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City slams jeweler for tarnishing Gage and Tollner site

The Brooklyn Paper

Illegal changes at the old Gage and Tollner building in Downtown have the Landmarks Preservation Commission seeing red — and hot pink.

The owners of a garish costume jewelry store operating inside the former home of the legendary gaslight-lit restaurant must tear down their newly installed Pepto Bismol-hued wall panels, commissioners voted unanimously on Jan. 22.

The Fulton Mall trinket shop Ladies and Gents dramatically changed the landmarked interior of the shop between Jay Street and Red Hook Lane without presenting a plan for the alterations, blocking iconic cherrywood trim and mirrors with bright pink hanging panels in the process.

But all that glitters isn’t gold, according to commission vice chair Pablo E. Vengoechea.

“Hiding something behind something is not a preservation strategy,” he said. “We designated this [space] in order to be able to see it.”

Repentant Ladies and Gents architect Rand Rosenbaum apologized on behalf of the jewelry store, calling the shop’s offerings “schlock stuff” and the design an “interior desecration.” But he said alterations including a self-supporting display and lighting system didn’t actually damage the walls — they just covered them up.

He also noted that some of the store’s famous gas lamps remain in place, while its mirrors and entrance arch are safe in storage. But that wasn’t enough to appease Landmarks’ commissioners.

“There is no excuse at all for this being the way this is, period,” said commissioner Michael Goldblum.

The changes were made without permission from the city, but Landmarks spokeswoman Lisi de Bourbon said the shop won’t be fined for the transgression. Instead, it must submit a new plan that shows greater respect for the historic interior.

“We are trying to correct the illegal conditions,” she said.

The owners and tenant of the building did not respond to a request for comment by press time, but Rosenbaum told this paper that changes are afoot.

“The client and landlord are looking at their options,” he said.

The old home of Gage and Tollner fell on rough times after restaurateur Joe Chirico closed up the steak and chops joint in 2004.

A T.G.I. Fridays lasted until 2007, and an Arby’s briefly set up shop in 2010.

History buffs are sad to say they miss the purveyor of roast beef sandwiches, which never ran afoul with preservation officials.

“Who thought then that we might one day be wistful for the days of Arby’s?” the Historic Districts Council said in a statement.

Reach reporter Jaime Lutz at jlutz@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow her on Twitter @jaime_lutz.

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Reader Feedback

T-Bone from DoBro says:
Like that is the only visual crime in Fulton Mall. Those great old buildings will need a lot of work once the sneaker and cash-4-gold stores are finally driven out.
Feb. 6, 2013, 8:16 am
ty from pps says:
The preservation of the *interior* of a building is just absurd. It seems that the preservationists should also create a multi-million dollar fund to pay to rent the space when the "perfect" tenant can't be found.
Feb. 6, 2013, 9:57 am
Ed from Park Slope says:
Ah, the mysteries of the Landmarks Commission! They're enraged by a plan that preserved the building, but they never, ever, ever considered the often requested landmark designation for the 1st Brooklyn Carnegie Library at Pacific Street and 4th Avenue! Why wasn't that building ever considered? Is Bruce Ratner connected somehow? I wonder what a thorough investigation of Landmarks might reveal?
Feb. 6, 2013, 3:12 pm
freddie from slope says:
i am on board with landmarking the pacific street library.. anyone else?
Feb. 7, 2013, 2:53 pm
Me from Bay Ridge says:
I think it is better to have the space occupied and the features covered up than have the space empty (God knows, restaurants haven't lasted there) -- as long as they are merely covered, not destroyed.

Does anybody know why the Carnegie library at 51St/4thAve, Sunset Park was torn down in the 1960s? Why was it not preserved like all the others?
Feb. 8, 2013, 9:17 am
old time brooklyn from slope says:
The preservation of the *interior* of a building is just absurd. It seems that the preservationists should also create a multi-million dollar fund to pay to rent the space when the "perfect" tenant can't be found.

let's redo the interior of yr woolworth building, st pat's, the montauk club, the met or anything of culturlal /historic vale -= deep as a puddle ty - liloh must be your muse, your jane autsten
Feb. 8, 2013, 4:52 pm
brooklyn guy from bklyn says:
Who's jane "autsten"?
Feb. 13, 2013, 1:06 pm
Anthony Waters from Florida says:
My dad (Thomas L. Waters) managed the restaurant from the early 1960's till the N.Y. Worlds Fair opened when he went to manage restaurants for the Brass Rail Corporation at the fairgrounds.

We were good friends with owner Tom Dewey and his wife Helen, and they had two sons--Christopher and Scotty (Schotchipher as his dad use to call him). In fact, we all stayed at their house for several days when my mom delivered our eighth sibling in 1963. I believe Tom Dewey's brother 'Ed' was a silent partner as I never met him. I can recall a private Christmas dinner party that we all had inside the restaurant. I've still got a photo almost identical to the one shown up against the mirrored wall....gas-lights hanging from the ceilings.

The Dewey's (Tom & Helen) moved out to California probably sometime around 1965 and we lost contact with them. Our family moved to Florida in 1966. Dad died in 2003 and Mom (Rosalie) is alive and just returned from a trip to NYC. She's 88. ---Watersisland@hotmail.com
Oct. 13, 2013, 3:17 am

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