Borough Hall Skyscraper District gains Landmarks approval

From left: Landmarks’ Robert Tierney, a view of the district, the Franklin Building and the Temple Bar Building

The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission has unanimously approved the designation of the Borough Hall Skyscraper Historic District, a group of 21 office buildings near Brooklyn’s Borough Hall, constructed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the city agency announced today.

“The cluster of tall office buildings that form the district had a central role in Brooklyn’s development and illustrate an important chapter of New York City’s history,” said Commission Chairman Robert Tierney. “These skyscrapers of their day gave Brooklyn not only a commercial heart, but also a new skyline.”

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The creation of the district had been in the works for at least five years before it was first presented at a Landmarks hearing in October 2010. Final approval awaits approval by the City Planning Commission followed by the City Council, which must vote on the measure in the next 120 days.

The new spate of landmarked buildings include the Franklin Building at 186 Remsen Street which was completed in 1887, the 13-story Temple Bar Building at 44 Court Street and a 22-story limestone, granite and brick Colonial Revival style building at 32 Court Street. It also encompasses three buildings of at least 30 stories along Court Street, which was once the borough’s definitive skyscraper row, as well as a 1960 Modernist four-story building at 200 Montague Street and a 1962 12-story office tower at 175 Remsen Street.

Many property owners in the district did not support the effort to landmark this stretch of commercial properties. In January, several real estate holding companies and business organizations, including the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, signed a letter asking that Landmarks reconsider approving the district. They claimed, in the letter, that it made little sense to enact a designation that might “impede Downtown Brooklyn’s ability to attract high-quality… commercial and retail tenants.” — Katherine Clarke

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