City landmarks commissioners voted unanimously to designate a stretch of E. 25th Street as East Flatbush’s first historic district on Tuesday morning.
The small district, located between Clarendon Road and Avenue D, contains a “remarkably cohesive group” of Renaissance Revival row houses dating back to the early 1900s, according to the Landmarks Preservation Commission. The houses were built as single-family homes.
The LPC’s vote comes after residents and commissioners alike showered the block with praise during a public hearing about the proposed district in September.
“This designation today is very meaningful to me,” said LPC Chairwoman Sarah Carroll. “It’s clear to me that the residents were attracted to this neighborhood originally because of its architectural character and sense of place and their shared commitment to their block and buildings has strengthened the community.”
Members of commission commended residents’ extraordinary effort, not simply maintaining their home’s architectural integrity, but also in working together as a community to achieve the historical status at the meeting.
“You really can’t plan this type of success for any block or any community,” said Commissioner John Gustafsson. “The word organic comes to mind, you have a group of people who have foresight, who have thoughtfulness, and they have a community spirit. In some sense, this historic district is a preservation model.”
The century-old homes lining both sides of the block are notably consistent with one another — having been meticulously well-preserved by its residents — and are still outfitted with their original front gardens and facades of brownstone and limestone.
Under the new historical designation, the 56 Renaissance Revival row houses — all of which were built between 1909 and 1912 by the Henry Meyer Building Company — will be under the jurisdiction of city landmarking gurus in regards to any future alterations or reconstruction to the structures.
“We had nothing but positive vibes going into the vote today,” said Julia Charles, adding that the September meeting left locals feeling hopeful about the vote. “We felt like we were in a good place.”
The 300 E. 25th Street Block Association began their push for the historical designation status in June 2019 in an effort to preserve their neighborhood’s special character from incoming developers with plans of demolishing homes to make way for multi-story condos.
“With the development that is happening all over the city, but East Flatbush is getting hammered,” Charles said. “Our community is under fire.”
Charles said the designation is more than just a win for her block but for the greater E. Flatbush community, rich in Caribbean culture, and hopes it will serve as a model for further preservation in the neighborhood.
“We are happy for our block,” Charles said. “We are looking forward to a new energy in the community for other blocks to be preserved as well.”
E. 25th Street’s 300 Block has seen a number of accolades from various organizations over the years being named the Brooklyn’s “Greenest Block” by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden four times, most recently in 2016, and was named one of six communities to celebrate in 2020 by the preservationist group Historic Council.
“I think they won more times the ‘Greenest Block in Brooklyn’ than any other block in Brooklyn,” said Commissioner Fred Bland. “It’s not just the green but the people themselves who do this and their amazing spirit.”
Neighbors were ecstatic upon hearing the news of the approval and celebrated with a toast outside of their homes on Tuesday afternoon.
“Anticipating a celebration, of course I had to get some bubbly,” Charles said. “We gave a toast and were able to express our journey and really be glad about it.”
The designation also sparked excitement for members of the commission.
“This is thrilling,” said Bland. “If such a deserving historic district can be lurking somehow out of our reach or out of our understanding, there must be others out there as well that we should be looking to. It gives me great hope that more districts can be designated.”
The commission’s chairwoman further noted that this is the first historic district whose landmarking process has taken place completely over virtual meetings. She also seconded the praise for the landmarked site and the homeowners.
“I find this intersection between historic preservation and community to be so rewarding,” said Carroll.
Additional reporting by Craig Hubert