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Carter's View

The Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation unveiled two plans Monday night at Borough Hall in Brooklyn to utilize the two-story Tobacco Warehouse building, a roofless 19th Century landmark in Dumbo.

One of the plans call for a pyramid structure to be built within the complex. It has been proposed by LAVA/Volcano Love, a theater/dance/acrobat troupe based in Prospect Heights. Its plan, shown at the right, calls for trapeze equipment to be erected in part of the compound's.

The other plan was submitted by St. Ann's Warehouse, a theater-group/performance space group that now occupies a building across Water Street from the Tobacco Warehouse and its building is slated to be demolished to make way for Two Trees' Dock Street project.

Nancy Webster, Executive Director of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy, a citizen organization that acts as an advocate for the Park, said that certain principles should apply to any development at the Tobacco Warehouse site. Among these, according to the report yesterday by Claude Scales at, was that a significant portion of the site's use should be devoted to free public programs. "Another," it noted, "was that nothing constructed within the existing walls should exceed their height. Both the LAVA and St. Ann's proposals, in their present form, would violate the latter principle."

"Representatives of community organizations from DUMBO, Fulton Ferry and Boerum Hill all decried the failure of BBPC to heed public concerns," the blog observed, adding that "Sandy Balboza, President of the Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association, characterized the process as 'rushing, rushing, rushing.'

"Judy Stanton, Executive Director of the Brooklyn Heights Association, asked why the Warehouse space shouldn't be left as it is," the blog continued, "for use as an outdoor venue for arts events and the like. A number of representatives of arts organizations, including BAM president Karen Brooks Hopkins, spoke in favor of adaptive use of the Warehouse space as an arts venue, stressing its contribution to the development of Brooklyn and DUMBO as a lively center for the arts."

The Tobacco Warehouse, originally built by the Lorillard family, sits on the upland of Empire-Fulton Ferry Park, just north of the Brooklyn Bridge, and just south of the Empire Stores. Together, these landmark 19th century warehouses are vivid reminders of the shipping activity that once defined the downtown Brooklyn waterfront.

Constructed in the 1870s as a tobacco customs inspection center, and saved from demolition in 1998, the roofless rooms of the Tobacco Warehouse provide one of the most compelling public spaces in Brooklyn Bridge Park. The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation repaired and stabilized the Warehouse in 2002.

The total size of the Warehouse is approximately 25,000 square feet, offering an 18,000 square-foot, column-free footprint.
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Architecture Critic Carter Horsley Since 1997, Carter B. Horsley has been the editorial director of CityRealty. He began his journalistic career at The New York Times in 1961 where he spent 26 years as a reporter specializing in real estate & architectural news. In 1987, he became the architecture critic and real estate editor of The New York Post.