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MAS Urges Council Support of Skyscraper District

Borough Hall Skyscraper

Despite being named the “Coolest City on the Planet” by GQ, Brooklyn hasn’t been an independent city for more than a century. But it has a celebrated architectural heritage that equals cities across the country, including a skyscraper district that once rivaled equaled Lower Manhattan’s. That district, which was designated a historic district by the City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), includes an exceptional concentration of late nineteenth and twentieth century commercial skyscrapers ranging from Romanesque to Gothic styles.

On Wednesday, the City Council’s Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Uses will hold a public hearing on the designation of the Borough Hall Skyscraper Historic District. MAS will be testifying in support of the historic district, and invites readers to join us at the hearing, or contact their Councilmember and urge them to uphold the LPC’s designation and the district’s boundaries. MAS, in conjunction with the Brooklyn Heights Association and the New York Landmarks Conservancy, proposed the Downtown Brooklyn historic district in 2006.

While the district is of undisputed architectural significance, there have been concerns raised to the LPC that the designation could prevent new development and be a drag on the area’s economy. MAS and others argued that those concerns haven’t been realized in the city’s 110 historic districts. In fact, historic district designation is often the lynchpin for a neighborhood’s revitalization and increase in property values. At the time the Ladies’ Mile Historic District was designated in 1989, it was virtually a no man’s land of forgotten former department stores and commercial buildings. Since its designation it has become one of the city’s most vibrant shopping and commercial districts commanding high rents and demonstrating the positive impact historic designations can have on economic development.

Part of what makes Brooklyn so “cool,” is its unique architectural heritage and sense of place. In 2010, Brooklyn received 15 million visitors, who were drawn to the borough’s restaurants, shops and historic character. The buildings in the Borough Hall Skyscraper District are the jewels of the borough’s iconic skyline and function as the gateway to Brooklyn Heights and the rejuvenating Downtown Brooklyn commercial district. They are worthy of protection and we urge the City Council to uphold the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s designation.

Click here to read MAS testimony to the City Council Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Uses on December 14, 2011.