LPC Asks for Small Refinements to Addition to Romanesque Revival Building in Brooklyn Heights

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The LPC told them to come back and try again, with a vote of no action.

Commissioners did not have serious problems with the plans for an eight-story extension standing behind the six-story Romanesque Revival building at 186 Remsen Street in Brooklyn Heights. In fact, the majority of the commissioners, as well as those people who provided testimony at a hearing this morning, praised the “zesty restoration of this wonderful building,” as commissioner Michael Goldblum said.

Their problems, as Goldblum noted later, were “philosophical and conceptual” and led to a lengthy conversation among the commissioners. The focus was the addition: is it separate or part of the original structure?

186 Remsen Street

The existing building was constructed in 1886-87 and is the oldest building in the Borough Hall Skyscraper Historic District, which was established in 2011.

186 Remsen Street

New plans, which were presented to the Landmarks Preservation Commission this morning, include refurbished masonry and terra cotta, new windows and balconies — matching those that were formerly on the front of the building — at the fourth floor, and a re-creation of the entrance modeled on other Brooklyn Heights buildings by the same architect.

186 Remsen Street

“Part of what we’re restoring is the three-dimensionality,” said Anthony Fieldman, who was one of three people who spoke on behalf of the architect, HOK Architecture. The building, he said, is currently two-dimensional, not much more than a facade.

When an application for a new-building permit was pre-filed in September, it sparked concern the developer intended to tear down the landmarked structure. Instead, what is proposed is something different, a combination of old and new.

186 Remsen Street

186 Remsen Street

Paul C. Gogan of HOK Architecture is the architect of record. The application describes plans for 37 hotel rooms, with no more than six per floor. There will be two separate restaurants, a more “casual” establishment on the ground floor, according to the architect, and something more resembling fine dining at the beginning of the addition.

186 Remsen Street

The architects saw the addition fitting within the context of the skyscraper district, and the historic facade aligned with the rest of Brooklyn Heights. The two things, they felt, are separate and should remain so.

186 Remsen Street

Not everyone agreed. Of the four people who testified, two were in favor of the current design and two were not. Jesse Denno of the Historic Districts Council, while noting that it was “a fine example of first-class restoration,” found it hard to get over what he felt were a “clash of styles.”

186 remsen

The building in 2018. Photo by Susan De Vries

Some of the commissioners, including Adi Shamir-Baron, agreed. She asked the architects if they had considered a color for the addition that was closer to the historic facade (they said they did, but the different options did not work).

186 remsen street

The building in 2018. Photo by Susan De Vries

There were other small quibbles, about the use of terra cotta at the entrance and its relationship to the rest of the building, as well as the screen over the mechanicals on top of the building.

186 remsen

A 1949 view of Court and Remsen Streets showing a glimpse of 186 Remsen Street. Photo via Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Collection

[Renderings via NY Landmarks Commission]

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