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Park Slope’s district would be truly historic under local plan

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Brooklyn’s largest historic district would triple in size — and become the biggest in the city — under a proposal unveiled last week by a Park Slope community group.

The Park Slope Civic Council is aiming to expand the neighborhood’s 1,975-building historic district to include more than 5,000 structures that constitute nearly the entire neighborhood bounded by Prospect Park West, Flatbush Avenue, Fifth Avenue and 15th Street.

“The Civic Council recognizes the historical and architectural significance of the entire Park Slope neighborhood and seeks to forever preserve its unique character and sense of place,” said the group’s resolution, which was approved unanimously last Thursday night.

The plan, a decade in the making, calls upon the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission to expand the existing historic district — which includes the eastern part of the neighborhood between Park Place and 14th Street — in three phases, first with a swath of 1,350 buildings bound by Flatbush Avenue, Prospect Park West, 15th Street, Seventh Avenue, and sections of Union Street and Fifth Avenue.

The first stage also calls for investigating landmarking all of the buildings on Prospect Park West, Plaza Street, and Flatbush Avenue east of Sixth Avenue that were omitted from the historic district enacted by the city in 1973.

After the Landmarks Preservation Commission investigates the first phase — a process that insiders estimate could take two or more years — the agency would then consider designating some 2,000 buildings east of Fifth Avenue’s commercial corridor and bounded by 15th and Union streets.

The third phase of requested landmarking would include an additional 2,000 structures east of Fourth Avenue between Flatbush Avenue and 15th Street.

The bold Park Slope proposal could dwarf even the city’s largest historic district — the 2,040-building zone in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village — by some 5,000 structures.

But Peter Bray, chair of the Civic Council’s Historic District Expansion Committee, said at the meeting that he is confident that landmarking such a large district is not just feasible, but urgent.

“There is so much of Park Slope that is at risk and in danger of development,” he said. “We want to preserve everything that needs to be preserved.”

If the city moves forward with investigating the proposed historic district, not every block that is looked at will necessarily be included, said Landmarks Preservation Commission spokeswoman Lisi de Bourbon.

“For a historic district, we look for a distinct sense of place, and a coherent streetscape,” she said.

Just one section of the Park Slope is excluded from the Civic Council’s proposal: New York Methodist Hospital, which occupies much of the blocks between Fifth and Seventh streets and Seventh and Eighth avenues.

The Civic Council did not include the medical center in its proposed district because the block wouldn’t likely qualify as historic anyway, Bray said at the meeting. Also, the hospital opposes such designation due to the possible need for future development.

Homeowners in the expanded zone won’t find it so easy to opt out of the zone. Living in a historic district requires property owners to seek special permits from the Landmarks commission should they want to alter the façades of their buildings — whether the buildings are landmarks or not.

As such, expansion of historic districts tends to be controversial.

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Reader Feedback

Mike from Ft Greene says:
While expanding the district is a good idea, they are nuts if they want to landmark all of Flatbush Ave. Most of it is one- and two-story taxpayer buildings that are eyesores and are in no way historic. Why landmark those? Let's not use landmarking as a proxy for restricting development, if that's their goal.
May 11, 2009, 10:57 am
Charles from Brooklyn says:
Too bad this was not done years ago. Some of the new buildings built in the last ten years will kindly be called non-conforming by historians.
Historical designation of an area is the greatest protection available.

As for the question of whether landmarking is a proxy for restricting development: yes, and good. That's how a democracy rolls when special interests outside the community go against the public welfare of the community as a whole.
May 11, 2009, 12:54 pm
Bob from Heights says:
Of course, charles, the same could be said about those who moved into park slope during the '70s and changed the character of the neighborhood completely.
May 11, 2009, 8:47 pm
DSG from Ft. Greene says:
The development implementation occuring in NYC is destroying it's flavor.

Many of the buildings, although up to date with technology lack character, strong sound structural significance.

Putting up "Wal-Mart" style buildings create eyesores, block the sunlight and especially in Brooklyn, totally destructive the the personality that I so much admired as a child.
May 13, 2009, 1:19 pm
John from Park Slope says:
The one- and two-story taxpayer buildings along Flatbush Avenue will eventually be replaced by other structures. Landmarking this area will prevent the these buildings from being replaced by eyesores similar to the ones now springing up in unlandmarked blocks in Park Slope.
May 14, 2009, 11:48 am

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