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South Slopers learn if their homes deserve to be preserved

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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 noneill@cnglocal.com or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.
Updated 5:30 pm, July 9, 2018: Updated to add commentary from Peter Bray — a Park Slope preservation legend and a major force behing the proposed extension of the historic district.
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Reasonable discourse

Paul from Park Slope says:
So, Natalie, how do YOU feel about this? Oh, that's right, you told us pretty clearly, in an absolutely spectacular display of journalistic professionalism!

Who do you really want to write for? The National Enquirer or the Onion?
March 6, 2012, 10:39 am
Moses from Park Slope says:
What's the issue, Paul? Story seems balanced to me — and I got one of the letters, too.
March 6, 2012, 11:01 am
Tony V from South Slope says:
I agree. This article was fine.

At least it was not the ridiculous crap (I'll be polite -- unintelligible slop) that Dana Rubenstein used to write supporting the rezoning of 4th Avenue and cheering every lie that Marty Markowitz has ever emitted.
March 6, 2012, 12:10 pm
Pete Nets from Downtown says:
On the subject of extending the Historic District. This is all about NO DEVELOPMENT AROUND BARCLAYS CENTER AS IT PERTAINS TO NORTH PARK SLOPE. YES...NO...MAYBE...YA NEVER KNOW...HOW YA DOING ????!!!!! I don't buy that this was proposed a while back. WHO YA FOOLING !!!
March 6, 2012, 1:20 pm
Pete Nets from Downtown says:
And on top of that you want the potential to extent past 5th Avenue. What's next ??? SHADY 4th AVENUE NEAR FLATBUSH AVENUE ???...NO NEW DEVELOPMENT OR UPGRADE OF NORTH 4TH AVENUE NEAR THE ATLANTIC TERMINAL CORE ????...NO REDEVELOPMENT IN NORTH PARK SLOPE ???!!! LET'S JUST LEAVE THINGS AS IS. ZERO GROWTH. LET'S JUST YAWN WITH THE CHIPMUNKS. IT'S NEW YORK CITY PEOPLE !!! Let's just call if for what it really is IT'S NIMBYISM !!!!
March 6, 2012, 1:42 pm
Lisa from PS says:
This has been in the works for 2 years, Pete. You are tragically uninformed. It's obvious you are desperate for attention by your all caps.
March 6, 2012, 5:01 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Pete, nobody is anti-developement here. Those that oppose new developement are against for one of two reasons. One of them is that they don't want what defines it so well to be taken down, while the other is that this could cause them to be priced out later on. As for the AY, nobody was being anti-developement when opposing it, they were for an alternative plan and that was the UNITY Plan, which was much more promising that what the AY Complex would give. Speaking of the AY, I did hear that you can see Battle for Brooklyn this week at the Rosenfield Building, Hess Commons (722 W. 168th St.) today at 5 PM in Manhattan or at the Bronx Documentary Center (614 Courtlandt Avenue (@ 151st St.) at 7 PM on Thursday, and I did hear that Daniel Goldstien himself will be at both of them, so this will be a perfect time to speak to him yourself.
March 6, 2012, 5:53 pm
Pete Nets from Downtown says:
Tai. I've seen the Unity Plan and I like it !!! Some of the land that is still not developed which will be for Phase 2 of AY should include at least something that the Unity Plan has to offer. Unfortunately Ratner controls the land and the prospect for nothing other then parking lots will exist for many years. Ratner's biggest sin was that he did not or never did incorporate the community in the planning of AY. You have to root for Ratner not being able to develop the land because he economically can not come up with the financing and eventually drops out and walks away and them someone else comes in for development. Lisa I'm not desperate for attention... I like to make my points when expressing my opinion which I am entitled to do. I just think that this part of Brooklyn has tremendous potential which will extend downtown Brooklyn to the Atlantic Terminal Core and can be a model towards economic growth for the city. It's always been an arguement for many generations that the outer borough's were neglected economically and the opportunity to do something that is vibrant for all parties involved.. This is an opportunity that can not be missed.
March 7, 2012, 11:34 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Pete, just remember that Ratner was really using the arena and the Nets has his trojan horse and nothing more. He knew that if he couldn't get them, most of the important politicians wouldn't take his side, and they saw what MTC really gave them. In reality, the arena is less than 10% of the project, and he really just wants to have another complex. His idea was to always have the city and state pay for it, never by himself. Besides corporate welfare, this project also invovled the abuse of eminent domain where he got to use a process that is supposed to be for the public only, not to give the land over to him. Still, the neighborhood doesn't need the latest architecture just to survive, especially just 4th Avenue alone. Jane Jacobs wasn't anti-developement either, she just felt that developement should with the neighborhood rather than against it hence there were some areas where out of scale buildings shouldn't be.
March 7, 2012, 3:54 pm
Austin from Texas says:
Does your city need another or expanded historical district? Must the whole city become a mausoleum? And your vaunted skyline---it too is dated and could stand for some new architecture.
March 7, 2012, 11:31 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
You do know that there are many other cities in this countries that have historical districts, and a number of them were before NYC even had their first. It's nice to have some nostalgics in cities. This doesn't mean that they aren't building anything new, and NYC has a number of new architecture popping up in Manhattan alone. In reality, NYC doesn't need to be like Dubai or Shanghai to be greatest city just by having the latest everything, and I prefer quality or quantity. On a side note, much of Texas, especially Houston, has no zoning laws, their neighborhoods are sort of unorganized.
March 8, 2012, 5:13 pm
Pete Nets from Downtown says:
And Tai also some of the most beautiful buildings (All those restored Brownstones in Cobble Hill, Fort Greene, Boerum Hill, Prospect Heights etc. etc.) "need to be preserved" in my humble opinion. Mix the ethnic and racial diversity of Downtown and it's surrounding neighborhoods and sprinkle it with some beautiful new and iconic buildings and enhanced streetscaped thoroughfares which 4th Street near Atlantic Terminal could use and you have the makings of what can be a national model that all Brooklynites can be proud of !!!!
March 9, 2012, 11:03 am
Pete Nets from Downtown says:
And Tai just to add... I completely agree on this point. If you build a high rise or new architectural building where it does not belong that is just simply horrible planning that destroys quality of life in certain aspects. You just don't build a Hundred Story Building in the middle of Park Slope to use a figure of speech. I have always believed that Planning must be done on a proportionate level. Build the iconic buildings let's say on Flatbush Avenue maybe around between where Juniors/LIU and BAM are if you want to extend Downtown Brooklyn or build them in the Downtown Core as long as it does not destroy quality of life (The Most Important Factor). Look I'm a Nets fan and I'm Happy they will be in Atlantic Yards and I admit that to my fault. But also and I will say this...New York State must cease abusing Eminent Domain to the extent that they used it because lives were altered and we need to live in a society that serves the public good. I hope Tai I am making some good points.
March 9, 2012, 11:43 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Pete, first off all, neither Prospect Heights nor Park Slope are part of downtown Brooklyn, and they never have been. Also, I find it an irony that you say that the abuse of eminent domain is wrong, but still support the AY despite the fact that it's a product of it. This almost reminds me of those who didn't like the Iraq War but still voted in support. Right now, the last attempt to stop the Nets from comming to Brooklyn is to convince the NBA Board of Governors to vote against it even that means a protest. Meanwhile, just because Brooklyn has major thoroughfares, doesn't mean that it has to have the latest everything on them. Overdevelopement can sometimes lead to the supersaturation effect in which the infrastructure cannot hold all of those people, and that's even if it's near a transit hub. Overall, NYC doesn't need to be like Dubai or Shanghai to prove anything when it's already a major world city.
March 9, 2012, 3:21 pm

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