A Moment in the Limelight, 30 Years Late

By Alexa Jaccarino

The architect Abraham J. Simberg has finally received professional respect and appreciation for the vibrant Jazz Age tower he inscribed on the downtown Brooklyn skyline in 1928—the 30-story Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce Building, now a residential co-op, at 75 Livingston Street.  The building is the crown jewel in the new Borough Hall Skyscraper Historic District along Court Street, created last year by the Landmarks Preservation Commission and sustained Feb. 1 by the City Council.

Until now, Simberg’s building had not been given any notable recognition, despite SImberg’s great expectations, and in general, the building’s good reception.  Indeed, even opponents of the district, including the 75 Livingston Street co-op board, conceded the building’s quality.  In fact, the board argued that it was already a conscientious steward of the property and did not need regulating.

The Commission has now described the building as a work of “considerable elegance and sophistication,” with “projecting pavilions, chamfered corners and secondary setbacks that give the building visual interest well beyond what was required by the zoning regulations and equal to that of any skyscraper in greater New York.”

Simberg is credited with a plethora of other projects, mostly including walk-up apartment houses in Brooklyn and the Bronx, as well as the Mount Eden Center, a synagogue in the Bronx.  After these works and the completion of the Chamber of Commerce Building by 1929, Mr. Simberg is believed to have anticipated a long and impressive career, but that was not his fate.  The stock market crashed.  Mr. Simberg was never fully paid for 75 Livingston Street.  The only jobs available in the 1930s were tenement alterations.  He and his wife, Esther, moved to Florida.

Mr. Simberg kept countless mementos of his briefly promising career, a fact suggesting that he trusted his work would find admirers after all.  Now it has. [The New York Times]

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