South Slopers learn if their homes deserve to be preserved

Slope historic district expansion moves ahead

Are you in, or are you out?

South Park Slope homeowners opened their mail this week to find a letter from the city informing them if their houses will be part of a proposed historic district that would stop “out-of-context” development, but make even the smallest alterations of their property more difficult and more expensive.

The letters have become the most discussed correspondence in the neighborhood — displacing even Yale acceptance letters — as property owners argue about the merits and problems of the landmarking plan, which calls for expanding Park Slope’s already substantial historic district southward to include a swath of land roughly bounded by Seventh and Eighth avenues and Seventh and 14th streets.

“It struck me as a surprise,” said 10th Street resident George Shea, who received a letter on Saturday from the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission informing him that his home’s window lintels and the decorative metalwork on his stoop are in fact historic.

If the city goes ahead with the historic district, homeowners whose property qualifies as historic would need to seek special permits before altering or demolishing those external elements of their abodes.

Many South Slopers have mixed feelings about the plan, saying they expect the landmarking will protect property values and the community’s charm — but worry it will create costly and tedious home maintenance rules that will turn every trip to Home Depot into a mess of bureaucratic red tape.

“It’s a trade-off,” said Shea. “I understand the cost burden — but it’s the price you pay.”

Some residents said it’s worth shelling out hundreds — perhaps thousands — of extra dollars to keep ugly construction away.

“When you’re landmarked you have to jump through hoops,” said Ninth Street resident Ed Lemansky. “But I’m of two minds about it.”

Peter Bray of the Park Slope Civic Council — whose group has been pushing for the landmarking for years — said the end result is well worth any added costs.

“People live in Park Slope because it’s unique,” said Peter Bray, chair of the group’s historic district committee. “It has a sense of place that would not exist if buildings could be altered or demolished willy-nilly.”

The proposal is the first phase of a longstanding plan backed by Councilmen Steve Levin (D–Park Slope), Brad Lander (D–Park Slope) and the Park Slope Civic Council, which also seeks to extend the landmarked district into the North Slope amidst a predicted wave of development sparked by the soon-to-open Barclays Center.

Landmarks Preservation Commission spokeswoman Lisi de Bourbon said the agency will consider the “integrity and cohesion” of streetscape and “sense of place” when it votes on the proposed historic district on April 17.

Elected officials are eager for the historic zone to be set in stone.

“[It] brings a much-deserved protection to this historic part of Brooklyn,” Lander said.

Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at [email protected] or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.