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New ‘signs’ of life along Downtown’s history trail

Finally, there are signs that Brooklyn once had beautiful old buildings downtown.

The Brooklyn Preservation Council means that quite literally, in fact, as the non-profit group has begun installing historic markers in and around Borough Hall and Cadman Plaza to commemorate a rich architectural past that was razed in the name of progress.

“In Brooklyn, Robert Moses basically tore down everything that was old,” said Bob Furman, president of the council.

Urban renewal projects led by Moses began in the 1930s and lasted until the 1960s — and though the Master Builder accomplished great feats, a good deal was lost, Furman said.

The sign initiative, called the Borough Hall Area Historical Commemoration Project, is in its very early stages of development. It recently received a $1,500 grant from state Sen. Daniel Squadron (D–Brooklyn Heights) — but will need about $60,000 more to be fully realized. Two model signs were showcased this week in Borough Hall, an effort to engender support for the project.

The signs will point out such historical tidbits such as:

• Back in the 1860s, an area that is now Korean War Veterans Plaza, between Cadman Plaza West and Washington Street, was Brooklyn’s department store district.

• The Hall of Records and the County Courthouse — whose Manhattan twin, the Tweed Courthouse, remains standing — were torn down after the new Supreme Court Building on Adams Street opened in 1959. Part of the Hall of Records site was utilized for widening Boerum Place into Brooklyn Bridge Boulevard.

The signs, roughly 15 in total, will refer to the past, but also remain relevant, Furman said.

“Urban renewal and gentrification are still controversial. The question is, ‘How do you renew cities? Do you tear everything down, or do you preserve?’ ”

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