ProHi Historic District Could Include Almost 800 Homes

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Yesterday Atlantic Yards Report had a detailed post on the proposed Prospect Heights Historic District, which was the subject of a neighborhood meeting that representatives from the Landmarks Preservation Commission attended last week. According to the representatives, historic district designation could take up to two years. This is a neighborhood long of interest to the commission, said Kate Daly, the LPC’s executive director, at the meeting. The boundaries of the proposed district (which are not yet set in stone) are shown above in a map the LPC sent us. It runs as far north as Pacific and Carlton, with a large section bordering Flatbush Ave and running approximately all the way down to Grand Army Plaza and almost as far east in one section as Washington Avenue. “So far the district would include approximately 776 buildings, and the next step is to get feedback from homeowners about the meeting we attended last week,” says LPC spokesperson Elisabeth de Bourbon. After that, the Commission will hold a public hearing on the designation that should happen before the end of the year.
The Prospect Heights Historic District Nudges Forward [AY Report]

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  • Unnecessary political posturing. There are many buildings in this district that are not particularly significant. Further, many of them are non-conforming uses that exceed the current max FAR and are not likely to be knocked down anytime soon.

  • Polemicist,

    This section of Prospect Heights is as significant and intact as any existing historic district in the city. It should absolutely be considered for landmarking. Have you ever been there?

  • why not some of the areas on Butler Place and other excellent blocks near GAP? Seems like it excludes quite a few deserving blocks that ARE in PH

  • What ever ^^^^! Hurry up LPC. ProHi needs major protection from developers and their weird styrofoam cubes on top of 3 family brownstones left and right.

  • FWIW Polemicist has shown over and over that he is incapable of understanding the reasons for having historic districts (which certainly do not require each and every building to be a masterpiece). Anything that interferes with cramming maximum density into any area is anathema to him–I suspect that he’d see the Fritz Lang film “Metropolis” as a near-perfect model of urban planning. (And yes, I know I’m being “selfish”, according to his frame of reference) for supporting the establishment of historic districts–I can easily live with that).

  • What Bob said.

    Whenever Polemicist starts in, I always immediately think of Metropolis, the future segments of HG Wells’ Time Machine, and those Tokyo hotels where they cram people into sleeping cubicles. Not the city I want to live in.

    Prospect Heights is more than worthy of historic designation. An historic district includes masterpieces of architecture, good examples of common styles, and a couple of lemons that luck out by being in the right place. It’s the sum of the whole that is important.

  • ProHi? That is just stupid.

  • Bob Marvin and Montrose Morris, neither of you live in PH and you’ll both be dead soon anyway, so stay out of it.

    Consensus at the meeting was that we don’t need lpc to come in and tell us what we can and can’t do with our houses: tell us we can’t put solar panels toward the front of our roofs, can’t put in the new windows we can afford to improve energy efficiency, paint our doors the color we like, and slow down ALL interior changes and charge us an extra fee when we already have to deal with the DOB.

    If you and they are not helping pay my mortgage, you can shut the hell up and stay out of prospect heights.

  • What Bob and Montrose said. I concur. I walk these streets daily, tis my hood.

  • Why aren’t those buildings at the corner of Sterling Place and Flatbush in the boundaries. They’re on the National Register.

  • I have nothing against historic districts per se, but as I have said countless times – it is entirely possible to have a mix of the old and new. Look at Greenwich Village. I also tend to support aesthetic guidelines as opposed to broad preservation.

    This is, even by the standards of historic preservation in this city, a very large historic district and it includes many blocks that have properties that are very much not historic. Examples include 606-616 Bergen St (a garage), the many disgusting retail buildings on Vanderbilt Avenue, several bland apartment buildings on Prospect Place between Carlton and Vanderbilt, and many, many very basic townhouses and tenements all throughout the area.

    There must be some kind of logic in this process, especially when the burden against property owners is so great.

    Honestly, considering we have an entire city bureaucracy dedicated to this goal, why not have a review of each individual building? I think that would make much more sense. Many of the buildings in this district simply aren’t worth preserving. It would make much more sense to allow them to be replaced with new buildings constructed with period details so they blend into the neighborhood.

    Also, Bob – I actually support strong aesthetic guidelines for new construction. I’d very much like to return to the pre-depression era standards of new construction.

    The point is just this – let’s look to the future and not the past. I admire these buildings, but we can work to make the future as beautiful as the past.

  • 11:22

    Threat, or merely ageism?

    I can’t speak for MM (who, I think is considerably younger than me) but I plan to be around a bit longer

    One of the best things about getting old is that you can get away with being a real PITA to those who richly deserve it :-)

  • For all of you that didn’t attend the LPC meeting at PS 9 and are posting here…..

    The LPC did not say that you could not put solar panels on your roof. It’s the placement that matters.
    Second, if you have an existing mortgage (principal and interest) your mortgage will not go up just because your building is landmarked. Over time, the appreciation of buildings that have been landmarked tend to outpace those that have not been.
    Third, there are often buildings that have no archtitectural significance included in landmarked districts. In the landmark process they are designated as such. Therefore, it is possible for it to be replaced with a building that conforms with the buildings within the landmarked district.
    Third, if you are curious and strongly believe that a building excluded from the proposed landmarked district is not included, you call that building to LPC’s attention. The community will be given more opportunities to participate in the process as it proceeds.

  • All of those decrying the use of eminent domain are the first ones to demand rent stablization and landmark districts. I guess that property rights are appropriate only in certain situations.

  • I may be a bit younger than Bob, but like him, hope to be around a while longer. Also, like Bob, I live in a designated historical district, so I know of what I speak, 11:22. Designation in no way changes my mortgage one way or another, and has very little to do with interior changes to your house, unless you want an interior change that is visible from the street, like a bumped out bay.

    Landmarking is a multipurpose protection. On the one hand, it preserves and celebrates our rich historic architectural history. Without it, we have the destruction of the McKim, Mead and White Penn Station, and its replacement by that POS there now.

    It also prevents the wholesale tearing down of perfectly good period buildings and even entire neighborhoods, in order to put up cheap, fugly, and noncontextural crap. Take a drive through the non landmarked part of Bed Stuy for countless examples.

    Thirdly, it encourages people in the district to maintain their buildings in the historic context in which they were built. This is the sticking point with most people. But the reality is that LPC does not have the staff, or the will, to be Big Brother to the hundred plus districts in the city. MOST people find them to be reasonable (always exceptions, but I said most), and their guidelines are pretty benign.

    I agree window replacement is a biggie. Most other repairs however, etc, if done right, would be period respective anyway. You enjoy the privilege of living in an HD, with higher selling prices, an opportunity to be eligible for low interest preservation loans, and bragging rights. That more than makes up for not being able to paint your door teal.

    Lastly, LPC never said you can’t put up solar panels, or even build new construction in an HD. It just has to be hidden from view or contextural. Everyone realizes that new technology and new buildings are needed in this city. Perhaps you need to get the facts before telling people to shut the hell up.

  • what about the large catholic church on dean and vanderbilt? It is not included in the Pro Hi section and I recently heard a developer bought the property. The church is amazing 1929 white glazed building and owns much of the block…does anyone know anything about it?

  • MM, it’s pointless telling you to shut the hell up, because you simply cannot do so. You really should start your own blog, given your penchant for droning, long-winded posts.

  • 12:53, I submit that if you could contribute something meaningful to the discussion, you would not resort to ad hominem attacks. Therefore I request that you refrain from posting any further comments.

  • “I may be a bit younger than Bob, but like him, hope to be around a while longer. Also, like Bob, I live in a designated historical district, so I know of what I speak, 11:22. Designation in no way changes my mortgage one way or another, and has very little to do with interior changes to your house, unless you want an interior change that is visible from the street, like a bumped out bay.”

    I didn’t say it affects my mortgage. I said because you and they are not paying for my house, you should have no say in what I do to it.

    As for LPC having very little to do with interior changes, I was at the meeting and know what they said. For interior changes that will require DOB permits, you have to first get a sign off from LPC. Yes, LPC does regularly just say, this has nothing to do with us so go ahead to DOB. However, it adds on another month or more and they charge another fee.

    Don’t tread on me.

  • Brownstoner:

    Montrose Morris, Bob Marvin, and others are right to support landmark designations in Brooklyn.

    I live in a landmark district now. Believe me, it’s a positive selling point for owners of town houses and co-ops in the area, where prices have gone up exponentially since the 1980s.

    Which makes me happy to see Crown Heights designated and “Pro-Hi” (which was Crown Heights when I grew up there during the 1950s) up for consideration.

    A couple of decades ago, the blue-hairs at the Landmarks Commission sniffed at anything in Brooklyn (other than the Heights and Slope, of course), unable to see through their subconscious race and class prejudice. Now that Brooklyn neighborhoods are getting savvy and organizing, the LPC can’t look the other way.

    Congratulations.

    Nostalgic on Park Avenue

  • 12:15 and MM said

    “The LPC did not say that you could not put solar panels on your roof. It’s the placement that matters.”

    and

    “LPC never said you can’t put up solar panels, or even build new construction in an HD. It just has to be hidden from view or contextural…Perhaps you need to get the facts before telling people to shut the hell up.”

    I acknowledged that LPCs issue is the placement so maybe the 2 of you should learn to read:

    “tell us we can’t put solar panels toward the front of our roofs”

    Maybe I have other plans for the back of my roof, maybe that’s the best placement for their eficiency, but definitely it should be none of your business or theirs because it’s not you house.

  • Get over it, 1:18, someone is always going to have the power to tell you what you can do with your property. If it’s not the LPC, it will be some other city agency, like DOB, HPD, or even sanitation. You aren’t living in the woods of Idaho. We live in a city, where we all affect each other, and have to abide by rules that are ideally designed to benefit us all. You aren’t the only homeowner in Prospect Hts, your neighbors may find the benefits vastly outweigh the negatives, and therefore want the designation.

    12:53, if you don’t like it, scroll down. I’ll cry later. Thanks, Hal!

  • MM, you weren’t at the meeting and haven’t been walking the streets talking to my neighbors. We live here and we’ve already had eminent domain come in and screw us so we know full well that others have power over our property. You can enjoy your designation. We bought here because we liked the fact that the neighborhood had one less overseer. Keep out. We don’t want LPC and we don’t need your advice. Mind your own business.

  • I was at the LPC meeting at PS9, and there was wide consensus in favor of landmark designation. People had very specific questions, but I was surprised at the lack of strong opposition. There were some people who didn’t like it, but as far as I can tell they were isolated individuals.

    Prospect Heights is a beautiful neighborhood. Polemicist mentions some buildings on the south side of Prospect Place between Vanderbilt and Carlton. He says that they are bland, but that’s only because the other buildings are so stunning. Living in New York, we forget that buildings from the 1920s are considered gems in other cities.

    My coop is in the landmark area, and everyone in my building is in favor of designation. My block association met about it, and there was uniform enthusiastic support for the proposal.

  • 1:40, you don’t speak for everyone in the neighborhood, so stop acting as if you do. certainly if any viewpoint were as monolithic as you suggest, you wouldn’t have to be so defensive about it.

    anyway, i live there and support landmarking. you may have bought there out of a misguided sense that it was some kind of libertarian enclave separate and apart from normal civic processes, but most of us did not. and i’m surprised you can’t see that landmarking will protect you and everyone else from greedy and short-sighted developers (the same ones who benefit from eminent domain) and the worst instincts of your fellow homeowners. yes, that benefit comes at a cost, but to me it’s worth it.

  • Montrose Morris:

    You’re right, someone will always tell you what to do with your property. So, all NIMBYs should quit whining when the State seizes your house in eminent domain proceedings!

    The point is we need an intelligent discussion here. We can’t have this kind of blatantly hypocritical discourse regarding land use. Really, it doesn’t help anyone’s cause, most particularly your own.

    This thread, like all others, has no rational basis. It is simply people screaming “I want, give it to me!”

  • “I was at the LPC meeting at PS9, and there was wide consensus in favor of landmark designation. People had very specific questions, but I was surprised at the lack of strong opposition. There were some people who didn’t like it, but as far as I can tell they were isolated individuals.”

    LIAR. There was no such consensus.

  • Polemicist, it seems like you’re simplifying my position. I opposed eminent domain abuse and I support landmarking of Prospect Heights. I don’t have the inclination to explain in detail why those positions can be consistent.

    If you want an intelligent discussion, then please try to keep to the point at hand, and don’t call me and my neighbors blatant hypocrites.

    Though I really do get a kick out of the fact that you indulge in name-calling and call for “intelligent discussion” in the same breath. Now THAT’S entertainment.

  • This whole debate just seems like a matter of competing selfishnesses: the self-interest of property owners who want to do whatever they want with their property (and screw the neighbors if they don’t like it), and the self-interest of property owners who want their surroundings preserved by force of law (and screw the neighbors if they don’t like it).

    I don’t see how one side is morally superior to the other.

  • 2:41 – the same could be said for just about every single other disagreement on matters of social policy. if you have don’t have an opinion as to whether the end goal is a “good,” then you don’t have a dog in this fight. so what’s your point?

  • “Mind your own business”. Awww 1:40, since you’ve been sooo nice, you got it. Good luck to the rest of Prospect Hts’ residents.

    But, since the topic was posted on a public forum that you do not own, my opinion is just as valid as yours. Prospect Hts designation does affect me, right next door in Crown Heights, as does AY. If you had already been designated as an HD, it may have been harder for eminent domain to have been declared, and any legal suit would have had a sturdier leg to stand on. Ward’s Bakery could have more easily obtained individual status, and may have been saved. The entire AY situation may have been different. At best, designation in the next year or so could prevent another developer from cutting a swath through the neighborhood. If that swath happened to include your house, I wonder what you would think then.

  • 2:28- It was my impression that there was wide consensus. There were a couple people who disagreed, and it sounds like you may have been one of them. I just know that the people around me were chuckling quietly when someone objected to the plan.

    This was my interpretation of the event, and it was shared by those that I spoke with.

    Here is the reaction on the Prospect Heights message board:
    http://www.brooklynian.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=41745

    The fact that there were only two responses to the initial post suggests taht there’s not much debate over landmarking.

  • Your right there isn’t much debate. There is consensus that it’s a bad idea. Maybe those around you were laughing at the LPC twits trying to justify their control in response to the objections.

    I’ve talked to my neighbors. We don’t want it and don’t need it. The days of developers buying up blocks to build condos are over. the housing market is crashing. That threat is over and we don’t need another one.

    You are the same people who happily give up you civil rights believing the patriot act is making you safe.

    We don’t need another Big Brother telling us what to do. We’ve been fine here on our own.

  • Methinks 5:13 protests too much. Really, me do. You’ve been fine there all on your own? Really? You and your imaginary neighbors need to get off the pipe and take a look around you.

  • “You are the same people who happily give up you civil rights believing the patriot act is making you safe.”

    Wow. I have been accused of many things in my life, but being weak on civil rights is not one of them. I am one of the most strident civil libertarians you have ever met.

    The current housing boom is over, but there will always be another wave of overdevelopment.

  • “The days of developers buying up blocks to build condos are over. the housing market is crashing. That threat is over and we don’t need another one.”

    The threat is in no way over. You may see a lot less construction going on for a while, but as the market keeps declining, people will be quietly buying up buildings, waiting for the next boom. That’s what happened in in the late 80′s/ early 90′s, when small time investors were the only developers in Brooklyn.

    The only difference between then and now is that Prospect Heights had very amenities, now Vanderbilt is thriving. When the construction boom comes back to Prospect Heights, it’ll come back fast.

  • I was at the meeting. There was a fantastic turn out — well over 200 people. As far as I could tell, feelings were much more pro than anti landmarking. Of the approx 20 people who asked questions, most were about practical concerns. That doesn’t mean all those folks were against the landmarking initiative. It just means they had questions about how the process works and what the requirements would be. A lot of people in PH are fed up with the number of fugly extensions (stucco shoeboxes) being stuck on the tops and backs of these fine old houses. They block light, sun and views. A neighbor across the street from me — who has lived in her house since 1958 — had to dig up up her rose garden after a rear extension cut out the sun! There are also instances of demolitions that have taken place on alteration permits — most famously a lovely free standing turn-of-the-last-century house on Park Place btw Vanderbilt and Underhill with a columned front porch. The neighborhood needs protection and it’s essentially a trade off involving some restrictions. The “don’t tread on me” and “keep out” comments seem out of order and not at all typical of the attitudes of most PH residents.