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Park Slope’s Historic District Becomes City’s Biggest

Today, the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to extend the Park Slope Historic District to include nearly 600 homes—making it the most expansive historic district in the entire city.

On Monday, the Park Slope Historic District was only the biggest area of protected homes in Brooklyn, but by Tuesday it could really boast, for it became the biggest one throughout the city.

The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to expand Park Slope’s historic district to include 580 other properties, the first extension in 39 years.

The LPC’s extension includes homes between Seventh and Eighth avenues (including Seventh Avenue’s façades) from Seventh Street to 15th Street and on 15th Street from Prospect Park West to Eighth Avenue (including the western side of Bartel-Pritchard Square).

Now there are 2,575 buildings in the neighborhood's historic district, beating out Greenwich Village for the number one spot, which has 2,315 landmarked buildings. To see the new boundaries, click here.

“We are honored to have the Landmarks Preservation Commission recognize our historic and unique neighborhood,” said Councilmember Brad Lander (D-Park Slope) in front of Manhattan’s Municipal Building after the vote to cheer the LPC’s approval.  “These are some of the most beautiful streets in New York and, with today’s vote, we know they will be enjoyed by generations to come.”

One of the bigger buildings that was included in the new borders on Tuesday was the former (as well as the homes built for its workers right next to it), on Seventh Avenue between 12th and 13th streets, which was once the world’s largest clock manufacturer and is now a condo complex.

The Park Slope Civic Council, which spearheaded the extension, was happy that the LPC now protects the former factory. 

“The Commission’s action not only celebrates a storied part of the city’s industrial past, but the sensitive adaptive reuse of the factory complex and its contribution towards the vitality and historic character of the area,” the Park Slope Civic Council wrote in a statement. “The Civic Council is united in our desire to maintain the neighborhood’s quality of life and to ensure that it is preserved for future generations of Park Slope residents and visitors alike to enjoy.”

For residents on the newly historically landmarked streets, the vote to include their homes is a mixed bag of emotions.

Osow Danon, who has lived in his brownstone on Eighth Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues for ten years, just finished redoing his row house's facade so he would not have to deal with the rules and regulations that come with living in a protected home.

When he was told that the expansion was approved on Tuesday, he responded: “Damn!”

He explained:

“It’s a good damn and a bad damn at the same time,” Danon said. “The good is that no one will paint their house pink or put up an ugly silver fence in front of it. But, the drawback is that if you want to put in a new window you will have to abide by all the historical landmarking rules.”

Since he got the work done on his house before the vote, he does not need to worry (a couple of his neighbors did the same thing, a handful of homes were seen under construction during a stroll down Eighth Street). But now, if he wants to do any construction on his brownstone’s façade, outside or roof (anything that can be seen from the street), he would need to obtain approval and a permit from the LPC. 

In order to get a permit he would have to fill out an application (click here to see the application) and send it along with photographs, drawings, building material samples and/or photomontages to illustrate the existing condition of the feature that needs repair or replacement and the proposed new work.  

A staff member of the LPC is assigned to each case and if it is not a complicated job then they send a permit (there are three types, varying on the proposed changes). 

However, depending on the repairs or replacement needed, the application may need to be viewed by the full commission. If that’s the case, the applicant needs to go to their community board to be reviewed, then have a public hearing on the proposal and finally be reviewed by the full commission.

Don Cramer, who has owned a Neo-Georgian row house on Eighth Street between Prospect Park West and Eighth Avenue for 13 which was already in the historic district before Tuesday, also said living in a protected home has its ups-and-downs.

“The major benefit is that it raises the appreciation of your investment if you’re an owner,” Cramer said while standing outside of his house.

“But the drawback is that it can create difficulties for people who live here,” Cramer said, explaining that his neighbor who lives in an apartment in a rent-controlled brownstone across the street is being pushed out by her landlord. He said that she is not the only one who is getting pressured to move out. According to Cramer, other landlords of rent-controlled buildings in the historic district are trying to make everyone in their buildings leave so they can turn them into luxury condos and raise the rent. 

The good news, however, is that now with 2,575 buildings designated as historical landmarks in Park Slope, the area is the largest concentration of protected homes in the city and they will stay that way—close to how they looked when most of them were erected in the early 1900s.

And for Danon, as a resident who cares about his neighborhood’s aesthetics, that’s the best news.

“As humans we need rules to observe, or else it will be anarchy,” Danon said while standing outside of his home and taking a look at the picturesque brownstones of Eighth Street. “Overall this will be good for the block and it will preserve our historical character.”

Patti April 18, 2012 at 02:05 PM
I support the historical preservation of our beautiful neighborhoods in Brooklyn. Hopefully, it will deter large residential developers coming in and tearing down these buildings that we so dearly love.
Mike April 18, 2012 at 02:15 PM
Landmarking also protects our historically significant neighborhood, with such a welth of great buildings - the reason many of us moved here.
Ben April 18, 2012 at 06:55 PM
Wow. I don't know where to begin, except to say that market forces, the existing condition of Park Slope, and most importantly zoning regulations already prevent this from happening. This is just another case of out-of-control preservationists teaming up with self-interested homeowners to make another NYC neighborhood unaffordable.

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