A Big Skyscraper Plan Gets a Brooklyn Raspberry

Some fear the loss of a landmark; others fear rising rents

The new tower will incorporate part of Brooklyn Dime Savings Bank and remove other sections. (Kyra Gurney)

The new tower will incorporate part of Brooklyn Dime Savings Bank and remove other sections. (Kyra Gurney)

Developers are moving ahead with plans to build a seventy-three-story skyscraper in downtown Brooklyn, but locals worry about what they think could come with such a tower: rising rent prices and alterations to an iconic neighborhood landmark.

On Wednesday night, the Land Use Committee for Brooklyn Community Board 2 voted unanimously in favor of developers’ plans to demolish parts of the Brooklyn Dime Savings Bank in order to build the 1,066-foot tower. But residents consulted on Friday by New York City Lens were less enthusiastic about the proposed structure, which would stand on DeKalb Avenue and tower over the borough’s existing buildings. The tallest building in Brooklyn now is The Hub at 333 Schermerhorn Street, which is just 610 feet tall.

“Unfortunately, skyscrapers are taking away from what an old timer like myself would call scenic Brooklyn,” said Chantale Chancy, 37, an assistant manager at a T-Mobile store. Chancy, who grew up in Brooklyn and lives in Fort Greene, questioned whether the new construction really benefits local residents. “Who are they for?” she asked. “For the builders? Or for the typical Brooklynite who may not even been able to afford to live there?”

Mike Jackson, 43, a cab driver from Brooklyn, said he is concerned that another new building could further drive up rents in the area. Although Jackson appreciates the clean streets and new businesses that have come along with development in downtown Brooklyn, he said that rent prices where he lives—in nearby Gowanus—are on the rise. “I like the way it looks, but it’s everything that comes with it,” Jackson said of the new construction. “It’s turned into a little Manhattan.”

“Everywhere, they’re knocking down,” said Shirley Millington, 59, a retired teacher who lives in East New York. “I keep seeing apartments and condos, but I don’t think it’s affordable income. That’s why they have so many people on the street. They’re not building for the ones who need it.”

The design for the skyscraper (SHoP Architects)

The design for the skyscraper (SHoP Architects)

Plans to build at the site have been in the works since at least 2014, when developers JDS Development Group and the Chetrit Group purchased one of the properties that will be torn down to build the tower. The developers bought the bank, an official New York City landmark, in December, and submitted plans for the skyscraper in recent weeks, according to The New York Times. (Neither developer could be reached for comment.) The Dime Savings Bank was built between 1906 and 1908, and features an ornate ceiling and marble columns crowned with oversized dimes.

The skyscraper would incorporate part of the bank’s existing structure while removing other sections, including an addition built in the early 1930s and the bank’s teller counters, said Robert Perris, the local community board District Manager. At the board’s meeting on Wednesday, members voted 11 to 0 to recommend that New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission approve the developers’ application to alter the bank, a requirement for protected landmarks.

Arthur Weatherby, 60, is one who would miss the Dime Savings Bank. “It’s like no place else,” he said of the bank, whose walls and columns pay homage to the dime. He is saddened in general by the changes in the neighborhood he grew up in.

Some of the people who work or study in the area were more optimistic about the planned construction. “It’s going to do wonders for the neighborhood,” said Jeff Stalnaker, 30, a photo agent whose company, Art Partner, is located across the street. Stalnaker said the company moved its New York office to the area in 2014 partly because they were banking on the long-term growth of the neighborhood.

Aaron Lentz, 24, a student at nearby Long Island University Brooklyn said that as long as the new building preserves part of the bank, he thinks it will be a good addition to the neighborhood. “Brooklyn will have a nice skyline of its own,” he said.

“Leave  that for Manhattan,” said Kara Lewis Vitta, 41, a nurse who lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant. “This is Brooklyn.”

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