Former Magistrate’s Court

135 Pennsylvania Avenue
Mortimer Dickerson Metcalf

While many buildings on Pennsylvania Avenue have been altered or demolished, it was once considered East New York’s grand boulevard, home to fine residences and institutional buildings, including this former courthouse. Designed in the neo-Classical style popular for government buildings at the time, the Magistrate’s Court was the work of Mortimer Dickerson Metcalf, who previously worked for the prestigious New York architectural firm of Warren & Wetmore (architects of Grand Central Terminal). It was one of many such courthouses in Brooklyn, where low-level criminal cases were heard until the city’s court system was centralized in 1962 (the building’s near-twin, an individual landmark also designed by Metcalf, is located at 4201 4th Avenue in Sunset Park). The location, previously home to St. Clement’s Protestant Episcopal Church, was likely chosen for its proximity to the local police precinct (site 4). After 1962, the building housed the Arnold and Marie Schwartz Community Center, a day care program, the Police Athletic League and the offices of Brooklyn Community Board 5. In 2009, due to a lack of funding, the community center was forced to close, but new funds set aside in the 2015 East New York Neighborhood Plan should enable its reopening. Despite its change of use, the building’s history as a courthouse remains legible through an inscription on the frieze that reads “MAGISTRATES COURT.”