Iconic Bushwick mansion set to transform into 20-unit apartment building, despite preservation concerns

1027 Bushwick Ave. pictured last week.
Photo by Anna Bradley-Smith

Department of Buildings records indicate that the historic, albeit heavily altered, mansion at the corner of Bushwick Avenue and Linden Street, standing since the late 1800s, is likely to undergo conversion into a six-story, 20-unit apartment building.

A new owner has applied to convert the two-story wood-frame structure at 1027 Bushwick Ave. from a two-family house into an apartment building with 20 units, adding 15,586 square feet to the building size.

While there are no renderings of how the development will look in the permit filings, the application says the building will be 74 feet high, take up 4,325 square feet of the 4,700 square foot lot (the existing building takes up 1,770), and there will be 12 enclosed parking spaces. The alteration permit is yet to be issued by DOB, and given the substantial changes proposed there’s a chance a new-building permit could be required.

A closer look at the site.Photo by Anna Bradley-Smith

In April, the building was sold to 1027 BK LLC, with signatory Yanzhen Zhuo, by the estate of longtime owner Julio C. Roldan for $2.67 million, city records show.

Plans were filed for the frame dwelling in November of 1886. Designed by the New York firm Constable Brothers and
constructed for owners Joseph E. and Annie Rhodes, the standalone house was to cost an estimated $5,000. While the family moved in 1887, evidently they weren’t happy with the home. Mr. Rhodes and the builder, Erasmus D. Garnsey, ended up in court over whether the house was constructed according to the architect’s plans and money owed.

The circa 1940 tax photo shows the wood-frame house with all its original details and looking dramatically different than it does today, with Tudor-style half timbering, shingles, and a bracketed wooden porch. In 1947 a brick addition was constructed along Linden Street, with a certificate of occupancy showing it was used as a doctor’s office and a two-car garage. The curb cut on Linden Street dates from that year as well. The 1980s tax photo shows the house to be in pretty similar condition to how it looks today.

The Linden Street extension was added in the 1940s.Photo by Anna Bradley-Smith

A spate of mansions and historic buildings have been torn down along the arterial Bushwick stretch to make way for new apartment buildings. City Planning rejected a community-led rezoning plan that would have included protections for historic buildings along Bushwick Avenue and other historic districts. Since the rezoning was quashed, development has boomed, with absentee landlords adding stories to existing row houses and developers replacing houses on large lots with mid- to large-size apartment buildings.

Many of the historic mansions that are typically on large sites are attractive to investors who see the opportunity to build bigger structures and capitalize on the unused open space.

Dina Alfano, from the Bushwick Historic Preservation Association, said 1027 Bushwick Ave. has a “glowing light over it in neon letters for developers,” given its lot size, and the group isn’t “the least bit surprised” to hear it could be replaced with a new six-story development.

“I mean to speak frankly, what I expect to see there is what we continue to see along Bushwick Avenue, overpriced, poorly built condos that are not affordable for longtime residents or for some newcomers as well,” she said. “In lieu of a beautiful landmarkable historic property there, what we would like to see is genuinely affordable housing, which we know is very not likely to be the case.”

Alfano said that while the group never expected the highly altered house to be landmarked by LPC, she called on the agency to be more flexible in how it evaluates houses in Bushwick, which “has a very, very different history from Park Slope and Brooklyn Heights. It’s a history of deprivation, of a lot of physical damage.”

“Our surviving resources here need to be considered within that context, and this is something which LPC continues to steadfastly refuse to do,” she said.

1001 Bushwick Ave. pictured in 2020.Photo by Craig Hubert
1001 Bushwick Ave. in 2023.Photo by Anna Bradley-Smith

In recent years, the area around 1027 Bushwick Ave. has seen a number of new apartment buildings rise on corner lots, including at 1001 and 856 Bushwick Avenue, and the 20-story building currently rising at Broadway and Linden Street.

There was some good news for Bushwick preservationists in 2023, when the neighborhood gained its first historic district. A stretch of Linden Street, just across the road from the planned construction, was landmarked in May last year, with the BHPA saying at the time “we’re just so delighted that Bushwick is finally getting its day in the sun.”

This story first appeared on Brooklyn Paper’s sister site Brownstoner