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Landmarks Commission Approves Demolition of Modern Gem

purchase building fulton ferry historic district

On Tuesday, February 21, as part of the planning for Brooklyn Bridge Park, the Landmarks Preservation Commission heard and approved, by a 7-2 vote, a request from the Parks Department to demolish the Purchase Building, which is part of the Fulton Ferry Historic District. The MAS strongly urged the commission to prevent the demolition of this protected building, and instead to consider the appropriateness of alternatives that would alter the building to create views and access to the waterfront. It is both possible and vital to balance the need to create park space and to preserve our city’s historic neighborhoods. The commission’s seeing alternative plans must be a precondition to any action.

Built by the Works Progress Administration in 1936 as a storehouse for the New York City Department of Purchase, the building is a rare and sterling early example of modernism in a Depression-era government building. Because of its horizontality and ribbon windows, it was compared favorably in the Fulton Ferry Historic District’s designation report with modern landmarks like Manhattan’s Starrett-Lehigh Warehouse.

The Parks Department is pursuing this demolition because it wants to create a view corridor to the river and the park. While the MAS supports the creation of Brooklyn Bridge Park, it believes that the commission and the park’s planners need to examine proposals that would retain the Purchase Building. Studies exist that examine how the building could be modified in ways that allow the creation of a unified park without damaging or destroying its historic character. We believe that reuse of the building would enliven the park and, if used for concessions, would provide valuable income that would help sustain the park in the future.