New opposition to Berkeley Carroll expansion

A preeminent Brooklyn Heights preservationist is blasting the expansion of a Park Slope private school, saying its plan has the potential to frustrate the fundamental values of the historic district.

Otis Pratt Pearsall, whose activism helped get Brooklyn Heights designated the city’s first historic district in 1965,said that as a steadfast advocate for the preservation of open spaces behind the built architecture of the Heights and Park Slope, he could not stand idly by as the Berkeley Carroll School’s plan wends its way through a public review.

“As a matter of historic district policy, proposals to fill in such spaces and thereby erode their contribution to a district’s historic and aesthetic value, should normally be resisted no matter the availability of readily proffered excuses in particular cases,” he wrote in a statement.

“Otherwise, over time, the integrity of the district becomes a slippery slope of compromise that gradually and progressively loses the power of authenticity,” he continued.

Berkeley Carroll plans to reconstruct a one-story annex at the rear of its middle and upper school at 181 Lincoln Place. The private school says the new building, plus a rooftop playground, will provide more space for students and faculty, and would not infringe on the aesthetics of the historic district. The building itself would be the same height as one it will replace.

Pearsall conceded that he is not a student of the proposed expansion.

But the project’s apparent potential “to frustrate, both directly and as precedent, fundamental historic district values seems to warrant the closest and careful of sensitive evaluations.”

Pearsall is not the only preservationist voicing opposition to the plan. Also in opposition is the Historic Districts Council, Brownstone Revival Coalition of New York, and Landmark West. Community Board 6 approved the plan last week.

The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission will weight the matter at a Feb. 2 meeting.