The tallest building in the borough is NOT the ugliest!

The Brooklyn Paper
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Is the borough’s tallest building also its ugliest?

As much as I love the skyscraper, I have to admit that The Brooklyner, the narrow, 51-story on Lawrence Street in Downtown Brooklyn that is just a few inches taller than the Williamsburgh Savings Bank tower, had apparently earned both titles.

Unlike that stately Art Deco edifice, with its unique design elements, I couldn’t help but feel let down by The Brooklyner, which will house luxury studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom rentals.

A tour of the inside of the building was certainly delightful, thanks to the drop-dead views, floor-to-ceiling glass, full services, a pool table, and decks on the rooftop and fourth-floor decks. But all that opulence only made me feel that residents are the lucky ones because once they get inside, they don’t have to look at the outside of the building — a monolithic bit of pre-Glasnost coldness that catches the eye and then punishes it for stopping, ever so briefly, on its patchwork metal exterior.

Or so I thought!

I called the building’s architect to ask him what the hell he was thinking when he designed such a repulsive residence — but guess what? I was dead wrong. The Brooklyner is not ugly at all.

It’s beautiful.

“It’s a handsome building that relates nicely to the cityscape,” said its architect, Randy Gerner, a partner in the firm of Gerner Kronick and Valcarel. “If you look closely, you’ll notice that the building gets lighter in color as it rises from the street. It gives the sense that the sun is shining, like looking at a mountain from far away.”

I wasn’t fully convinced. So I asked about the patchwork of red and silver metal panels on the facade that resembled the exterior trim on a 1960s-era baseball stadium. Again, I had misjudged them.

“We did a pattern of different colors so that the facade would feel as if it was woven together,” Gerner said. “It’s a tall building, so if the entire facade was, say, brick, it would just look like a wall. I did not want to have a wall. And the woven texture reduces the bulk of the building” in a viewer’s mind.

Bulk was not my issue. This is Downtown Brooklyn — if you’re going to build, build big, I say. My issue with The Brooklyner is that my obviously untrained eye found it so boring.

Fortunately, Gerner set me straight again.

“We did not use common materials on the facade,” he said. “Some others new buildings nearby use common materials. But we wanted ours to not only stand out as a skyscraper, but relate to Brooklyn.”

He dismissed the critics, like Christopher Henrickson, who wrote on his blog, Architectural Lamentations, that the Brooklyner “is so boring and unoriginal that it would almost appear to have no architectural design at all. The massing is slab-like and is essentially devoid of any positive aesthetic character whatsoever.”

Clearly, Henrickson had never picked up the phone and let Randy Gerner explain it all to him.

But not me. I’m man enough to admit it when my opinion is just dead wrong. The Brooklyner is the tallest building in the borough, but it is definitely not the ugliest.

Gersh Kuntzman is the Editor of The Brooklyn Paper. E-mail Gersh at
Updated 5:15 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Eric from Bensonhurst says:
Rander Gerner is either lying or he is aesthetically challenged. That is a piece of %$^& if there ever was one.
Nov. 16, 2009, 12:35 pm
al pankin from downtown says:
Gee, I'm sure glad that you are man enough to admit you made a mistake. however, I think you were right the first is an ugly, boring building possibly coppied from a cold war era soviet design..but I must admit it is not uglier than the state unemployent office that was on that spot before...that is the bright spot.
Nov. 16, 2009, 3:08 pm
Al from Park Slope says:
I think the story here is that there were so many Brooklynites fuming over how the Frank Gehry designed building at the Atlantic yards shouldnt be taller than the Williamsburgh savings bank building and this project did just that right under the protesters noses. Pretty funny!!!
Nov. 17, 2009, 7:28 am
Preston says:
If the architect has to convince the "untrained eye" neighbors and building occupants that his building is not the ugliest then he has not succeeded. The building should speak for itself.
Nov. 17, 2009, 12:31 pm
bayof from biscay says:
Flew over the Brooklyner yesterday en route to LaGuardia. Fellow travelers gasped when it came into view and wondered aloud if the building were a temporary structure. Sadly not. It's featureless slab is beyond ugly and banal. It crests in nothingness. It greatly impoverishes downtown's and the city's skylines. (What's with dowdy and or flimsy new architecture in Brooklyn?)
Nov. 17, 2009, 1:30 pm
Fourth Estate from DUMBO says:
Gersh, seriously, do you always change your mind at the drop of a dime? Do you have a Rolodex of thoughts which you spin around when it's time for a new article?

So the designer convinces you it's not ugly? Of course he would. I am sure whoever designed Verizon building outide the Brooklyn Bridge in Manhattan thought he created a masterpiece, but no amount of convincing will change that buildings ugliness nor this one.

Ever hear "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder? "

You were originally correct in your assessment. It is UGLY, out of place and consistent with all the horribly designed buildings that go up in the city these days.
Nov. 17, 2009, 1:37 pm
Rick from Cobble Hill says:
Doesn't anyone understand IRONY! What's amazing is that the architect actually was willing to show his face!
Nov. 17, 2009, 3:09 pm
Ally from DUMBO says:
Listen ——sman, do you let other people tell you what to think? Form your own opinions, don't be lead around by others.
Nov. 19, 2009, 8:17 am
pof from blyn says:
Hey, Fourth Estate, don't you know sarcasm when you read it?
July 7, 2011, 8:48 am

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