Two Proposed Demolitions in Historic Brooklyn Heights Meet Opposite Fates

Rendering by Fang Architect, PC via NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission

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Two projects in Brooklyn Heights went in front of the Landmarks Preservation Commission Tuesday morning, yielding contrasting results.

Both required demolition and the construction of a new building. The first was a plan to demolish a one-story building at 181 Atlantic Avenue that is currently home to Atlantic Fruit & Vegetables. The owner wants to construct a new, four-story building in its place.

The grocer, which is run by the owner, will remain on the ground floor. Above, there will be six residential units. Fang Architect is behind the design, and the owner, who purchased the building in 1982, will develop.

181 atlantic

The proposed building in the streetscape. Rendering by Fang Architect, PC via NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission

Across the board, there was approval for the project. “We do not oppose the demolition,” said Judy Stanton, there representing the Brooklyn Heights Association and the only member of the public who testified. “Overall, we feel the design of the new building is acceptable.”

Commissioners felt the same way. LPC Chair Sarah Carroll thought that the new design fit in with the surrounding streetscape, although some of the details could be improved. Commissioner Fred Bland was more specific, noting that the brick, at least as seen in the rendering, looked too big and encouraged the owners to continue working with the LPC staff.

The vote for approval was unanimous.

181 atlantic

Image by Fang Architect, PC via NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission

181 Atlantic Avenue

181 Atlantic Avenue. Photo by Susan De Vries

Things were not so easy with the second project, which called for the demolition of a modern style bank building at 200 Montague Street, part of the Borough Hall Skyscraper Historic District. In its place, Midtown Equities, who has owned the building since 2007, wants to build a 20-story structure.

200 montague street

200 Montague Street. Photo by Susan De Vries

Reactions to this proposal varied wildly. Some of the commissioners were fine with the demolition but had problems with the new building’s design; others didn’t think the building that currently stands should be demolished at all, despite a history of alterations.

Commissioner Michael Goldblum said he wouldn’t go so far as to say what is currently there is worth saving, but didn’t think the proposed design matched expectations. “It’s a pretty diverse district,” he said. “It has a lot of rhythm to it in terms of scale, in terms of style, in terms of color. This building, when it was built, was meant to differ from its neighbors.”

What is being proposed, he said, “is working so hard to hide, but that is not what the district is about.” He added that it looked “like an addition to the building on the corner,” meaning the intersection of Montague and Court streets.

200 montague street

Rendering by Beyer Blinder Belle via NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission

Others backed him up. Commissioner Jeanne Lutfy said the design was a lost opportunity to “make a mark” on a “still critical street,” while Commissioner Michael Devonshire, after noting how much he used to love walking past this building, said he thought the design “wants to blend in a little too much.”

200 montague street

The scale of the existing building. Rendering by Beyer Blinder Belle via NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission

The commissioners told the architects, Beyer Blinder Belle, to come back with a new design. They added they were also happy the project allowed them to address some of the biggest questions the LPC faces regarding context, what is worth saving and how something should, if possible, replace an existing building.

200 montague

The scale of the proposed building. Rendering by Beyer Blinder Belle via NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission

“This is why we’re all here, and doing what we do,” Carroll said to close out the hearing. “These are the really challenging, interesting and provocative discussions that raise questions.”

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