2008 Neighborhood Preservation Awards Announced

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The Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance works to promote “sensible development.” Now they’re celebrating individuals and groups who’ve done that around these parts, including the Crown Heights North Association, who’ve been active in working on that area’s historic designation and organizing house tours; and South Brooklyn Legal Service, who helped preserve the Duffield Abolitionist homes from getting snatched up by eminent domain (that area is now being considered for an exhibit and nick-named “Abolitionist Place”). The group has helped residents fight foreclosures and use the anti-harassment law.
Photo by Crown Heights North.

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  • Huge congratulations and admiration for the CHNA. When speaking with the LPC on another matter they told me that the CHNA was a model group.

  • i like what they did to the front steps

  • I would love to know more about this building. MM, any helpful hints?

  • We here in Crown Heights North have so much to work with, in terms of architectural and cultural heritage, that it would be criminal to sit back and watch it disappear, deteriorate, or get swept away by those with no stake in the community or its people.

    We have some of the best residential and public architecture in the city, and we are working hard to see as much of it as possible preserved, protected and restored. To that end we welcome anyone of like mind to become a part of the Crown Heights community, and become an active member of CHNA. As the community grows, our organization needs to grow as well, and that takes time and effort.

    Our main goals are the landmarking and preservation of the greater Crown Heights North area, educating and protecting people on predatory lending, foreclosure and loan scams, especially seniors, and encouraging commercial growth. We are also allied with groups such as CHRM, and our political representatives, to prevent the homeless outreach center from being created at the Bedford Armory. We are all working to stop the city from acting as if central Brooklyn is nothing but a dumping ground for all of the social services in NYC, especially as communities such as ours and Bed Stuy are experiencing growth and renaissance.

    We are grateful for the respect and attention of organizations such as the Four Borough Neighborhood Presevation Alliance, Landmarks Preservation Commission, and people like Susan Elkins, and the good folks at Brownstoner.

  • Cobblehiller, this house was on our House Tour this year. It was literally brought back from the dead, and is now a three family house.

    It was built in the late 1800′s for a successful financeer named Nathan P. Beers, the son of one of the founders of modern Wall Street. It was bought by Silas P. Dutcher in 1906, at Beer’s death. Dutcher was also a Wall St. wiz, a philanthopist, and a mayoral candidate. Incidentally, he has a school named after him – PS 124 in Sunset Park. It must have been some house, as it was sold to Dutcher for $3000, the same year a row house just next door was sold for $300. The rowhouses on that block are not small or unremarkable, either.

    Anyway, in the 40′s the house was donated to the Leek School, and was the home for an innovative educator named Carl Freschenel, who pioneered techniques in teaching autistic children, who up until this time, were usually considered unteachable and retarded. The house was the scene for lavish fund raising events, and there are accounts of fine cars and fancy people attending fundraisers in the lavishly appointed building. The Leek School eventually relocated to Boston, and they gave the building to the Baptist church across the street. They ran a couple of schools out of it, but lost the building to the city in the 70′s. By this time, all of the detail and fine appointments had been stripped from the house.

    Being that the city basically abandoned places like Crown Heights in the 70’s, the building became an abandoned wreck for 30 years. When I first moved to the area, it was an eyesore. The dormers were rotted, the roof was caving in, and the whole place looked like the Haunted House On the Hill. It was basically a shell on a large, weed filled lot. HUD finally sold it to the current owners, and worked with them to rehab it. They told me that it was quite a fight to get the configuration they now have, it was supposed to be further subdivided, and the initial work and finishes was bare bones cheap, and the owners sank a lot of extra money to get the quality finishes they wanted, as well as the floor plan they wanted. It’s now a fabulous home, and was one of the hits of our tour.

  • Thank you very much MM – you are a treasure!

    Really great story – seems I’m going to have to tag along on the next CH House Tour. I love the story of the Leek School, too – good for them – very cool. I’m so glad that the owners saw passed the ‘Haunted House”-ness, and perservered to renovate and preserve!

  • MM – I thought it was ‘that’ house. It’s a great story. We saw the house on the tour and spend some time talking with the owner. He was very passionate about the house and the renovation. We also sat in his ‘theater’ and watched cartoons with his son.

    CHNA should be very proud of the strides they have made and continue to make in the neighborhood.

  • Wasn’t that basement theater great? What a perfect idea. Loved the tour once again. I want to see the rehabbed Elkins house on the tour one day though I will be overwhelmed with jealousy and regret.

  • MM:

    I can’t remember this house from my 1950′s boyhood in Crown Heights. But it looks like the kind of house my mother spoke about when referring to her own childhood.

    She was a girl in the 1920′s and lived in the family row house in Park Slope. Whenever she visited Crown Heights with my grandmother she always had to get especially dressed up because Crown Heights was considered “superior” to the Slope! (That was my grandmother’s opinion, and from a lady who “called” at the Fricks’ on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan!)

    Neighborhoods come and go (as I’ve mentioned before, my grandparents gave up on the Slope in the 1930′s because it was “declining”) so it’s good to see Crown Heights on the upswing — and as a diverse community of old-timers and newcomers.

    If the CHNA doesn’t deserve some kind of NYC award, I don’t know who does.

    Nostalgic on Park Avenue

  • stuyheightsarch

    great job Crown Heights I wish more people in NYC could come and appreciate what Crown Heights has architecturally. NOP in my readings it seems like Crown Heights was a place for the rich of the turn of the century. I hear many of the grand old houses like ones St Marks have been torn down and replaced by 1930s apartment buildings. It would be nice today if they would have kept more of them.

  • Amzi:

    You’re right about the big houses on St. Marks. There were still a few left while I grew up — and several times bigger than the house pictured here.

    By the 1950′s they were faded, mysterious places with overgrown lawns. One, I think, operated as a kind of orphanage. Lots of kids running around the grounds, good for a quick pick-up game. (Never heard about their parents — or saw them — which makes me think their home was an institution of some sort. The kids also looked hard up compared to the middle-class boys and girls living in the neighborhood. But the rest of us knew not ask questions, worried about bruising their feelings.)

    One of the mansions, between Nostrand and New York, was in good shape and had been turned into elegant apartments. My mother considered it, but didn’t like the idea of having the apartment’s entrance opening directly on the street. Even then, Brooklyn and New York weren’t considered completely safe! (She wouldn’t move the family to Eastern Parkway for the same reason. The parkway seemed lonely at night and the buildings set too far back from the street.)

    Now there’s an elders’ housing complex that replaced the St. Marks mansions between New York and Brooklyn Avenues. Some may like it — and it provides housing — but those of us who remember the great houses can’t help but feel a pang of remorse. Especially when their bits lie scattered around the Brooklyn Museum’s garden! (For me it’s like seeing those forelorn stone eagles from the original Penn Station at the entrance to Madison Square Garden. Better to have been ground to dust!)

    Also, did you see the “house of the day” from Pacific Street posted on Brownstoner later today? This number was one house beyond my family’s apartment. An old lady, immoveable in her window, lived there, her big black Lincoln, also immoveable, parked in her drive. The only person my brother and I ever saw come in and out the place was her gardener (once to chase my brother and his pals over the fence with his hedge cutters.)

    Another great Crown Heights mystery.

    NOP