Borough Hall Skyscraper Historic District Statement

Borough Hall Skyscraper Historic District Statement

Joint Statement of
Council Member Stephen Levin & Council Member Brad Lander
On the Affirmation of the Borough Hall Skyscraper Historic District
January 24, 2012

We are pleased to affirm the designation of the Borough Hall Skyscraper Historic District as a historic district in its entirety.

After close consideration, we believe that this new historic district will strengthen the character of Downtown Brooklyn, allowing for new development and growth, like the new retail space planned for the Municipal Building, while preserving the graceful, historic, early-generation skyscrapers that make it Brooklyn’s civic center.

We thank everyone who has taken the time to express their opinion on the district — including those who opposed part or all of this designation. Last month, the Council held a thorough hearing where we listened closely to all points of view. The hearing raised important questions, not only about the Borough Hall Skyscraper District, but also broader issues about the landmarking process, as well as its cost and implications for both residential and commercial buildings. We believe these issues should be explored more thoroughly through future oversight by the Council, and we commit to working with all stakeholders in that process.

We are pleased to report that one of the major issues raised at the hearing is being addressed today. The Chairman of the Landmarks Preservation Commission announced this morning that he is moving forward promptly to propose new guidelines to the Commissioners for retail storefronts in landmarked buildings. These new guidelines will allow many more new and relocating stores — in Downtown Brooklyn and around the city — to obtain a quick, staff-level approval for exterior work (much of which currently requires a more extensive review and vote by the full Commission). It is extremely important that new businesses are able to open as quickly as possible in today’s economy, and this is a significant step in the right direction.

We urge the LPC to work closely with building owners in the new historic district to enable them to achieve their goals while preserving their buildings. There is additional flexibility for owners of buildings in the district that are “non-contributing” or “no-style” buildings, where appropriate new development or significant alterations are allowed with LPC review to ensure compatibility with surrounding buildings in the district.

We want to particularly recognize the co-operators of 75 Livingston Street and praise them for their stewardship of the building over the past decade, as they have spent millions restoring their building after years of decline. Given their hard work and investment, we ask the LPC to work with the board of the building, and to show maximum appropriate flexibility as they move forward in their efforts to maintain the building without imposing hardships on the co-operators.

We thank Speaker Christine Quinn, Land Use Chair Leroy Comrie, our colleagues on the Landmarks Subcommittee, the Council’s Land Use staff, LPC Chairman Robert Tierney and his staff. In addition, we thank the Brooklyn Heights Association, the New York Landmarks Conservancy, the Historic Districts Council, the Municipal Arts Society, the Real Estate Board of New York as well as all the building owners and residents for their important role in this process. Our city is made stronger by the diversity of our views, as well as the diversity of our built environment.

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