The BHA has advised us that Justice Billings has now issued a written version of her earlier oral order, noting that the developers and their contractors should not undertake anything “that is irreversible or incapable of restoration to its original condition” until the court issues its decision.

The Justice also noted in her written order that she had declined to issue the TRO requested by the BHA for several reasons. One of these, noted in our earlier post, is that she did not consider the noise from pile driving to be “irreparable harm” required to justify a TRO. While perhaps not “irreparable,” the noise has aroused some strong complaints from parents whose kids use nearby playgrounds, as The Brooklyn Paper reports. The Justice’s written order further notes that it was based on “the lack of a convincing showing that petitioner [the BHA] is likely to prevail on the merits of its claims.”

Justice Billings also advised the litigants that she has been assigned new duties, and as a consequence, the case will now be given over to Justice Carmen St. George. She said that Justice St. George’s decision would not be affected by whatever construction is done between now and when the decision is issued.

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Library Site Developer Sued Over Commissionhttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/84468 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/84468#comments Fri, 04 Aug 2017 03:05:08 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=84468

The Real Deal reports that real estate private equity bankers Carlton Group are suing Hudson Companies, developers, on the site of the former Brooklyn Heights Branch Library, of the high rise residential and commercial building that will include a new branch library on its ground and lower floors. Carlton’s suit alleges that Hudson failed to pay $2.2 million in commissions owed for arranging financing for the new building. The Real Deal story quotes a Hudson spokesman as saying the case is without merit.

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Is The Brooklyn Heights Historic District a Mistake? Heights Resident Sandy Ikeda Thinks Sohttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/83443 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/83443#comments Mon, 31 Jul 2017 03:24:02 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=83443

Sandy Ikeda is a professor of economics at SUNY Purchase, and a resident of Brooklyn Heights. He’s also a very personable and bright guy, as your correspondent can attest, having gone on two Jane’s Walks through the Heights that he led, one several years ago and one this April. On each occasion he showed extensive knowledge of the neighborhood, including information that I, a resident of thirty years, didn’t know.

IMG_8039For example, I learned that the townhouse on Clinton Street in the photo above served, in the time just after the conclusion of World War II, as a halfway house for Japanese-Americans who had been interned in camps during the war.

IMG_8040Then there’s this plaque on the townhouse at the corner of Clinton and Livingston, that identifies it as having been the clubhouse of the Brooklyn Excelsiors, baseball champions in 1850, and one of whose pitchers may have invented the curve ball. The Excelsiors were lineal ancestors of the Brooklyn Dodgers, my first love in baseball, even though I lived nowhere near Brooklyn at the time.

Despite his knowledge of, and obvious love for, Brooklyn Heights, Sandy has argued here that the designation of Brooklyn Heights as a landmarked historic district was a mistake. He says he and others have benefited from it; they “enjoy the quiet and charm of a place nearly frozen in time – we basically live in a museum with restaurants.” The problem, he says, is that the restrictions imposed by landmarking have constrained how owners may use or dispose of their property and, for a more far-reaching effect, have limited the supply of housing over the whole local market, making it less affordable for all.

These were “Jane’s Walks,” and Sandy is an admirer of Jane Jacobs, whose The Death and Life of Great American Cities and The Economy of Cities examined the question, “What makes cities work?” She championed the idea of the “neighborhood,” an area incorporating a mix of uses: residential, commercial, and public (schools, libraries, police and fire, parks) and a mix of old and new buildings housing people of diverse economic means. She opposed attempts to impose order or rationality through “urban renewal” schemes that were popular in the 1950s and ’60s. Neighborhoods, she thought, should be allowed to develop organically.

Jacobs also fought against the construction of highways through urban neighborhoods, which destroyed large parts of them and created divisions where none had existed before. Sandy noted with approval the efforts by Brooklyn Heights residents to keep Robert Moses from routing the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway through Brooklyn Heights, an effort that caused Moses to re-route the highway to the edge of the bluff atop which the Heights sits, and to create the Promenade above it. Like Jacobs, Sandy saw Moses’ original plan to route the highway through the Heights as a heavy handed government intrusion into a neighborhood; one that would alter its character for the worse.

How, then, did landmark designation, which was brought about by local residents (though no doubt some were opposed) violate Jacobs’ principles? She believed neighborhoods should develop organically, but also (according to this brief bio) was “[a] firm believer in the importance of local residents having input on how their neighborhoods develop.” I didn’t put this question directly to Sandy during our Jane’s walk, but I think his answer would have been twofold: first, by tying their own hands with regard to the disposition of their properties, owners at the time of landmarking were also tying the hands of future generations of owners who had no voice in the matter; and second, that the wishes of the neighborhood’s residents in this respect were outweighed by the city’s need for greater density (which Jacobs also advocated) and the affordable housing this would make possible.

I haven’t found any indication that Jacobs took a position, pro or con, concerning the landmarking of Brooklyn Heights, which occurred a few years before she left New York for Toronto. I have learned, though, that Brooklyn Heights was her first home in New York City. She and her sister Betty lived on a block of Orange Street that, some time after they moved out, was demolished to make way for Moses’ Cadman Plaza housing development.

As Sandy and I walked along the Promenade, I asked him if, had Brooklyn Heights developed “organically,” we would be seeing a phalanx of high rises to our right instead of the backs of townhouses and their gardens. His first response was, “Yes,” but then he quickly added, “Well, you can’t really tell.” That’s true; real estate markets have their ups and downs, as do cities as preferred places to live. It’s also possible that the owners of townhouses along Columbia Heights might have made a pact not to sell to any developer. How enforceable that would be, and how long it could be effective, are relevant questions. It’s not unknown, though, for property owners to refuse a deal that would be lucrative in the short run in order to preserve a pleasant ambiance and the prospect of long term appreciation in value. This is just what happened when the owners at 75 Henry Street, part of the Cadman Plaza high rise complex, voted to say “no” to a developer’s offer that would have resulted in the construction of a new high rise on the location of the Pineapple Walk shops.

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For better or worse, New York, and Brooklyn in particular, is now considered very desirable. My guess is that the Heights, without landmarking, would today have the phalanx facing the water and many, though not all (some still survive in Midtown East), stretches of attractive row houses (as in the photo above) demolished and replaced by tall buildings, casting many shadows over the neighborhood. The Columbia Heights phalanx would make the Promenade a less attractive place to visit. I think the Heights would still be largely a “residential monoculture,” as that seems, in economic terms, the “highest and best use” as determined by market demand. We’d still have restaurants, probably more of them, and perhaps more high end retail.

What Jane Jacobs may not have foreseen when she wrote her first two great books was that her beloved West Village would be overrun by, well, people like me: people who could afford $350 a month (in 1973) for a one bedroom in a gut rehabbed tenement; people with jobs in law firms (like me), ad agencies, or banks, but who harbored artistic pretensions and were looking for authenticity, instead of the sterility of the Upper East Side or, heaven forbid, the suburbs. This began a trend of gentrification that led to what my friend David Coles describes here. Much of the West Village, like the Heights, became a landmarked district. It also became devoid of what Jacobs praised: a mixture of uses and of people of differing economic circumstances.

The Heights went through a similar process of gentrification, well described with respect to Brooklyn generally by Suleiman Osman in his The Invention of Brownstone Brooklyn. The early gentrifiers were in the vanguard of those seeking designation of the Heights as a historic district. Today it is a much less economically diverse community than it was in the 1960s and before, and commercial rents have risen considerably, forcing out some locally beloved stores, the latest being Housing Works. I believe, though, that these changes would have happened with or without landmarking. Any new high rises built in the Heights, because of its proximity to water and its pre-existing charm. would have commanded very high rentals or asking prices. Their combined effect would have been to make the neighborhood less attractive, but not enough to make it affordable for those of moderate means.

Jane Jacobs may not have foreseen gentrification, nor the ability of private developers to disrupt neighborhoods by (sometimes surreptitiously) acquiring assemblages of land and purchasing air rights in order to put up massive structures. I asked Sandy if he believed that private, as well as government, entities could impose on neighborhoods in ways that frustrated Jacobs’ notion of organic development. He unhesitatingly replied, “Yes.”

The question is, was the landmarking of the Heights worth it on a cost versus benefit basis? I would say it was. To Sandy’s first objection, that it puts a burden on property owners in the district, I would say: should the burden become too great for a majority of them, they may petition the city to remove it. To the objection that it constrains the supply of available housing, I would say that the constraint, in the case of the Heights, is minor. My further answer would go to less economic than, dare I say, historic and romantic considerations. I think it’s important to save some neighborhoods, like the Heights and the West Village, as reminders, imperfect as they may be, of what the city once was like, and of the history that played out in them; not only, as in the case of the Heights, that Washington’s army camped here in August of 1776 and that he planned his troops’ escape from Long Island here, or that many great artists, writers, and political figures have made homes here, but also in the more impressionistic words of Truman Capote in his A House on the Heights:

These houses bespeak an age of able servants and solid fireside ease, invoke specters of bearded seafaring father and bonneted stay-at-home wives: devoted parents to great broods of future bankers and fashionable brides.

Landmarking couldn’t save residential or commercial diversity in the Heights or the West Village, but lack of landmarking wouldn’t have, either. Indeed, it would likely, in my opinion, have made things worse.

Photos: C. Scales for BHB.

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Two New Floors, Condos May Come To Former Banana Republic Sitehttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/84351 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/84351#comments Tue, 25 Jul 2017 01:39:41 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=84351

CityRealty reports that plans have been filed by owner Eli M. Dweck and Marin Architects to add two stories to the building at 133 Montague Street, formerly home of Banana Republic (and, when your correspondent moved here in 1983, of a Burger King). The resulting four story building, if the plans are approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, would have 3,187 square feet of street level retail space and 7,474 square feet of residential space above.

Image: Google Street View

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Judge Nixes BHA Request; Pier 6 Developers May Proceed At Own Risk Until Final Rulinghttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/84329 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/84329#comments Fri, 21 Jul 2017 03:37:27 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=84329

The Eagle reports that today New York Supreme Court Justice Lucy Billings denied the Brooklyn Heights Association’s motion for a temporary restraining order to keep the developers of the two proposed high rise residetial towers near Pier Six in Brooklyn Bridge Park from beginning construction before the August 4 hearing, at which Judge Billings will consider the merits of the BHA’s suit to permanently enjoin their construction. That suit is based on the theory that the revenue from the two proposed towers is not needed to fund the Park’s maintenance needs.

The BHA’s request for a TRO noted that the earliest phase of construction would involve driving of long steel piles into the ground (see photo of pile driver poised for action at Pier Six site), which would generate noise that would make nearby playgrounds unusable and seriously affect residents of nearby buildings. Judge Billings’ response was, “It’s noise”; meaning it doesn’t meet the standard of “immediate and irreparable injury, loss or damages” required under New York law to issue a TRO. Nevertheless, she warned the developers that any work undertaken before she rules on the merits of the BHA’s case is done at their risk, as she may yet decide that they may not proceed with the construction of the two towers.

Photo: C. Scales for BHB

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Down to the Wire on Pier Six Towershttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/84298 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/84298#comments Wed, 19 Jul 2017 02:04:17 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=84298

As we noted in an earlier post, the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation and the developer announced their intention to begin construction of the two proposed residential towers on the Pier Six uplands, near the foot of Atlantic Avenue, on July 19, which is tomorrow. This was one day after a scheduled court hearing on the Brooklyn Heights Association’s proceeding to enjoin construction of the towers because the projected income from them is not needed to fund park maintenance. When the BBPC and developer made their announcement, the BHA moved for a temporary restraining order to prevent any start to construction until after the court renders its decision on the merits of the BHA’s petition. That motion was to be considered today, along with the merits of the proceeding, but the court postponed the hearing until August 4.

The BHA responded by asking the judge to prohibit the start of construction until after August 4. The judge agreed to have a hearing on that motion at noon on this Thursday, July 20. The BBPC and developers would not agree to refrain from construction activities during the period before the Thursday hearing, but said no pile driving will be done during that time. The BHA has noted that the first stage of construction for both towers will involve the driving of more than 400 steel piles ninety feet into the ground; a process that will take ten weeks. The BHA fears that “the intense noise of the pile driving activity will make the Pier 6 children’s play areas virtually unusable this summer, and will also be intrusive for other Park visitors and nearby residents.”

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BHA Asks Court To Stop Construction Of Pier Six Towershttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/84212 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/84212#comments Thu, 06 Jul 2017 02:20:51 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=84212

The Brooklyn Heights Association, which has sued the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation and the developers to prevent construction of two high rise residential towers on the uplands of Pier Six in Brooklyn Bridge Park, reports that they received notice that construction would begin on July 19. This is one day after the next scheduled court date for the lawsuit. The BHA has made a motion to the court seeking a temporary or preliminary injunction prohibiting any construction activity until the court has ruled on the merits of the case.

The site of the smaller of the two proposed towers, facing Furman Street, has been surrounded by a plywood fence bearing a “Work in Progress: Residential” sign (see photo above).

IMG_8410Inside the enclosure is a stack of what may be foundation material, but no evidence of any work underway now.

IMG_8411The site of the larger proposed tower, closer to Pier Six, is also enclosed, with a “Work in Progress” sign.

IMG_8412Here there is a pile driver and a very large forklift, but again no evidence of activity. The Eagle reports that there have already been four test piles driven at each of the two sites.

Photos: C. Scales for BHB.

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Developer Finally Closes on Library Sitehttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/84096 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/84096#comments Tue, 20 Jun 2017 02:44:43 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=84096

We have it from City Realty that developer Hudson Companies, Inc. has finally closed on the sale from the City of the site, at Cadman Plaza West and Clinton Street, formerly occupied by the Brooklyn Heights Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, which now occupies temporary space on Remsen Street between Henry and Clinton. Demolition of the old library building is now near complete. The new building Hudson will erect on the site will include a new library at three levels, along with STEM lab operated by the NYC Department of Education at its base, as well as other commercial tenants at street level and 32 stories of apartments.

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BHA States Case on Pier Six Towers in Court Hearinghttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/84042 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/84042#comments Sun, 11 Jun 2017 03:25:59 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=84042

The Brookyn Paper reports that, at a hearing in Judge Lucy Billings’ Manhattan courtroom on Wednesday, counsel for the Brooklyn Heights Association stated their case against the proposed two high rise residential buildings in Brooklyn Bridge Park, on the landward side of Pier Six, near the park’s Atlantic Avenue entrance. Counsel argued that construction of the buildings would violate the park’s commitment not to build any more housing on park land than is necessary to fund park maintenance. Judge Billings expressed some doubt about whether the wording of the park’s 2006 General Project Plan was tight enough to commit the park not to allow any more residential construction than is absolutely necessary. She also showed interest in the findings of the BHA’s financial expert, who argues that the park’s projections of income from existing development are more than adequate to meet the park’s financial needs. Finally, the park’s and developers’ counsel conceded that the park violated its own rules in selecting the developers for the proposed high rises before the developers filed required paperwork with the city.

The park and developers will state their case at a hearing before Judge Billings in July.

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Future of Gowanus Discussion at Brooklyn Historical Society Wednesday Eveninghttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/83812 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/83812#comments Sat, 13 May 2017 19:05:46 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=83812

On Wednesday evening, May 17, starting at 6:30, the Brooklyn Historical Society, in partnership with the Van Alen Institute, will present a panel discussion, “Gowanus’ Triple Bypass: Change Through Art, Design, and the Environment.”

Once an artery of commerce and industry, the Gowanus neighborhood has become emblematic of change and the forces impacting the Brooklyn experience: grassroots arts, environmental remediation, and real estate speculation.

Panelists will be: Abby Subak, director of Arts Gowanus; architet and developer Jared Della Valle; David Briggs, executive director of Gowanus By Design; and Dr. Philip Silva, “an environmental researcher, advocate, and educator,” as well as co-founder of TreeKIT. The discussion will be moderated by Joseph Alexiou, author of Gowanus: Brooklyn’s Curious Canal.

Admission is $5, or free for BHS members; purchase or reserve tickets here.

Photo: Claude Scales

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Pier Six Settlement Talks Fail; BHA’s Lawsuit Continueshttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/83610 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/83610#comments Fri, 28 Apr 2017 02:38:35 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=83610

The Eagle reports that settlement talks between the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation and the Brooklyn Heights Association, along with other community representatives, have failed. This comes as no surprise, as both sides have been adamant in their demands: the BHA and its allies for more green space on the Pier Six uplands and the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation for two residential high rise buildings on that space in order to generate revenue the BBPC claims is needed to fund park maintenance in the future.

The Eagle story quotes a BHA statement as saying the “next step will be an argument … on the merits of the lawsuit on June 7th or 9th.”

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BHA Issues “Fake News Alert” About Pier Sixhttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/83568 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/83568#comments Sat, 22 Apr 2017 02:57:31 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=83568

The Brooklyn Heights Association has issued a notice under the headline “Pier 6 Rumors Have No Factual Basis.” This is in reaction to rumors it has heard in response to Judge Lucy Billings’ order to the BHA and the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation that they have “dialogue” in an effort to reach a compromise on the issue of housing on the Pier Six uplands. Because settlement negotiations are, by court order, held in confidence, there has been, the BHA said, speculation that it “is entering into a ‘secret deal’ that would somehow harm some of our neighbors.” The BHA responded:

We are writing to reassure everyone that those rumors have no basis in fact. The BHA has not and would not enter into any resolution of the Pier 6 issues without consulting with our community and we have consistently said just that to the Court and to the respondents, i.e., the other party.

The BHA added that, to assure community representation in the negotiations, it had persuaded the court that “we could expand the confidentiality tent to include the two community leaders with whom we have worked most closely from the beginning of this case.” In conclusion, it said, “no one should have any concern that we would enter into any resolution without input from our community.”

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BBP News: At One End, Squibb Bridge to Re-Open This Wednesday / On the Other, Judge Tells BHA and BBP to Work It Outhttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/83517 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/83517#comments Tue, 18 Apr 2017 01:59:57 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=83517

Love it or hate it, after three years of shut-down and unanswered questions, Squibb Bridge will be back in bouncy action this Wednesday, albeit with a lot less bounce. According to today’s New York Times report:

What was billed as a temporary closing dragged on for months, then years, as a successful fix eluded the bridge’s designer, a noted engineer named Ted Zoli, the recipient of a MacArthur grant. Compounding the problem was the fact that the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation, which operates the park, was strangely reticent about the exact nature of the trouble and what was being done to address it.

While BBPC commenced a lawsuit for breach of contract and professional misconduct against Zoli’s firm, BBPC footed the $2.5M bill to repair the bridge. “I didn’t want the litigation to impede our ability to move forward and get this bridge open as soon as possible,” said Alicia Glen, deputy mayor and chairperson for BBPC. “This is such a great amenity to the neighborhood. It was better to spend the money necessary to fix the bridge and then try to recover as much money as possible.”

And on the other end of the park, Brooklyn Paper reports that a hearing was held in the Brooklyn Heights Association’s lawsuit against the proposed towers at Pier 6. Presiding over the hearing was Judge Lucy Billings who admonished BHA’s lawyer that “[w]hat you would want to talk to [BBPC] about is what changes you’d want to make to the project to make it more palatable for the community. My first question when you come back [into court] is going to be how much dialogue you’ve had.”

Meanwhile, BBPC’s lawyer complained to the Judge that the BHA would not budge from its position unless affordable housing units in one of the buildings were eliminated and the project was changed “in a major way.” BHA, on the other hand, had previously suggested compromises, “such as moving the proposed affordable housing to the park’s headquarters on Furman Street in exchange for reducing the height of one of the towers.” The hearing ended with the parties being called into the Judge’s chambers for off-the-record discussions, which neither side would comment about.

 

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Pier Six Towers Court Hearing Set for Wednesday, April 12http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/83460 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/83460#comments Thu, 06 Apr 2017 03:01:25 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=83460

The already twice delayed hearing on the Brooklyn Heights Association’s lawsuit against the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation to prevent the construction of two high rise residential towers on the Pier Six uplands, near the park’s Atlantic Avenue entrance, is now scheduled for this coming Wednesday afternoon, April 12, at 2:30, at the New York State Supreme Court, 71 Thomas Street, in Manhattan, before Justice Lucy Billings.

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View of Brooklyn Bridge from Promenade Blighted Againhttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/83322 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/83322#comments Wed, 22 Mar 2017 04:45:45 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=83322

As if the Pierhouse’s blotting out of the full view of the arc of the Brooklyn Bridge, which had been visible (apart from two small interruptions caused by rooftop equipment) from the southern portion of the Promenade when the National Cold Storage Warehouse buildings were there (see here), wasn’t enough, a high rise building in Manhattan is now spoiling the view of the East (Brooklyn) Tower of the Brooklyn Bridge. As shown in the photo (by your correspondent) the new building (just north of the Manhattan Bridge on the Manhattan side) is looming over the Brooklyn side tower, thus taking away the view of the tower against the sky, as we’ve always known it.

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Pier Six Lawsuit Hearing Postponed Againhttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/83317 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/83317#comments Tue, 21 Mar 2017 17:16:16 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=83317

We’ve just received word from the Brooklyn Heights Association that the hearing on the BHA’s lawsuit to enjoin construction of two high rise residential buildings on the uplands of Pier Six in Brooklyn Bridge Park has been postponed for a second time. The hearing was originally scheduled for March 7, then postponed to tomorrow (Wednesday, March 22). It has now been postponed until an unspecified date in April because of a trial this week having been assigned to the judge, The Hon. Lucy Billings.

We will let you know when a specific date, as well as time and place, have been established.

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Park Corporation, BHA Trade Punches Over Pier 6 Developmenthttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/83221 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/83221#comments Sat, 11 Mar 2017 20:27:28 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=83221

We previously noted that the Brooklyn Heights Association, citing new information from the City’s Department of Finance concerning valuation of existing properties on park land, was going forward with its lawsuit to prevent construction of two residential towers near Pier Six and the Atlantic Avenue entrance to Brooklyn Bridge Park. Curbed now reports that the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation has responded with a post on the Park’s website and a February 28 letter to the court. The Curbed story says the BBPC’s interim President, David Lowin, maintains that “the numbers BHA drew from only represent one year of incomplete valuations, and don’t present enough data to project a conservative 50-year financial plan for the park.”

The BHA has since replied with a post to its “News” webpage that links to its March 7 letter to the court disputing, among other things, the BBPC’s claim that BHA has misinterpreted the City’s valuations and their significance. In addition, the BHA has circulated an e-mail in which it notes:

In addition, the BHA lawsuit contains many other challenges to the Pier 6 development, including the failure of the BBPC to consider the environmental impact of the proposed project in light of changed economic conditions and increased school overcrowding in the more than ten years since the last environmental review, as well as the procedural flaws in its decision making process. None of those claims are rebutted in the [BBPC’s] Update.

A hearing on the BHA’s motion to enjoin BBPC from proceeding with the Pier Six residential development is scheduled for Wednesday, March 22. We will give further details when available.

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City Approves Demolition of Library Buildinghttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/83016 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/83016#comments Tue, 07 Mar 2017 04:12:41 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=83016

The Eagle’s Mary Frost reports that the City’s Department of Buildings has approved the demolition of the former Brooklyn Heights Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library by Hudson Companies, which intends to build a high rise residential and commercial building, with a new library on its ground, mezzanine, and basement levels, on the site. When we last noted the status of the Hudson deal, the DOB had approved plans for the new building, but had not given clearance for demolition, apart from some preliminary work such as asbestos removal.

The Eagle story notes that Hudson has not yet closed on its acquisition of the property, but that Hudson is confident that the closing will take place “in the coming weeks.” Demolition may proceed before closing. If Hudson should fail to close, it will be obligated to resore the building to its original condition (presumably excepting the asbestos).

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BHA Annual Meeting: P.S.8’s Phillips and Others Honored; Expert Panel Dubious about BQXhttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/82930 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/82930#comments Wed, 01 Mar 2017 06:03:32 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=82930

Court hearing on Pier 6 towers has been rescheduled–see below. At Monday evening’s annual meeting of the Brooklyn Heights Association, BHA President Patrick Killackey (photo) began by asking, rhetorically, what a neighborhood association can do in a time of political turmoil. He answered by arguing that the nature of the times requires more action at the local level. We might not, he said, be able to bring about the disarmament of North Korea, but we can do, and have done, things that can improve our lives and perhaps inspire others to do more, both in our community and in others. As examples, among others, he cited the Promenade Gardeners and those who fought to reduce helicopter noise in the Heights and nearby.

Mr. Killackey noted some new developments. The BHA House Tour, which ended in 2015, will be replaced with a new Designer Showhouse event to take place in September of this year. More details are forthcoming. On Monday, March 6, there will be a hearing in court on the BHA’s lawsuit to prevent construction of two high rise residential buildings near the Atlantic Avenue entrance to Brooklyn Bridge Park. Update: The new hearing date before NYS Supreme Court Justice Lucy Billings will be Friday, March 17th at 11:00 AM at 71 Thomas Street, Room 203, in Manhattan.

Mr. Killackey noted with regret the departure of DCI Centa as commander of the 84th Precinct, but expressed confidence in his replacement, Capt. Roberto Melendez. Mr. Killackey reviewed the progress that had been made under DCI Centa, including the installation of cameras on Joralemon Street and the appointment of two community affairs officers to Brooklyn Heights.

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Awards for community service were presented by Heights resident and Channel 13 personality Tom Stewart (photo above), who got a good laugh for announcing that the first award went to La La Land. The real first award for community service went to Irene Janner, who served on the P.S.8 PTA during the years of the school’s transition from struggling to desirable, was instrumental in laying the groundwork for Brooklyn Bridge Park, and was treasurer and office manager for the BHA. The second was to Love Our Pool, a group of parents who fought to keep the Pop-Up Pool in Brooklyn Bridge Park open for at least another summer, while the Park finds another way to provide a swimming venue. The third was to community activists Judi Francis and Ren Richmond, and to the law firm Jenner & Block, which has donated its services pro bono, for their fight to keep high rise towers from being built near Pier Six in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

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The BHA’s top award, the Martha Atwater Award, went to Seth Phillips (photo above), who became principal of P.S.8 when it was still a struggling, underperforming school to which local parents tried to avoid sending their children, to one so successful that it now has an overcrowding problem. He was also instrumental in expanding the school, and in establishing a new middle school, I.S.8, to relieve the shortage of nearby, attractive middle school options for local students.

The meeting concluded with a panel discussion, moderated by New York Times writer Jim Dwyer, and featuring experts on transit matters. The topic was the proposed “Brooklyn-Queens Connector,” a streetcar line that would connect Sunset Park in Brooklyn with Astoria, Queens. The panel members were. in general, skeptical of the project. The notion that the project could be financed by property tax increases on adjacent properties was questioned because the properties along the line were either fully developed or too small to produce the needed revenue. Engineering problems related to the route being mostly within a flood plain, and lacking a dedicated right of way, which would mean traffic delays. Concerns were also expressed about the ability of the proposed route to connect with other means of transit, such as subways and buses. Finally, it was argued that money would better be spent on improvements to transit on underserved areas like East New York and others on the City’s edge. One panelist said that underserved areas near the proposed BQX route, such as the Red Hook Houses and other NYCHA housing near the Queens waterfront, could be served more economically by providing better bus service connecting to subways.

The audience seemed mostly hostile to the BQX proposal, as each criticism of it from the panel attracted a vigorous round of applause.

All photos by Andrew Porter.

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New Info Breathes Life into Effort to Block Pier Six Towershttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/82914 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/82914#comments Fri, 24 Feb 2017 17:24:39 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=82914

New information from the City’s Department of Finance has revived efforts by the Brooklyn Heights Association and other local activists to block construction of two residential towers on Brooklyn Bridge Park land near Pier Six and the foot of Atlantic Avenue, as reported by Lauren Gill in the Brooklyn Paper. As we noted last June, the BHA was prepared to litigate the issue of whether the towers were necessary to meet the Park’s continuing financial needs. According to the Brooklyn Paper story, the Department of Finance has found that existing developments, such as the Pierhouse hotel and condo complex, stand to produce $300 million more in revenue for the Park than originally projected. The story quotes Judi Francis, a Cobble Hill resident and long time opponent of the Pier Six development, as saying, “We knew that we were right and big surprise, we were right.” The story then quotes David Lowin, interim president of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation, as saying, “We have repeatedly made clear the necessity and merits of this project, and look forward to responding to the BHA’s erroneous claims in court.”

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Extended LICH Demolition Hours Irk Cobble Hill Residentshttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/82768 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/82768#comments Sat, 04 Feb 2017 04:07:48 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=82768

The Eagle’s Mary Frost reports that developer Fortis Group has secured “after hours variances” from the City’s Department of Buildings that allow “late-evening and early weekend construction at 339 Hicks St[reet]”, part of the campus of the former Long Island College Hospital. Nearby residents have complained about construction noise during these hours, and, they say, sometimes starting as early as 5:00 a.m., which is outside the time allowed under the variances. Neighbors have also complained about safety violations on the site. The article notes that a number of elected officials have written to the DOB urging it to reject any future variance applications for the site and to enforce safety rules. It quotes State Senator Daniel Squadron, a Carroll Gardens resident, calling Fortis “a developer that thumbs its nose at the community to pursue out-of-context development.”

The site is close enough to Brooklyn Heights along Atlantic Avenue and along State Street near Hicks for construction noise to disturb residents there. Has anyone noticed?

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DOB Approves Building Plans for Tower at Brooklyn Heights Library Sitehttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/82601 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/82601#comments Fri, 30 Dec 2016 14:23:15 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=82601

Mary Frost of the Brooklyn Eagle reports that the Department of Buildings approved Hudson Companies’ plans for construction of a new 36-story tower at the site of the Brooklyn Heights Library. The plans include a smaller library branch, retail space on the ground floor, and 34 floors of luxury apartments. The tower’s future residents will have a new address and entrance at 1 Clinton St.

Hudson has yet to close the deal with Brooklyn Public Library for the site and DOB has yet to approve plans to demolish the existing building. However, BPL and Hudson signed a license agreement to allow pre-demo work, including asbestos removal, to start. Should the project be scrapped for any reason, Hudson must restore the site to the pre‐demo state (except Hudson can keep the asbestos). Once demo plans are approved by DOB, interior demolition will take approximately four to six weeks and exterior demolition will take four to eight weeks. The new building is expected to be finished in three to four years.

What about those classic stone friezes on the library façade? Hudson’s spokesperson told the Eagle that the company will carefully remove the reliefs and store them during the construction period. BPL will make the decision for how they are reused, but the spokesperson stated that BPL is “committed to making sure the reliefs are preserved either at the new branch or another location.”

 

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Catching Up With Kenn Lowy: The Last Owner of Brooklyn Heights Cinemashttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/82571 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/82571#comments Tue, 27 Dec 2016 17:12:31 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=82571

Brooklyn Heights Cinemas, at the end of its 42-year run, was the oldest independently-owned cinema in all of New York City. When the cinema shut off its projectors for good in 2014, the neighborhood collectively mourned the loss of yet another community sanctuary. A place where neighbors and visitors gathered for shared experiences. A place where you walked in and the owner and employees knew your name and what you liked without asking. If you were a regular customer, you probably miss the last owner, Kenn Lowy, as much as the cinema itself. When the neighborhood thinks of the old cinema, we think of Kenn, although he only owned it for its last three years. In the interview below, Kenn tells his story of his one-man mission to save the cinema, a labor of love that was life-altering in both good and bad ways.

BHB: How did you become the last owner of Brooklyn Heights Cinemas?

KL: I had been going to the cinema off and on since I was 17 years old. My family had moved from Philadelphia to Cobble Hill in the late 70’s and that was the only cinema around. I lived for a time in Brooklyn Heights, Vinegar Hill, and Park Slope, and then I moved away for a few years. And when I moved back 20 years ago, it became my cinema again. I used to go there all the time. Then, in late 2010, there was an article in one of the local papers about the owner being indicted for wire fraud. There had been several times before when the cinema almost went out of business. I wondered what was going to happen to the cinema. So I went and saw Amy, the Manager there. She knew me as someone who saw almost every movie they played. I asked her what was going to happen and she half-jokingly said, “Do you want to buy the place?” Like an idiot, I said, “Yeah, maybe.” She said, “I don’t know if he wants to sell it or not, but I’ll ask.” Literally, a week later, I was sitting down with the owner and we started talking about how I could buy the place. That’s what led to it. It would have gone under unless someone bought it. The cinema had been losing money for years. The owner had other cinemas, one that was making money and another one that was going nowhere. It took about six months of negotiating. I had no money, so I cashed in my IRA’s and maxed out my credit cards. And that’s how I bought the place.

BHB: What led you to take such a risk?

KL: {Laughs} I thought at the time that I could make it work. I didn’t think they were getting the best movies. They were getting good ones, but not the ones enough people wanted to see to make it viable. But I wanted to keep it as an independent cinema. I thought I could make it work. I never thought I would make money from it. But as long as I could break even, I was going to be happy, just to keep it going. Personally, it was an important place to me. It had been my local movie theater, like for many in Brooklyn Heights. This was our hometown movie theater.

BHB: At the time, were you making a living with a day job?

KL: Yes. I was a computer consultant, mostly Apple computer stuff. I had been doing that pretty much most of my life. Until my early 30’s, I was a journalist and a musician. I’m still a musician, but that’s how I used to make a living. Then the music industry changed and journalism changed, where I really couldn’t make a full time living at it. That’s when I got into computers and I’ve been doing that for the last 25 years.

BHB: When you bought the cinema, did you think, “If I break even I’ll be okay because I could support myself with the computer consulting?”

KL: No, when I said “break even,” I meant to be able to support myself, where maybe I wouldn’t be saving a lot, but I wouldn’t be losing money. I tried doing the consulting half the time and the cinema the other half, but that just wasn’t working. The first couple of months, I was at the cinema on the weekends and just hanging out. But after that, I was pretty much there full-time, along with my manager and the projectionist. After a few months, I wanted to be more hands-on and not being there didn’t make much sense.

Kenn Lowy in his

Kenn Lowy in his Brooklyn Heights Cinema (Photos by: Claudia Christen)

BHB: During the three years when you owned the cinema, did you see the numbers or the character of the audience change at all?

KL: The numbers definitely went up, which was desperately needed. We were getting people from other parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan. What I was able to do was get a lot of exclusives for Brooklyn. So we had a lot of movies for which we were the only theater in Brooklyn playing them. Sometimes it really paid off because they were big films, and sometimes nobody wanted to see them anyway.

BHB: How did you pull off getting so many exclusives?

KL: Some of it was luck and most of it was because of my buyer, Steve Florin, who was really looking out for us and wanted the cinema to do well. It shouldn’t have mattered to him personally, since he would get paid the same either way. But he really wanted to help and made some great deals. Sometimes, there were so many films out, there wasn’t room at BAM or Cobble Hill to play them all. So they would come to us and ask, “Hey, would you want to play this?” Every once in a while, it was a film where it was like, “Are you kidding me? Of course I want to play this.” And then certain distributors would just come back to us and ask if we would take other films.

BHB: Can you name some of the films that sold the most seats at the cinema?

KL: Oh sure, I can think of a couple that really stand out, and it was interesting because they were films that were either exclusives or close to it. One was The Descendants and the way we got it was interesting. It was playing at BAM and then Cobble Hill, and after New Year’s, the other theaters started playing other films. And it was still doing well, and then it got nominated for the Oscars and then the Golden Globes, and we were still playing it. It did so well and we played it for so long, that regular customers started coming in and asking, “When are you getting a new film?” And I would tell them, “It’s doing so well, I can’t let it go!” They were very understanding.

The other film was The Artist, a black and white film. I saw it at the NY Film Festival and I really wanted it. I told my buyer and he said, “I’m not sure how well it’s going to do.” But we got it and it was the same thing – got nominated for the Oscars, and then the Golden Globes. We played that for a long time too.

The third one was Margin Call, the film about the Lehman Brothers collapse. We were the only theater in Brooklyn that had it. And I had never even heard of it. So my buyer called and said, “I’ve got this movie and it’s going to do well.” I looked it up and saw the trailer and thought, “Yeah, we should show it.” About a month later, we were the only theater in NYC showing it. So people from all over the city were coming to see it.

BHB: What films did the worst?

KL: One was a foreign film from Czechoslovakia. I can’t remember the name. Usually you have to guarantee a two-week run, but we had to stop showing it after one week. It was a shame, because it was a good film, but no one wanted to see it. Even the distributor called me and said, “Listen, we’ll let you out of this.”

And then there were a couple of small, local films that I played because it was the right thing to do and I wanted to support them. One was Battle for Brooklyn about the Atlantic Yards. We played that for about a week. And we played it every Wednesday night for months and the producers did a Q and A at every showing. The film didn’t do badly, but I mention it as an example of what we tried to do as a local theater. And I really liked the filmmakers.

The absolute worst one was Jack and Jill with Adam Sandler. What happened was that we were showing a film and it wasn’t doing well. And we had a week lapse before the next film was going to be released. So I had to find something and my buyer said, “I’ll get you the Adam Sandler film for a week. It’s a terrible film, but it will make money for you.” I looked at the trailer online and it was abysmal, but I said, “Fine, it’s just a week.” Well, it did so badly, even the distributor didn’t believe it was doing that badly. So they sent someone to check on a Sunday, and that person was the only one there in the whole theater for the last two shows. My projectionist went and sat down next to her and said, “Listen, you don’t have to sit here.” After about 10 minutes, she said, “I can’t take it anymore,” and left.

BHB: When you bought the theater in 2011, did you have any idea that the building owner was planning on selling the building?

KL: No, but the owner, Tom Caruana, was very honest with me about his intention to develop the building. He gave me a 2-year lease and told me that he might give me an extension, but that he would probably develop it. So he did tell me that I might only have 2 years. He never intended to sell the building. The reason he sold it was because he couldn’t develop it. He was actually a really good guy. The original development plan didn’t have the theater in it, but there was a huge uproar, and I called him up and he said, “We changed it, the theater is in.” He had changed his mind immediately. He was a really big fan and really appreciated the support the cinema had in Brooklyn Heights and he wanted to keep it going. The rent he would have gotten was really low for the space, and he didn’t have to put us in the plan. He made me almost like a partner in the plans. When he went to Landmarks, he asked me to come and speak up on it and I said, “absolutely.” His architect asked me, “Would this work, would that work?” And he was in contact with my architect as well. Tom was a really good guy. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the Brooklyn Heights Association killed that plan. And they’ll say, “oh no, we don’t have that kind of power,” but they definitely did.

BHB: Do you know Tom’s background? How long he owned the building and why at that point he wanted to develop it?

KL: My understanding is that Tom inherited the building from his grandfather. What happened was that there was a 21-year lease on the theater and an automatic renewal for another 21 years. So he couldn’t do anything with it until the additional 21-year lease expired. His plan was to develop it, never to sell it. He did his due diligence. He went to Landmarks and told them what he wanted to do, worked with the staff, and showed them the plans. But by the time he went there, the staff had already told the Commissioners whether they think the plan should be approved or not. The staff told the Commissioners, “This is a good plan, it should be approved.” But the Brooklyn Heights Association was like, “oh no, we can’t do anything to that building, because the building has this brick wall with historical relevance.” And Steve Levin, who’s actually a friend of mine, I don’t mean to say anything bad about him, but he also said, “Oh yes, this is very important, we need to preserve this wall.” The first Commissioner who spoke was a Brooklyn Heights resident who came to the theater all the time. He said it is important that the building be preserved, and then it was all downhill from there. Landmarks was very insistent on preserving that brick wall and the columns. It was all about that wall. I spoke to Judy Stanton, who probably came to see every film we showed, and she said, “We love the cinema, but this is not about the cinema. This is about the building.”

Tom then went to Landmarks a second time about a year later, and the same thing happened. Landmarks rejected the plan. And we were all just shocked. I thought it was a done deal. Tom was going to preserve the bricks, and did everything Landmarks wanted, but it wasn’t the way Landmarks wanted it done. I went back to the cinema and talked to Amy, my manager, and I said, “You know, if I were Tom, I would just sell the building.”

BHB: What was different about Tom’s second plan from the development that was approved and being built right now?

KL: Actually, it was very similar. The only difference was that the first floor was going to be a cinema. The original plan had the cinema in the basement. But the Commissioners didn’t like the idea of a cinema in the basement and even asked, “Are there cinemas in basements?” And I really had to bite my tongue, but I did say, “You know there are no windows in cinemas, so there are a lot of cinemas in basements. Like, for example, the Paris Theater.” They still didn’t like the idea. Then the plan moved the cinema to the first floor, and they still didn’t like that.

BHB: What is your understanding of why they rejected the second plan. Was it still the issue with the columns and brick wall?

KL: Yes, that was it, but I don’t remember exactly what the problem was. I remember thinking it was completely absurd. And I also told Tom, “Listen, there’s an election coming up. Bill de Blasio will be elected and new Commissioners will be in place.” But at that point, I think Tom had enough. He just wanted to be done with it.

BHB: So, how did the new owners finally get a plan approved by Landmarks?

KL: I think there were two things. First, they had more experience doing things with Landmarks and went in with more information. Second, they had the advantage of working with new Commissioners after the election.

BHB: Was the cinema ever in the plan with the new owners?

KL: No. I spoke with them and discussed market rent and there was no way it could happen. The market rent is $12,000 a month for the new space and my lease was $5,500 a month. If Tom had kept the building, the building was already paid for. He just needed to pay for the development and he could have afforded to give me a huge break. The new owner who bought the building for seven million dollars couldn’t afford to do that.

BHB: If you could do it all over again, would you buy the cinema?

KL: That’s really an interesting question that I don’t think anyone ever asked me before. It’s difficult to say, because I absolutely loved owning the cinema and I really miss it. But it absolutely destroyed my life. I will be in debt for the rest of my life.

BHB: But the three years that you owned it were fulfilling?

KL: It really was. The first two years were great. The first year, we broke even. The second year, we made money. But the last 9 months, we lost so much money. The movies just didn’t catch on. It was that particularly brutal winter. People didn’t want to go outside. By the end, I was worried about how I was going to pay the bills all the time. The Weinstein Group took me to court and they’re the slimiest people I ever dealt with. They wanted to force me into bankruptcy. I made good-faith efforts to pay as much as I could. The other distributors wrote off the debts, but the Weinstein Group wouldn’t. Their lawyer told my lawyer that only if I filed for bankruptcy, they would write it off.

BHB: There was a lot of talk about you finding another space for the cinema. What happened?

KL: I looked for a long time. But there just was nothing out there. The landlords wanted so much money. There was one landlord who had a space in Cobble Hill and I was told that he really wanted to do business with someone local and would give me a break. I went to talk to the landlord and when he told me the number, it was laughable. It wasn’t a break at all.

BHB: There were also reports that you would reopen at the old ReBar space in Dumbo.

KL: That was another one. I went and talked to the landlord and he wanted $11,000 a month for 2,500 sq. ft. I said to him, “You know it’s a really small space. If I sold out every show and every person bought a large popcorn and soda, I still wouldn’t come close to making the rent.” I told the owner, “You’ll never get that kind of rent for this space.” The owner said, “I think I can.” I said, “The only business that could make that kind of money in this space is a meth lab.” That’s the problem. The landlords in NYC are lunatics. What’s happened to NY is sickening, and it’s only going in one direction. And people say, “Well, there will be a mid-course correction.” But it’s too late, way too late.

BHB: So where are you now and what do you see in your near future?

KL: I’m spending half of my time in NYC, and half of my time in Europe, where I can make some money. Basically, trying to get back to where I was before. Getting back to, “would I do it over again?” I wouldn’t be in debt, but I wouldn’t have had that experience. Anyone who’s been in debt will tell you it’s completely draining.

BHB: What would you say to your most loyal customers?

KL: That’s easy. I would say, “I’m very sorry I couldn’t keep it going,” and thank them for the years of support. That is one of things that I miss more than anything else, the interactions with the customers. We had so many regular customers. I looked forward to seeing them. They should know my manager Amy and I really valued them and we miss seeing them.

———-

Calls for comments to the current President of the Brooklyn Heights Association and attorney for the Weinstein Group were not returned.

Judy Stanton, former Executive Director of the BHA, provided the following statement:

“The BHA was working via the LPC (Landmarks Preservation Commission) process to preserve 70 Henry, and we opposed proposals that involved demolition of the building. The BHA supported the cinema. In our view, it was possible to retain the cinema within the original walls of the building. A nearby example of that type of preservation approach is the incorporation of the St. Ann’s Warehouse theatre within the old walls of the Tobacco Warehouse. “

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Construction Debris Falls From Roof of Former Brooklyn Heights Libraryhttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/82373 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/82373#comments Tue, 22 Nov 2016 05:02:02 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=82373

The Eagle reports that several shards of metal roof flashing that had been removed from the former Brooklyn Heights Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, at 280 Cadman Plaza West, and stored on the roof, had blown off in the high winds on Sunday. Fortunately, no one was injured by the falling debris.

The Eagle story reports that interior demolition of the building is to begin next month, and exterior demolition in January.

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City Approves Demolition of Former Brooklyn Heights Branch Libraryhttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/82105 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/82105#comments Tue, 01 Nov 2016 03:44:51 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=82105

The Eagle reports that the City’s Department of Buildings has approved the application of the developer Hudson Companies to demolish what had been the Brooklyn Heights Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. The building has been vacant since late July, when staff and contents were moved to an interim facility in Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral, at 109 Remsen Street, pending Hudson’s construction of a new library to be housed in a 36 story mixed use residential and commercial building at the site of the former library, 280 Cadman Plaza West.

The Eagle story notes that some local residents, including BHB reader and commenter Justine Swartz, have raised concerns about preliminary work already underway at the site possibly causing asbestos contamination. A Hudson spokesperson said that the asbestos abatement work has not yet begun, and will be conducted in accordance with strict City Department of Environmental Protection standards. State Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon responded to concerns and contacted Hudson, who took her on a walk through the site. According to the Eagle, she agrees with those potentially affected that there are “legitimate concerns”, but also believes that “the developer and the library are taking them very seriously” and that DEP officials will be vigilant in enforcing compliance with regulations.

The Eagle also notes that the DOB’s approval comes before Hudson has closed on the purchase of the property, but quotes a Hudson spokesperson as saying ” it’s important to Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) to get the project started so that the new larger [presumably this means larger than the interim facility] library can be open to the public as soon as possible.” In addition, “[s]hould the project cease for any reason, Hudson is required to restore the site to the pre‐demolition state (minus the asbestos) at its own cost.”

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70 Henry St. (Former Home to Brooklyn Heights Cinemas) Construction Updatehttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/81728 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/81728#comments Sat, 08 Oct 2016 02:17:28 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=81728

Construction at 70 Henry St., former home to our beloved Brooklyn Heights Cinemas, is coming along nicely. Here’s a peek into the guts of the plot of land that is soon to be the site of a five-story, mixed-use development.

70Henry

This morning, the congenial site supervisor named Mike from Jonico Construction, was keeping watch over the work. The target date for completion is 15 months from now, Mike said. In the photo above, you can see the columns, “probably there since before Lincoln was assassinated,” that are being preserved per Landmarks Preservation Committee’s insistence. The building will house five condo units, including one maisonette townhouse on the Orange St. side. The smallest condo unit will be 1,200 sq. ft. with four bedrooms. On the ground floor facing Henry St. will be a 1,000 sq. ft. commercial space.

What’s going in that commercial space? Let’s dispel the lingering rumor here for good. It won’t be a movie theater. According to Mike, it will be a retail space, but not a restaurant, since the space is not mechanically fit for one. When asked if he’s heard any leads on what types of businesses are interested, Mike said he hadn’t heard. But he figured the neighborhood could use a women’s and/or children’s retail shop of some kind. He’s a smart one, that Mike, we did just lose Heights Kids afterall.

While the neighborhood awaits the completion of this building, let’s have one last nostalgic look at what was once there.

HeightsCinema

From Google Maps 2009

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Brooklyn Bridge Park Prez, Regina Myer Tapped as Head of Brooklyn Bridge Partnershiphttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/81508 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/81508#comments Tue, 20 Sep 2016 04:52:37 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=81508

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reports via re-printed press release Regina Meyer, current President of Brooklyn Bridge Park has been named the new President of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. Meyer will take the helm in November. She replaces Tucker Reed who stepped down from DPP in August after an almost five year run.

“This was an opportunity I just couldn’t refuse — a chance to really come full circle,” said Myer. “Now that Brooklyn Bridge Park is teeming with visitors, financially secure and nearly fully built, it makes sense to head back up the hill to Downtown, where I’m ready to embrace the exciting challenge of building on the area’s success over the past decade. Through smart public and private investment — in open space, in commercial development, in the burgeoning Brooklyn Cultural District — we really have the chance to shape the future of Downtown in a holistic way, and I can’t wait to get started.”

Immediately prior to her position at Brooklyn Bridge Park, Ms. Myer served as senior vice president for Planning and Design at the Hudson Yards Corporation.  During her 22-year tenure within the New York City Department of City Planning (DCP) she helped spearhead the 2004 rezoning of Downtown Brooklyn as Director of DCP’s Brooklyn office, an initiative that has irrevocably re-shaped Downtown Brooklyn.

“Regina is a Brooklyn visionary, and we’re lucky to have her as our next president. Over the past decade, we’ve seen tremendous growth and investment in Downtown Brooklyn — now it’s time to build on that success by stitching the neighborhood together with vital infrastructure and continuing to advocate for targeted investment in office space to meet the demands of the growing innovation economy in the area.” said MaryAnne Gilmartin and Bre Pettis, co-chairs of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership Board of Directors and president and CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies.

The release continues, “At DBP, Myer will look at ways to both build on [the] success [of Brooklyn Bridge Park] and supplement it with supportive infrastructure, like the growth of the Brooklyn Cultural District and the increased open space development throughput the district.   In particular, Myer will continue DBP’s leading role in advocating for the Brooklyn Strand.”

If you’d like learn more about Ms. Myer’s new role direct from the source, “[she] will deliver opening remarks at DBP’s Make It in Brooklyn Innovation Summit on Sept. 28 at City Point in Downtown Brooklyn. For more information, go to http://www.makeitinbk.com.

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New Dock Street School Openshttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/81339 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/81339#comments Wed, 07 Sep 2016 16:31:10 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=81339

Your correspondent got notice Monday that at 1:00 p.m. yesterday there would be a ribbon cutting by Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña for the new Dock Street School, a public middle school (grades 6 through 8), drawing “a diverse student body from Bedford-Stuyvesant, Fort Greene, Downtown Brooklyn, DUMBO, Brooklyn Heights, Prospect Heights, Clinton Hill, Vinegar Hill and North Park Slope”, and including a Pre-K facility with space for 75 students. The school’s entrance is on Dock Street between Water and Front streets in DUMBO. Figuring it would work in nicely with my daily constitutional, I set out at 12:30, heading down the Promenade, then Squibb Hill, then Water Street to Dock.

I didn’t know what to expect, but imagined a short ceremony at the school’s entrance, so I showed up in my walking attire, t-shirt and cargo shorts (I need those extra pockets for my phone and camera). I arrived a few minutes before one, and no one was gathered outside, so I went in. There was a guard at a desk who cheerfully directed me upstairs. At the landing at the top of the staircase I was facing the school’s office, the rear wall of which displayed the sign in the photo above. I was greeted by a school administrator and told her I knew “STEM” meant “Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics” but didn’t know what “STEAM” meant. She said the “A” was for “Arts.” This is DUMBO; figures. Perhaps we have a mini Cooper Union here, though with no threat they’ll start charging tuition.

IMG_6332We were led from the landing outside the school office to the gymnasium, where we milled around waiting for various dignitaries to arrive. I regretted my tee and shorts, as everyone seemed well dressed, and the air conditioning was doing yeoman duty. Three students about to enter sixth grade at Dock Street were seated at the speakers’ table; they were interviewed by Mary Frost of the Eagle (photo above). Update: Here’s Mary’s story.

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Among the speakers was City Council Member Steve Levin (photo above), who praised the various people and entities involved in making Dock Street School a reality, including the School Board and Chancellor Fariña, District 13 and Superintendent Barbara Freeman, the School Construction Authority and President and CEO Lorraine Grillo, and building developer and owner Two Trees Management and CEO Jed Walentas. To the left in the photo above is Dock Street’s Principal, Dr. Melissa Vaughan.

Mr. Walentas also spoke. As you may recall, there was considerable controversy over Two Trees’ proposal to build a high rise residential structure at the Dock Street site. He candidly acknowledged the crucial piece of advice he’d received from former City Council Member Ken Fisher: “Put a school in it.” Mr. Walentas said Dock Street School is “a model that shows how the City can leverage real estate values to create public benefits like building new schools, creating space for cultural institutions or updating infrastructure.” He said he hoped other developers would consider making space for schools in their buildings.

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Dr. Vaughan called the three students to the podium. She said she hoped their experience at Dock Street would enable them to become “creators.” Each of them then said what they were anticipating as Dock Street students. One of the girls said she loves math, and looks forward to “making good grades.”

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The Long, Sad Story of the Selling of LICHhttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/80911 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/80911#comments Tue, 09 Aug 2016 17:03:30 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=80911

Thanks to Mary Frost, of the Brooklyn Eagle, we now have a detailed chronology, with links to Eagle stories giving further information about each incident, of the steps leading to and following the sale of Long Island College Hospital.

Despite the money SUNY received from the sale of LICH, SUNY Downstate continued to have financial difficulties. The New York Post reports that State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has faulted “lavish travel, lodging and dining expenses” paid to consultant Pitts Management Associates, Inc., which was hired to help SUNY Downstate reorganize itself in order to cut costs. Pitts’ website includes an endorsement from SUNY Downstate’s President, Dr. John “Skip” Williams:

I believe SUNY Downstate might be closed today if it hadn’t been for the activities PMA initiated and provided for us. With your help we were able to work our way out of a substantial deficit position, establish financial controls, develop financial statements, and reorganize physician compensation and the supply chain function. Within one year of partnering with PMA, our hospital took in over $30 million in profit after years of closing the fiscal year in debt.

Dr. Williams became President of SUNY Downstate in August of 2012. The decision to close and sell LICH followed in February of 2013.

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Court Nixes “Save The View” Suit; Brooklyn Bridge Park Seeks Venue Change for Pier 6 Litigationhttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/80797 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/80797#comments Mon, 01 Aug 2016 03:40:29 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=80797

Curbed reports that the court has dismissed a lawsuit brought by Save The View Now and the Brooklyn Heights Association against the Brooklyn Bridge park Corporation, the City of New York, and the developers of Pierhouse, claiming that a penthouse on the southern part of Pierhouse illegally infringed on the protected view plane from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. The suit was dismissed on the same grounds as was an earlier one brought by Save The View Now; that it was brought after the statute of limitations on government action had expired. The court also said the later suit’s allegations duplicated ones made in the earlier one. The dismissal of the earlier suit is now on appeal; an appeal of the latest decision is possible.

Moving to the southern (Pier 6) front, the Brooklyn Heights Association has updated us about the suit they brought early in July against the BBPC, various government entities, and the developers who have been selected to build the residential towers proposed there. First, the judge has ruled that construction of the towers cannot begin before December 1, with a minimum of three weeks’ notice before it begins. (Update: The BHA and BBPC have now advised us that this schedule was established by agreement among the parties, including BHA, BBPC, and the developers.) Following the filing of papers by the parties according to an announced schedule, arguments in the case are to be held on or after November 10. Meanwhile, the BBPC has moved to have the proceedings removed from the court in Manhattan where they are now pending to one in Brooklyn. Perhaps BBPC believes, based on the fate so far of the Save The View cases, that they will find a more sympathetic forum on this side of the East River.

Photo: C. Scales for BHB

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