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A Heights to remember: Civic group honors head, skewers Bridge Park

Beloved: Channel 13 announcer Tom Stewart kisses executive director Judy Stanton after presenting her with an award for her service to the community.
Photo by Jason Speakman

What a night in Brooklyn Heights.

The 105-year-old Brooklyn Heights Association held its annual meeting on Tuesday night in Grace Church, and honored long-time executive director Judy Stanton, who is set to retire in August.

“No one can replace Judy Stanton,” said the group’s president, Alexandra Bowie, as she presented Stanton with a commemorative trophy. “She has an encyclopedic knowledge of our organization and the determined energy to get things done.”

The group also awarded Stanton the Martha Atwater Award, named for the member who was killed on a Clinton Street sidewalk two years ago by a pickup truck. Channel 13 announcer and Heights resident Tom Stewart teared up when he presented the award.

“We are all the beneficiaries of her many years of service in Brooklyn Heights,” Stewart said. “She deserves it, you know. She really does.”

The rest of the night put a focus on preservation, a hot-button issue for the area and the Association, which spearheaded the effort to designate the Brooklyn Heights Historic District back in the 1960s. Bowie said the work started back then is even more important today.

“We are a quiet corner no more,” she said. “Change is not just coming. It’s here.”

She explained the group’s current efforts to scale back development in Brooklyn Bridge Park, calling on park honchos to lower the view-blocking Pierhouse hotel-condo building and nix the planned towers near Pier 6.

“We have always argued that only housing that is needed should be built, and right now were are not convinced building on Pier 6 is necessary,” Bowie said.

Community groups involved in those fights also presented updates at the meeting.

In addition to Stanton, the civic organization also gave awards to 84th Precinct Community Affairs Det. Sal Ferrante for his 16 years of community involvement, to the congregation of Grace Church for the restoration of its historic building, and to the Department of Transportation for the installation of old-fashioned lampposts in the neighborhood.

Justin Davidson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning critic for New York Magazine gave the guest lecture. He described preservation efforts in various cities and urged the Brooklyn Heights Association to consider the side effects of conserving their neighborhood.

“Preserving a neighborhood’s architecture doesn’t necessarily mean preserving its character,” he said. “Turn a working-class district into an historic district, and it’s unlikely to remain working-class.”

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260–8310. E-mail him at mperlman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.

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