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The Historic Districts Council just announced its annual list of six areas of New York meriting preservation, as part of its Six to Celebrate campaign this year. Over the year, the HDC will offer hands-on assistance in a number of preservation issues, like documentation, research, zoning, landmarking, publicity, and public outreach. Here in Queens, the HDC selected the Forest Close neighborhood of Forest Hills as an area worth celebrating. Here’s what they have to say about Forest Close:

Designed in 1927 in the spirit of the garden city movement, Forest Close is a charming nook of 38 neo-Tudor houses surrounding a shared communal garden. While the Forest Close Association maintains covenants that regulate design and open space elements of the community and advises residents on design guidelines for building projects, they are now exploring other tools to better protect the area’s special character. The Association is working to engage residents and local stakeholders to promote the preservation of this lush neighborhood in Forest Hills.

The 2014 groups will be formally introduced at the Six to Celebrate Launch Party on Wednesday, January 29th, 6 to 8pm at the LGBT Community Center, 208 West 13th Street. You can get tickets here.

Photo by Michael Perlman


How the Jehovah’s Witnesses Acquired Some of Brooklyn’s Most Insanely Valuable Properties
The Jehovah’s Witnesses — aka the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society — first came to Brooklyn in 1908, in hopes of having their sermons syndicated in newspapers alongside the writings of the borough’s most famous pastors. It was under the Watchtower’s autocratic second leader, Joseph F. Rutherford, that the religious group truly began practicing the art of Brooklyn real estate.


Photo of 135 Pennsylvania Avenue by Zulmilena Then

A young junior architect who grew up in East New York is leading the fight to landmark more than two dozen of the neighborhood’s architectural icons.

Spurred into action by the destruction of the historic East New York Savings Bank and Mayor de Blasio’s controversial rezoning plan, Zulmilena Then founded Preserving East New York (PENY) last year. Now with six members, the fledgling organization has caught the attention of the preservation nonprofit Historic Districts Council, which named East New York one of its 2016 “Six to Celebrate” earlier this month.

Just to be clear, getting the recognition of the Historic Districts Council is like finding out you have a landmarks fairy godmother — HDC’s mission is to help out local groups like PENY, and they’ll work with developers, the Landmarks Commission, and community members to protect spaces that need it.

Brownstoner caught up with the 29-year-old to hear more about her plans to work with the Mayor’s rezoning plan — not against it — to revitalize the area while preserving its historic character.


Brooklyn, one building at a time.

This Gowanus factory building once housed the successful packing-box manufacturer James Dykeman. Today, artists work and exhibit here, alongside a museum dedicated to the famous and infamous canal.

Name: National Packing Box Factory
Address: 543 Union Street
Cross Streets: Corner of Nevins Street
Neighborhood: Gowanus
Year Built: 1889
Architectural Style: Typical late-19th-century brick industrial building
Architect: Robert Dixon
Other works by architect: Factories, row houses, storefront, tenement and flats buildings in Gowanus, Park Slope, Bedford Stuyvesant, Clinton Hill/Wallabout and other brownstone communities
Landmarked: No, but part of proposed Gowanus Canal Historic District for the National Register

James H. Dykeman was a successful Brooklyn carpenter. In 1877, he decided to branch out and open up a box-factory business.

We tend to think of boxes in terms of cardboard, but back then, wooden boxes of all sizes, shapes and strengths were used to transport everything from fragile china to machine equipment. Someone had to make them — who better than a carpenter?


We’re happy to report that Historic Districts Council has chosen Crown Heights as one of the six neighborhoods where it will focus its preservation efforts in 2015. As part of its Six to Celebrate program, the Historic Districts Council will help the Crown Heights North Association revive its preservation campaign. Although Crown Heights has two historic districts, some of the neighborhood’s historic buildings are still at risk for development and demolition. Landmarks calendared Crown Heights North Phase III three years ago, but never voted on the expansion.

Another important — and ambitious — Six to Celebrate project is “Landmarks Under Consideration, Citywide.” These are 150 proposed landmarks that are unprotected, 96 of which Landmarks said it would “decalendar” before backing off the plan last year. The Council plans to “document, publicize and conduct community outreach” for all 150 sites to gather support for designation and to help LPC with its backlog. In Brooklyn, the list includes Green-Wood Cemetery, the Lady Moody-Van Sicklen House, and the Forman Building at 183 Broadway.

The Council offers help with research, landmarking, publicity and zoning to community groups in Six to Celebrate, and it hosts walking tours to raise awareness about a chosen neighborhood’s history and architecture.


As we reported last summer, the Friends of Greater Gowanus (FROGG) has been urging the New York State Board for Historic Preservation, a division of the the State’s Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation (OPRHP), to create a historic district around the Gowanus Canal for some time now. In the past, FROGG has also advocated for the canal’s designation as a Superfund site and successfully got the area included on last year’s Historic Districts Council list of Six to Celebrate. (The idea of protecting the area goes back even further: In 2008 we wrote about the Gowanus Canal Conservancy’s efforts to get the waterway itself declared a national monument.)

There was a community meeting at the Can Factory last month to discuss the creation of the New York State Historic District but we hadn’t realized how imminent the vote was (it’s Thursday) or how large the footprint is (it extends from Baltic Street to the end of Smith Street) until a reader sent along information, including the above map, yesterday.

As part of its decision process leading up to Thursday’s vote, the State must weigh the community group’s interest in preservation against any “adverse effect” on property owners that the designation might have. More specifically, in a document forwarded to us, the State describes how “maintenance, renovations and restorations that involve federal or state approval can become significantly more complicated and expensive, while simultaneously depriving the owner and local government of their discretion in the event a property is subject to OPRHP consultation.” The same document notes that, “While New York City’s listing process is separate from OPRHP’s, the proposed listing of the Gowanus Canal Historic District could make a LPC designation more likely.”

What do you think? Is this area deserving of Historic District designation? Letters seeking input were sent out to owners of the more than 400 properties in the 53 blocks of the proposed area asking just that question. Notarized owner objection letters along with general comments from the public are due by mail to the Historic Preservation Board by the end of the day tomorrow to be considered for Thursday’s meeting. Mailing instructions are included below.