NYC Approves Landmark Brooklyn Skyscraper District

Some realtors argue that it's a "disincentive for people to make investments in these older buildings"

By Samantha Gross
|  Wednesday, Feb 1, 2012  |  Updated 4:57 PM EDT
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NYC Approves Landmark Brooklyn Skyscraper District

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Visitors take in the view of the East River and Brooklyn skyline from a deck at South Street Seaport

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City officials gave final approval Wednesday to a landmark historic district protecting more than 20 skyscrapers that help define the downtown Brooklyn skyline.

New York's City Council voted in favor of the Borough Hall Skyscraper Historic District, which encompasses 21 skyscrapers and office buildings that were built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries near the building that was once known as Brooklyn City Hall. It is the borough's first historic district to feature commercial high rises.

Some members of the city's real-estate industry objected to the decision, arguing that it would increase costs for building owners who will be required to get special approval for renovations of the properties and some repair work.

"It is a disincentive for people to make investments in these older buildings," said Steven Spinola, president of the Real Estate Board of New York. "I do believe we're landmarking away the city's economic future."

Spinola estimated the change would cost the area's owners an extra $5 million over the next five years for standard upkeep of the properties. He called the money a "landmark tax."

"We understand there may be some additional costs associated with being landmarked," said Landmarks Preservation Commission spokeswoman Elisabeth de Bourbon. "But there are also benefits, including stabilized property values and, in some cases, increased property values. There are also state and federal tax benefits that can apply."

Among the buildings included in the district are three skyscrapers more than 30 stories high along Court Street that were completed in the 1920s. According to the commission, the buildings feature "setbacks, slender towers and architectural detailing in the neo-Romanesque and neo-Gothic styles rivaling those completed at the same time elsewhere in New York City."

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