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They’ll keep the change: Biz owners on Atlantic Ave. want out of extended B’Hill historic district

Getting bigger: The city wants to expand the Boerum Hill Historic District, outlined in blue, to the areas drawn in red, but some business owners along Atlantic Avenue don’t want the designation.
Brooklyn Paper
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History has its price, and they don’t want to pay it.

City preservationists should nix the Atlantic Avenue buildings within their proposed extension of the Boerum Hill Historic District because paying to maintain the structures will make it harder for the commercial strip’s mom-and-pop shops to turn a profit, some small-business owners said at a Tuesday hearing on the plan.

“In an already challenged retail environment, landmarking restrictions will severely impact potential small-merchant tenants that might wish to upgrade a storefront by imposing added layers of cost delays and red tape,” said Rene Lynch, whose Atlantic Avenue store between Hoyt and Bond streets would sit within the district if it expands as proposed.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission established the Boerum Hill Historic District in 1973, requiring the agency’s sign-off on alterations — including small tweaks to windows, awnings, and signs — to the approximately 250 buildings, most of which are 19th-century row houses, within its area roughly bounded by Wyckoff, Hoyt, Pacific, and Nevins streets.

And last October, the preservationists suggested broadening the district to include 288 more buildings by incorporating three separate chunks of land into its jagged perimeter. Those swaths include the majority of buildings on the city block bounded by Dean, Smith, Bergen, and Hoyt streets; other structures standing within an area roughly bounded by Bergen, Bond, Wyckoff, and Nevins streets; and several Atlantic Avenue-facing buildings between Hoyt and Nevins streets.

And most of the proposed additions make sense — except for those structures on Atlantic Avenue, according to another critic, who echoed claims that designating them as part of the district would hurt local commerce, and noted that the commission even identified some of the buildings as newly constructed or altered without preservation in mind, reducing their historical significance.

“I’m afraid that a building designated as a landmark would be much more expensive to manage,” said the critical owner of another Atlantic Avenue small business between Hoyt and Bond streets.

Expanding the historic district to include parts of the commercial strip also threatens to destroy the tight-knit community by pricing out neighborhood merchants who know their local customers, leaving their empty storefronts to be filled by unfamiliar corporate retailers that can afford the costs to maintain historic sites, according to Lynch, who gave the commission a petition signed by more than a dozen mom-and-pop proprietors who don’t want their storefronts landmarked.

“These can drive away entrepreneurial tenants, and we fear that small-time landmark owners will be instead forced to accept chain-store tenants, and we will forever lose what is most prized about our special neighborho­od,” she said. “If our neighborhood becomes landmarked, I’m afraid we’re going to end up like so much of Manhattan — turning into Duane Reade, because Duane Reade can afford it.”

Many Boerum Hillers endorse the expanded historic district in its entirety, however, as does local Councilman Stephen Levin. And one supporter argued now is the time to protect the neighborhood’s past, as massive new developments — such as the controversial five-building 80 Flatbush complex planned for just blocks away — start popping up in the area.

“It is necessary to create stronger protections of Atlantic Avenue through landmarking, to preserve the finest and most intact examples of 19th-century commercial architectu­re,” said Sandy Balboza, a member of business-boosting group the Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association, who also lives on the street. “The unique historical character of Atlantic Avenue is among the business district’s strongest assets.”

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Updated 5:44 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

JJ Evans, jr from The Heights says:
Landmarking commercial buildings is certainly a quicker way of making room for short-term millennial-centric businesses. Why let gentrification and Fresh Direct stop at the residential, when throwing a big lily white blanket over the garden will suffice? There has to be an alternative to protecting a neighborhood’s character, especially with commercial/mom n pop tenants, in lieu of the draconian Landmarking. These mom n pop shops played a big role in getting Boerum Hill housing their current worth.
May 11, 5:17 am
NN from Boerum Hill says:
I support expanding the historic district.
May 11, 9:55 am
me from here and there says:
Posted on the wrong thread sorry

Frank from Furter says:
Zoning only effects bulk. Landmarks effects design. There is already a special district overlay on Atlantic avenue that effects things like cornices and height etc but DOB doesnt enforce those creating a hodge podge. Given what those poor unfortunate landlords charge for rent ..and pass through any increase cost they can...I think you can guess where my sympathies lie...and retail is challenging.
May 11, 10:09 am
Frank from Furter says:
so how else do you protect the neighborhood? Commercial rent control? You need state approval.. never happen and probably unconstitutional anyway. Limit the types of stores per block?
May 11, 10:14 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
Let's recognize this for what it is: a scam for gentrifiers to colonize even more of Brooklyn. They got theirs, and now nothing else can change if they have their way.
May 12, 11:22 am
Cathy says:
Expand it - if these people have issues they can move their stores into less historic buildings elsewhere. I’m not interested in losing history just so they can turn higher profits.
May 13, 10:58 am
Joe from Downtown says:
Well said, Cathy. And they can make millions by selling their properties, too, if the retail fails. But retailing is failing anyway so making the buildings larger will not halt this march to online convenience either. Landmarking is about history, beauty and also, neighborhood scale - the way people once lived (which we might all learn something good about, too). It is a wonder that Frank Furter isn't for this upsizing on Atlantic..he, a big promoter of 30 story towers inside of Brooklyn Bridge Park. Wonder never ceases.
May 14, 8:26 am
Cheryl from The Slope says:
Many years ago, my husband and I had a business in one of the buildings on Atlantic under consideration. We had to do extensive renovation work on the interior to make it fit for occupancy. During that work we uncovered many fascinating historical details. We carefully preserved them all. These buildings should be landmarked.
May 14, 9:02 am
Frank from Furter says:
Yes I supported residential buildings within the Brooklyn Bridge park. There was already residential there. Its too bad that shipping needs acres and acres of space for containers...something not available in much of Brooklyn.
I'll trade you the 30 stories for the 78 at 80 Flatbush any day...
BTW the Brooklyn Bridge Park is beautiful isn't it.
May 14, 11:22 am
Frank from Furter says:
I also never understood why the merchamts from Atlantic Avenue opposed the residential withing the Park...they didn't need more customers?
May 14, 11:24 am
blogger Bill from from Boerum Hill says:
Landmark the buildings on Atlantic Avenue.
Remember when ALL the buildings on Atlantic
from Court to the water were designated
into protection. They are all surviving very
nicely after 40+ years.
May 14, 11:26 am

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