The Commission’s approval to demolish the existing building was primarily based on the collapse and replacement of the building’s original curtain wall in 2006. On May 21, 2019, the Landmarks Preservation Commission considered and voted to approve revised plans to demolish an existing four-story building and construct a new 20-story building at 200 Montague Street in the Borough Hall Skyscraper Historic District in Brooklyn. Designed by Philip Birnbaum, the existing four-story Modern-style building was initially constructed to two stories in 1959. Two additional stories were added in 1967-68. The building was used as a bank and had a drive through until the 1990s. In 2006, the building’s curtain wall collapsed from water and air infiltration and was replaced with a kalwall façade designed by FacadesMD. Landmarks classified the building as Altered Modern in its 2011 designation report on the historic district.
Richard Metsky of Beyer Blinder Belle presented the first proposal to demolish the building and construct a new building at a public hearing on March 5, 2019. Metsky’s plans showed a proposal for a 20-story building with an overall height of 215 feet. The building was designed to fill in the gap between its taller neighbor to the left at 16 Court Street, and shorter neighbor to the right at 188 Montague Street, to create a continuity of streetwall. The proposal called for a light-colored granite base and a matching glass fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC) cladding on the remainder of the building. The plans showed grey window mullions except on the transition floors where the mullions were bronze.
On March 5, 2019, Landmarks Commissioners did not reach a consensus on the proposed demolition with several Commissioners commenting that despite its altered facade, the existing building was an important representation of 1960s design and architectural evolution. Most of the Commissioners approved of the overall massing of the new building but thought that the building blended in too much with its neighbors, contrary to the intent of the Borough Hall Skyscraper Historic District which is characterized by 21 unique stand-alone structures.
On May 21, 2019, Richard Metsky presented the revised plans. The new plans show the proposed 20-story building as a centered and symmetrical structure with a more robust base, scale, and materiality. The building will be clad in black granite at the base with dark grey GFRC on the upper floors. The building will have bronze metal windows with spandrel panels. The façade will feature vertical piers with concave profiles at the upper floors, plain metal spandrels, and perforated metal spandrels and parapet details to provide a level of depth and articulation that is found in other buildings within the Borough Hall Skyscraper Historic District.
Commissioners John Gustaffson and Adi Shamir-Baron expressed that while the plans for the new building had improved markedly, they opposed demolition of the existing 60-year old structure. Others, including Anne Holford-Smith, were supportive of a new building given that the curtain wall of the original building had been completely replaced in 2006. Commissioners Diana Chapin, Michael Devonshire, Kim Vauss and Jeanne Lutfy commented favorably on the building’s details, scale, and materiality and appropriateness for Montague Street and the historic district.
The Commissioners voted seven in favor, and two opposed approving the application; Commissioners John Gustaffson and Adi Shamir-Baron voted against the proposal.
By: Viktoriya Gray (Viktoriya is the CityLaw Fellow and New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2018).