Testimony to the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission

October 18, 2005
Submitted by:
Joan L. Millman,
Member of Assembly, 52nd District

Re: Certificate of Appropriateness, Borough of Brooklyn
05-5155 Block 211, Lot 22
20 Henry Street

Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony to the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. As the Assemblywoman representing 20 Henry Street and the entire Brooklyn Heights Historic District, I want to voice my opposition to the current proposal for new construction at this site.

There are two issues at stake here: not only is the proposed building incongruous with the existing building and surrounding Brooklyn Heights Historic District, but it would be a violation of preservationist principles to destroy the unique sculptural garden in this complex. This property, once an industrial building converted to an artists’ loft residence, is of historical value as an adaptive reuse of the former Mason Mint Candy Factory building, dating back to the mid 1880’s. With the unfortunate buyout of the Mitchell-Lama residence in 2002, we must not destroy the unique character of this complex in the Brooklyn Heights Historic District. The proposed new construction of a nine story building along Henry Street would lie too close to the existing factory building, entirely eclipsing the surrounding row houses, not to mention decimating the sculpture garden and the public space it provides.

The plan presented would be to develop a rear yard extension on this single lot, a position that the Commission does not generally support. The modifications proposed to this site would not be in harmony with the existing building and would negatively affect the open space component of this complex. The current plan is to eliminate the majority of the existing open space, and merely include a small courtyard, hidden from public view, as its replacement. The proposed 10 story building will not only obscure from view most of the open space, but will inappropriately affect access to light and air.

Beyond the issue of the inappropriate composition of the proposed 10 story building is the issue of preserving the whole ensemble at 20 Henry Street, consisting of the former Mason Mint Candy Factory building and the adjacent sculpture garden, which jointly received a Certificate of Appropriateness by the Commission on June 21, 1974. The sculpture garden is an essential component to Lee Harris Pomeroy’s vision when he designed the Henry Street studios. Lee Harris Pomeroy’s Henry Street Studios were a landmark in and of themselves when first built, winning an AIA, New York Chapter Residential Award in 1977. While unfortunately the building does not still house artists as originally intended, the complex was designed specifically to include space for the artists to exhibit their work. The Candy Factory and sculpture garden have become a fixture in the Brooklyn Heights architectural community and deserve the protection of the Landmarks Commission.

As you will hear in detail at today’s hearing, a coalition of Brooklyn Heights residents and elected officials believe in the importance of protecting New York City’s historical buildings, including the Mason Mint building and sculpture garden. I urge the Landmarks Commission to disapprove today’s application to build an entirely inappropriate structure on top of a current landmark.

Thank you for your time.