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Borough Hall Skyscraper Historic District Affirmed

The district makes up the Downtown Brooklyn skyline that dates back to the 1920s

Council members Brad Lander and Stephen Levin have affirmed the Borough Hall Skyscraper Historic District, a cluster of 21 buildings along Court Street, from Livingston Street to Montague Street. Included in the district is Brooklyn's Borough Hall and the Municipal Building.

Some of the buildings in the district date as far back as the 1850s, built after the 1848 completion of what is now Borough Hall. Newer buildings in the district include three skyscrapers along Court Street that were built in the 1920s, and have marked Brooklyn's skyline for over 80 years. 

Back in 2004, a rezoning plan was approved to catalyze development in downtown Brooklyn, and, as Levin said, "allowed for 50-story office towers and residential towers."

"Downtown Brooklyn, over the last eight years or so, has seen a tremendous amount of development," Levin said. "It totally changed the downtown Brooklyn skyline."

The affirmation of the Borough Hall Skyscraper Historic District will preserve at least a section of the downtown skyline, in addition to the late-19th century and early-20th century architecture in the area. 

However, council members do not want to see the historic district prevent businesses from opening in the landmarked buildings. This morning, the Chairman of the Landmarks Preservation Commission announced that he is proposing new guidelines that will quicken the process for business owners when making changes to the building.

The guidelines would lay out a clear set of rules as to what is allowed in terms of signage in storefronts, alterations to the facade, and any other proposed changes to a landmarked building. This way, rather than being approved at a public hearing in front of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the alterations could be approved at the staff level.

"[The guidelines] will make it very clear what's acceptable for landmarked buildings, what's not," Levin said. "Instead of taking two months it would take two weeks.

For Levin, and several of his colleagues, making the area a historic district is necessary in maintaining Brooklyn's unique character.

"These buildings are what remains of the historic Brooklyn skyline," he said. "It is worthy of preserving that heritage and making sure that 20, 30, 40, 50 years down the line, those buildings will continue to be part of Brooklyn's skyline."

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