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Thread: Downtown Brooklyn, the Plan

  1. #31


    YAY! GOOD NEWS! Brooklyn here the skyscrapers come!

  2. #32


    July 4, 2004

    In a Ragtag Hub, Look Up, For There's Beauty Above


    The Landmarks Preservation Commission is working to protect the Offerman building, above, and others in the Fulton Mall area of Brooklyn.

    To walk in and around the Fulton Mall in Downtown Brooklyn is to be confronted with the visual cacophony of a fraying commercial hub. Along this block, a pastiche of racy magazine covers gives way to the tropical-themed neon of a cellphone store. Over there, glittering swaths of gold jewelry are punctuated by advertisements for human-hair wigs and fancy front teeth. And across the street, in front of a jumble of designer athletic wear and discount children's clothing, street vendors offer sunglasses, watches, incense and African black soap.

    But looming above, preservationists say, are the reminders of the area's 19th- and 20th-century grandeur, brick and stone relics of a thriving shopping and theatrical district serving Brooklyn and Long Island.

    "You have to look up, particularly here, it's so dramatic," Robert B. Tierney, chairman of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, said on a recent afternoon, pointing toward the Flemish-inspired gables, decorated in vibrant, multihued glazed terra cotta, atop a building on Livingston Street with a hair salon below.

    "If you don't look up," he continued, his gaze sweeping toward a barren concrete parking garage and shuttered storefronts, "you'd just say, 'Why would you ever want to landmark that?' "

    Having spent a good deal of time looking up, though, Mr. Tierney and his colleagues at the commission have determined that there are indeed plenty of buildings you would want to declare landmarks, including one that was designated last week, at 81 Willoughby Street. Designed by Rudolph L. Daus and built in 1898 as the headquarters for the New York and New Jersey Telephone Company, the Beaux-Arts-style building dominates its spot at Lawrence Street with a rounded corner and a heavy projecting cornice, its sides festooned with intertwining wires, bells and receivers and its entrance flanked by old-fashioned telephones.

    And while landmark buildings are not entirely unknown to the area - the Gage & Tollner restaurant on Fulton gained that status in the mid-1970's and the Dime Savings Bank building at Albee Square was designated about 20 years later - 81 Willoughby is only the beginning of a potential wave. The commission, inspired by members of the Brooklyn Heights Association and the Municipal Art Society, is also pursuing protection for four other buildings around the mall that could be threatened by new construction encouraged by the Downtown Brooklyn redevelopment plan that was approved last week.

    The commission has started work to protect 101 Willoughby Street, a copper-colored Art Deco behemoth built for the New York Telephone Company in the early 1930's and now used by Verizon. Mr. Tierney and the commission's executive director, Ronda Wist, also said that the commission planned to pursue an elegant neo-Classical-style limestone building at Fulton and Hoyt Streets that once housed the Namm's department store, as well as the Offerman building across the street, a Romanesque Revival-style structure with an intricately ornamented entrance arch that now heralds a Conway store. It is also working to protect the building on Livingston Street.

    And there may be others still. Preservation groups have identified as many as 23 other buildings of historical significance, from a three-story 1840's Greek Revival clapboard house on Duffield Street to a 1920's Schrafft's at Smith and Fulton Streets.

    "We are delighted that the Landmarks Commission has taken this step and is proposing further steps," said Otis Pratt Pearsall, a member of the Brooklyn Heights Association who has been active in preserving the area's history. "We are encouraged to believe that they are going to give a serious look at the entire list and that a great many, if not all, of the buildings on that list will be designated."

    Mr. Tierney said that although the commission would consider more buildings in the future, the first five were the priority for the moment. "It's another era of Brooklyn, but hopefully we can be part of preserving that part of that era as other development takes place here," he said. "It would be nice to have these memories set in stone, if you will, and that's what we're looking to do."

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company (Look for 81 Willoughby Street.)

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