Downtown Brooklyn’s 2004 rezoning delivered seismic change to the longtime commercial and political heart of the New York City borough, as towers such as FX Collaborative’s 1 Willoughby Square and Fogarty Finger’s recently completed 141 Willoughby, sprout upwards to ever greater heights. In a report issued in 2023 by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, a local non-profit development corporation, it is estimated that the spate of construction has yielded over 20,500 residential units to the neighborhood. The Brooklyn Tower, designed by SHoP Architects, is the most conspicuous product of this development boom; at 1,066-feet tall, it looms over the borough from its perch on Flatbush Avenue. However, like Icarus, it appears that the supertall’s developer Michael Stern, founder of JDS Development, flew a bit too close to the sun, and has defaulted on a $240 million mezzanine loan for the project, which now faces foreclosure.

JDS Development barnstormed New York City’s real estate scene nearly a decade ago with two signature projects: the residential conversion by CetraRuddy of the Ralph Walker-designed New York Telephone Company in Chelsea and the SHoP-designed American Copper Building along the East River. In 2022, in another collaboration with SHoP, JDS Development opened the 1,428-foot-tall Steinway Tower on Manhattan’s Billionaire’s Row, known as the world’s skinniest skyscraper. It, too, faced foreclosure in 2017 due to a $325 million mezzanine loan, before JDS Development scrapped together a new financing package. The Brooklyn Tower, also completed in 2022 as a mix of rentals and luxury condos, rises adjacent to the Beaux-Arts Dime Savings Bank (1908), whose hexagonal form is mirrored, and stretched, by the development. And, like JDS Development’s other projects—Steinway Tower has a Neo-Art Deco vibe—it stands out as something of a Neo-Gothic edifice, harkening back to New York City’s familiar early 20th-century landmarks.

Michael Stern is not alone in his financial problems. The Federal Reserve’s continued battle against inflation relies on higher interest rates and quantitative tightening, which impels developers to refinance their mountains of debt under less than favorable terms, throwing entire business models out of whack. The Brooklyn Tower is scheduled for foreclosure auction on June 10th.