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Williamsburger wants to make history in Greenpoint • Brooklyn Paper

Williamsburger wants to make history in Greenpoint

Williamsburg resident Paul Rubenfarb hopes to see through layers of bureaucracy to double the size of Greenpoint’s historic district.
Photo by Tom Callan

An historic neighborhood crusader from Williamsburg — who’s already helped convince the city to landmark areas of Red Hook — has his eyes set on Greenpoint, where he’d like to turn a five-block old town oasis into a 10-block village preserve.

Paul Rubenfarb wants to expand the Greenpoint Historic District beyond its present boundaries that include 363 buildings between Manhattan and Franklin from Kent Street to Calyer Street, to include nearby buildings that he thinks add “integrity, character and atmosphere” to the neighborhood.

“In the last few years, I have seen dozens of buildings in Greenpoint where developers have ripped up the corners,” said Rubenfarb. “The buildings there have an outstanding atmosphere. It’s a uniquely historic place.”

But some community leaders warn that any preservation effort must have “significant community support” in order to succeed.

“There will be a back and forth on this,” said Community Board 1 member Heather Roslund. “It is a lot easier when you have the support of as many homeowners as possible.”

The current historic district, approved in 1991, excludes several prominent buildings such as the Pencil Factory, the headquarters of the 94th Precinct, and several Protestant church buildings.

Rubenfarb wants the new district to include large swaths of Manhattan Avenue and Franklin Street from DuPont Street to Norman Avenue — an area that consists of more than 200 buildings built between 1850 and 1900.

But the road to historic preservation is long and winding. The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission is notoriously picky over historic designation applications and expansion efforts can take years to occur.

And the benefits and restrictions of historic designations are complicated.

Homeowners can receive grants and tax credits to help them rehabilitate properties in a historic area — but the city restricts what can be built or renovated on sites within a historic district.

Several Greenpoint residents, when informed of the campaign, welcomed the expansion.

“I could agree with that — I don’t want to see any more condos going up, please,” said Greenpoint resident Patricia Riordon. “It was such a shame when they took down the old Greenpoint library..”

And arts organizer Jennifer Galatioto, said expanding the historic district is a “good idea.”

“I think that if it’s for aesthetic reasons I would completely support it because I like the way Greenpoint looks,” said Galatioto.

— with Jared Foretek

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