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Brooklyn Heights Cinema's Historic Building Listed for $7.5M

By Nikhita Venugopal | February 21, 2014 5:29pm
 The Brooklyn Heights Cinema is located at 70 Henry St. in Brooklyn Heights.
The Brooklyn Heights Cinema is located at 70 Henry St. in Brooklyn Heights.
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BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — The building that houses Brooklyn Heights Cinema, a decades-old movie theater, was put on sale this week — but the theater's owner is not letting the credits roll just yet.

Kenn Lowy, owner of Brooklyn Heights Cinema, said the theater is still active after the 70 Henry St. building’s landlord listed the property for sale or lease, according to a letter addressed to the theater’s supporters.

Massey Knakal listed the one-story building for sale for $7.5 million and is alternatively offering it for lease at $30,000 per month. The site could accommodate a 10,000-square-foot residential building, Brownstoner first reported, but previous attempts to tear down the movie theater and redevelop the site have failed to win city approval.

Brooklyn Heights Cinema, which opened its doors in 1970, “is the oldest and longest running independently owned and operated cinema remaining in New York City,” according to the listing and the theater's website.

Landlord Thomas Caruana supports having Brooklyn Heights Cinema stay in the building, Lowy said, but its future is far from assured.

“The current tenant has a month-to-month lease and may be delivered vacant,” the historic building’s listing read.

The cinema owner said he needed the community to continue supporting the scrappy movie house to show that it’s still a viable business.

Caruana has tried to redevelop the property in the past, but he has not succeeded.

Last October, the Landmarks Preservation Commission rejected for the second time a redevelopment design for the Brooklyn Heights building, which included a five-story condominium and ground-floor space for the cinema hall.

The plan involved demolition and reconstruction of the move theater’s building, which was originally built in 1895 and is landmarked.

LPC officials also failed to back an earlier plan in November 2012, saying that the design was “too reminiscent of the industrial Art Deco architecture, an inappropriate style for the district.”

The second design was blocked because commissioners did not want to tear down the building and rebuild it.

The repeated rejection frustrated Caruana, who has decided to explore all his options for the building’s future, which could include “selling the building and possibly leasing it to someone else at four times the rent we are paying,” Lowy said.

Caruana could not immediately be reached for comment.

Lowy added that there is still hope that a redevelopment plan that maintains the movie theater will receive LPC approval.

“It is important for everyone to understand that our landlord has been very supportive of the cinema,” he said.