Developers and preservation advocates are playing tug of war as the Landmarks Preservation Committee debates whether to allow Brooklyn Heights Cinema owner Kenn Lowy to hold onto the landmarked 1895 building—or whether to replace it with a planned five-story condo.
DNAInfo.com reports that six votes are outstanding with the Landmarks Commission to approve or deny a proposal to demo the structure. At a November 27 meeting, design revisions for the new building were bandied, which Commissioner Michael Goldblum felt were “too reminiscent of the industrial Art Deco architecture, an inappropriate style for the district.”
Landmarks has not scheduled its next meeting, leaving the fate of the building hanging in the air. Meanwhile, Jane McGroarty of the Brooklyn Heights Association deems 70 Henry Street—one of the last buildings from the 1800s left standing in the area—”one of the handsomest commercial buildings in the district.” Likewise, Council Member Stephen Levin wrote to the Landmarks Commission, “70 Henry Street is a contributing building within the historic district on two levels: It is both architecturally and culturally significant to our neighborhood.”
DNAInfo reports: “To some movie-goers, the building’s muraled ceilings, stained star-patterned carpeted floors, dual entrance stairways and 150-seat sloping theaters hold historical value. The ornate cornice-covered facade and and boxy construction have survived centuries of nearby demolition which claimed most of the other buildings that were made in the same era.”
But according to Randy Gerner, architect of the proposed new building, 70 Henry has been renovated so many times over the last 75 years, including a commission-approved makeover in 1971, it has lost its historic claim. He also says the building, in its current state, is deteriorating.
Lowy says that Caruana has guaranteed the cinema would have a place on the ground floor of the new condo once it reopens, albeit with a rent hike and less space. He’s been told to expect an 18-month displacement, but is grateful to be included in plans for the new building: “I am an eternal optimist. I know we will continue to screen films whether in this building or one that is yet to be built.” (Photo: (remster_9/Flickr)