Hundreds sign petition supporting new P’Heights historic district

Hundreds sign petition supporting new P’Heights historic district
Photo by Jason Speakman

More than 1,000 preservationists joined a grass-roots effort to name a new historic district in Prospect Heights by endorsing a petition local civic gurus created to muster support for their proposed enclave, according to a man behind the landmarking initiative.

“Exceeding 1,000 supporters after just a few months demonstrates the breadth and depth of support for this idea,” said Robert Witherwax, chairman of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council.

The successful campaign for signatures is an important milestone in the push to create the so-called Prospect Heights Apartment House Historic District because it will show massive public approval for the effort when it comes time to convince local community board members, pols, and city preservationists on the Landmarks Preservation Commission to sign off on the plan, another development council member said.

“Before we go to LPC, we basically want to come in with overwhelming public and political support,” said Gib Veconi.

If established, the historic district would grant landmark status to 82 apartment buildings erected between 1909 and 1929 in an area roughly bounded by Eastern Parkway to the south, Sterling and St. John’s places to the north, Washington Avenue to the east, and Plaza Street East to the west.

The locals argue the structures represent an important phase in the development of Kings County, when residential living shifted from single-family row houses to multi-family complexes such as those within the proposed district, which rise between four and 15 stories per the area’s current zoning.

But many of the 82 buildings fall far below the 15-story height cap, making them ripe for redevelopment, according to the development council members, who hope their push will spare the structures from the wrecking ball for good.

The petition drive comes months after private preservationists with the Historic Districts Council named the initiative to create the Prospect Heights Apartment House Historic District as one of its “Six to Celebrate” this year, an honor that comes with the influential group’s assistance in navigating the city’s landmarking process.

And this isn’t the development council’s first rodeo.

In 2009, its members successfully persuaded the landmarks commission to designate the Prospect Heights Historic District, fearing a wave of new construction spurred by the controversial Atlantic Yards project would spell the end for many of the neighborhood’s stately row houses.

Back then, a similar petition in support of that proposed enclave netted only about 500 signatures, Veconi said, less than half the amount already collected for the newly suggested historic district nearby.

Volunteers will keep canvassing the area for John Hancocks in the weeks ahead as they continue to build their case, which they expect to present to the landmarks commission before the end of the year, according to Veconi.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Never change: Prospect Heights civic gurus said they collected signatures from more than 1,000 people in support of their push to create a new historic district in the neighborhood.
CuRBA / NYC CityMap