Brooklyn Heights

Preservationists call for landmark designation for two Brooklyn Heights buildings

Historic properties are part of Montague Street's 'Bank Row'

November 29, 2016 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Bank Row in Brooklyn Heights includes 185 Montague St. at right, 181-183 Montague St. in the center of the photo and 177 Montague St. at left. St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church is at far left. Eagle photos by Lore Croghan

Landmark these buildings — ASAP.

On Tuesday, preservation advocates called on the city Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) to designate two buildings on Brooklyn Heights’ so-called Bank Row as individual city landmarks.
The historic properties are the People’s Trust Company Building at 181-183 Montague St. and the National Title Guaranty Company Building at 185 Montague St.

Because of “intense development pressure,” the two buildings are vulnerable and should be landmarked now, Otis Pratt Pearsall testified during public hearings at the LPC’s Lower Manhattan headquarters.

The redoubtable attorney led the successful campaign to have Brooklyn Heights named the city’s first historic district a half-century ago.

Landmarking is a protection from demolition. The exteriors of city landmarks cannot be altered without the preservation agency’s permission.

Most buildings in the neighborhood are afforded this protection because they’re located within the Brooklyn Heights Historic District or the Borough Hall Skyscraper Historic District — but not the two Montague Street properties, despite their historic significance.

Architectural historian Francis Morrone, the author of “An Architectural Guidebook to Brooklyn,” also testified in favor of landmark designation for the two buildings. So did Peter Bray, the executive director of the Brooklyn Heights Association.

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Designation voting set for January

A rep for the owner of 185 Montague St. spoke in opposition to the landmarking of that building.

He said it would impact the landlord’s ability to redevelop the property and “maintain it in a code-compliant and safe manner.”  

City Finance Department records identify the property owner as an entity that’s run by the heirs of the late Sol Goldman, an investor who amassed a prime New York City real estate portfolio.

After the close of the hearing, LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan said the commission will vote in January on whether to designate the two buildings as individual city landmarks.

This past August, 181-183 Montague St. and 185 Montague St. were put onto the agency’s calendar for landmark designation consideration.

At Tuesday’s public hearings, several preservationists mentioned Bank Row — the financial buildings on Montague Street between Clinton and Court streets that were developed in the early 20th century.

One Bank Row building, Venetian palazzo look-alike 177 Montague St., has long been a city landmark. It stands next to 181-183 Montague St., which is adjacent to 185 Montague St.

Barbara Zay of the Historic Districts Council said “the three [buildings] form a striking group on a very visible corner and busy commercial corridor.”

Citibank looks like a Classical temple

Today, the People’s Trust Company Building, AKA 181-183 Montague St., houses a Citibank branch.

The two-story building is neo-Classical in style and looks like an ancient temple.

It was designed by architecture firm Mowbray & Uffinger and built in 1903-1906.

There are four white marble Ionic columns on the front entrance. They support a triangular pediment adorned with larger-than-life sculptures of reclining figures.

The bank building belongs to Jonathan Rose Cos., which purchased it through an LLC for $36.5 million in 2015, Finance Department records indicate.

The development firm is constructing an apartment building at nearby 189 Montague St. — on a site that’s not landmarked.

Art Deco skyscraper with a Chipotle on the ground floor

The National Title Guaranty Company Building, AKA 185 Montague St., is an Art Deco-style office tower with Chipotle as its ground-floor tenant.

It was designed by architecture firm Corbett, Harrison & MacMurray and built in 1929-1930. Limestone decoration around 185 Montague St.’s entrance was designed by noted sculptor Rene Paul Chambellan — whose work is also seen at Rockefeller Center.

Morrone, the architectural historian, called 185 Montague St. “one of the very best Art Deco towers in New York” in his testimony.  

“This property is an incredibly important part of the neighborhood,” Gabriel Halili of the Municipal Art Society of New York said in his testimony.

 

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