City moves to landmark Civil War-era block in Fort Greene

‘Civil’ obedience! State designates Wallabout as a historic district
Community Newspaper Group / Andy Campbell

A gorgeous strip of Civil War-era homes in Fort Greene would be protected until World War III and beyond under a city plan for a new historic district on Vanderbilt Avenue.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission this week unveiled the Wallabout Historic District, which would encompass 55 buildings on a single block between Myrtle and Park avenues. The plan would also effectively stop what residents on the block have been complaining about: chic condos popping up amid the highest concentration of early 1800s Greek Revival buildings in the borough.

One such tower, a glamorous seven story black and gray steel condo at 122 Vanderbilt Ave., is not only the tallest building on the block, it’s a modern eyesore.

“[The landmarking] is great for the block — it means we won’t have any more of that,” said 35-year resident Bill Washington, pointing to the condo in question just down the street. “This block has come a long way in the last 30 years, and we want to keep it that way.”

The block certainly has some history. It’s filled with homes from early 19th-century Brooklyn, and brownstone additions from borough legend Charles Pratt (yes, the Pratt who gave his name — and money — to found Pratt Institute a few blocks away). Then, there’s the beauty — Greek and Gothic Revival townhouses (with porch-swings!) line the quiet streets pocked with trees and pedestrians stopping to admire the view.

Of course, few people pause to take a gander at the three-year-old tower at 122 Vanderbilt — which is so out of scale that it likely provided the impetus for Landmarks to move ahead with historic district designation.

Indeed, under city law after an area is declared a historic district, all new buildings must help to “create a coherent streetscape [and] a distinct sense of place.” Under that rule, such a modern building could not have been built, which makes the current landmarking effort a bit bittersweet.

“They should have landmarked us before that building came in,” said 59-year neighborhood resident Joe Vollaro.