Brooklyn's century-old former Dime Savings Bank of New York is a grand landmark in its own right. Adorned with fluted columns, it resembles a neo-classical temple, while its gilded interior has been described as beautiful and a "stately environment."

But Michael Stern, a luxury real estate developer, was after something else when he struck a deal to buy the building for $90 million: accompanying development rights that would allow him to build a new skyscraper next door, a building potentially the height of the Empire State Building. It would be the latest in a spate of construction that has seen several soaring residential towers go up in New York City in recent years -- including 432 Park Avenue

Because Stern owns the property next door to the bank, 340 Flatbush Avenue Extension, the combined air and development rights could allow him to build a tower of nearly 600,000 square feet, Crain's New York reported Wednesday. He could build a residential skyscraper that might exceed the Empire State Building, which stands 1,454 feet tall, Crain's reported, citing an unnamed source who was familiar with the transaction.

After all, Stern already has a history of similarly lofty projects. He is currently building an apartment complex in Manhattan designed to be higher than 1,400 feet. Condominiums there start at $14 million, according to a website for the building, 11 West 57th Street.

Speculation about whether Brooklyn could acquire a new high-rise began as early as last year, when JPMorgan Chase & Co., which last owned the Dime Savings Bank building, decided to put the property on the market in December. Several people took note of the air rights with which it came and the potential for someone to build a soaring skyscraper next door. 

The tallest building in Brooklyn is currently at 388 Bridge Street. The 53-story luxury apartment-condominium complex, which stands 595 feet tall and includes a movie theater, opened in 2014. 

Critics of the uptick in luxury real estate development in New York City argue that it contributes to a worsening housing crisis, particularly in Brooklyn. Rental prices are rising steadily, pushed ever higher by a sales market that is filled with an increasing number of high-end apartments.