Heights Cinema Plans on Hold

January 23, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — The Brooklyn Heights Cinema building at the corner of Orange and Henry streets has had its ups and downs.

A neighborhood theater for many years, it fell upon hard times in the 1990s when interior fixtures and seats deteriorated and management found it difficult to attract first-run movies. It was then taken over by longtime movie entrepreneur Norman Adie, only to become caught up in a financial scandal.

More recently, it was bought by Brooklyn singer-songwriter Kenn Lowy, who introduced photo exhibits, an updated snack bar, more amenities and better films. Lowy, who is a community activist, also sponsored an extended showing of The Battle of Brooklyn and a discussion featuring the filmmaker and anti-Atlantic Yards activist Daniel Goldstein.

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When news came out earlier this month that the building’s owner, Tom Caruana, planned to tear down the building and erect a five-story apartment house, many people in the Heights were upset, although Lowy has defended Caruana as “a decent guy.”

This past Wednesday, the owner and his architect were supposed to present their plans at a meeting of the Community Board 2 Land Use Committee — but withdrew their plans before the meeting took place.

Both Robert Perris, district manager of Community Board 2, and Judy Stanton, executive director of the Brooklyn Heights Association, told the Eagle that this decision followed a meeting between the building owner and the Heights Association’s own Landmarks Committee.

She said that the committee, which contains three architectural historians, did research on the building’s history and came to the conclusion that it was an integral part of the Brooklyn Heights Landmark District and should not be demolished.

The circa-1895 building was always a commercial building, but had a varied history, before it was converted into a cinema around 1970. Stanton said that research has revealed that the building, as originally constructed, was made of fine brick, had cast-iron columns and other details that were consistent with the neighborhood.

Even though many of these details were later covered up or painted over, she says, “four-fifths of the original masonry still exists.” After the presentation, the owner apparently decided he had more homework to do.

Efforts Monday to reach Lowy were unsuccessful.

— R.G.

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