480 Nostrand Avenue, Renaissance Apartments

Preservationists and neighborhood residents are “overjoyed” and “thrilled” the Landmarks Preservation Commission finally approved the Bedford Historic District Tuesday, they told Brownstoner.

Long in the works, the district contains some of the neighborhood’s most significant architecture. Its preservation comes just as developers are transforming Bedford Stuyvesant with small and medium-size apartment buildings.


brooklyn avenue kinko houses

The Landmarks Preservation Commission this morning voted to landmark the proposed Crown Heights North III Historic District. The vote was unanimous.

It was a very short meeting, about 15 minutes. The vote took place after a quick presentation about the proposed district, which had been “calendared” way back in June 2011.

Some noteworthy features of the district, which includes 640 buildings between Brooklyn and Albany avenues, are the quaint one- or two-block stretches of Hampton, Revere and Virginia places. These blocks feature Colonial and Renaissance Revival homes, as well as a collection of two-family “Kinko” houses (shown above) built between 1907 and 1912. Designed by Mann & McNeille, every house includes two duplexes, each of which has its own front door, house number, stairway, porch and cellar. 

The Crown Heights North Association and members of Community Board 8 were jubilant about the vote, which they’ll discuss at an upcoming town hall meeting. “I think it’s wonderful,” said CB 8 member Adelaide Miller, who’s lived on Virginia Place for 67 years. “I go into areas where they tore down beautiful churches and buildings, and I’m happy that won’t happen here.” (more…)


We’re excited to tell you that the Landmark Preservation Commission will vote Tuesday morning on whether or not to designate the proposed historic district Crown Heights North III. It has been in the works for years, and the hearing for calendaring the vote was held way back in 2011!

It looks like this will be a quickie vote. The agenda item on the LPC calendar allots 15 minutes. Also, the item did not go up on the LPC calendar until just a few days ago. We’re not sure what that all means, but we hope it’s good news for the preservationists and neighborhood residents who’ve worked so hard to make this happen. (more…)


The Landmarks Preservation Commission will vote on whether or not to designate Chester Court a historic district in January, according to The Brooklyn Eagle. The district was calendared in late October, meaning the LPC decided it would vote, as reported.

The teens Tudor Revival cul-de-sac is largely intact, and development is nipping at its doors, since the block is just off the busy avenue of Flatbush. The 23-story tower at 626 Flatbush is rising just behind Chester Court on one side of the block. Chester Court was proposed as part of the original Prospect Lefferts Gardens historic district, but was not included. We’re glad the LPC is taking action on this, following the transition period between administrations when it was less active.

Amazingly, a representative from the Real Estate Board of New York, not known for favoring landmarking, spoke in favor of the designation on Tuesday, said the Eagle, as did the PLG City Council member, residents and neighborhood associations. (more…)


The Real Estate Board of New York, a trade association for the real estate industry, has come out with a new study claiming landmarking historic neighborhoods retards construction of affordable housing citywide. Its last report, which said the same thing, was about Manhattan only.

“Landmarking historic neighborhoods could make it more difficult for Mayor de Blasio to fulfill his ambitious affordable housing goals,” said a story about the study in The New York Daily News. The report’s conclusions were based on data that found only 100 units of 35,000 affordable apartments built between 2003 and 2012 were inside landmarked districts. Absolutely zero affordable housing was built in landmark districts in Brooklyn in that time.

The report also said landmarking can impose “unforeseen barriers” on construction, such as additional costs created by a lengthy review process and higher design standards required by the LPC.

The head of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation said the report is poppycock because only 3 percent of the city consists of historic districts. “The notion that this is a major contributor to the unaffordability of our city is just laughable,” he told the Daily News.

The real estate industry has opposed landmarking since at least the 1950s. What do you think? Should de Blasio restrict landmarking in Brooklyn to encourage more affordable development here?

REBNY Study Finds Landmarking Historic Neighborhoods Could Limit Cheap Housing [NY Daily News]

The New York State Preservation Office has decided not to move forward with a plan to designate the Gowanus Canal area as a state and national historic district. The designation, which has been in the works for about a decade, was shelved after the state received a substantial number of notarized letters from property owners objecting to it, as The New York Daily News reported last week.

However, contrary to what that article implied, it is still possible the area could one day be designated if residents favor it. A member of pro-designation community group FROGG, who asked not to be named, told us the letters came in because another community group went door to door with a notary and gave misleading information to homeowners about the designation and wrote letters on the spot.

At issue is whether or not designation would in any way hinder development or restrict what homeowners could do with their property. The state preservation office said it won’t. “It’s honorific,” said the FROGG member.

Whatever Federal review might be necessary is already required because the Gowanus Canal Historic District has already been deemed eligible for designation. Official designation would let owners get tax credits if they voluntarily seek to restore or redevelop their properties in the area. Above, part of the site in the area where Lightstone is building a development as it looked in September.

Click through to the jump to see the letter the Preservation Office sent to Gowanus area residents about the matter. The “fact sheet” to which the letter refers is a post we ran in March.

Update: A letter sent out to residents by community group Gowanus Canal Commmunity Development Corp. opposing designation can be viewed on the website of the Gowanus Alliance. (more…)


We contacted Preservation Program Analyst Daniel McEneny at the National Register of Historic Places to clear up lingering questions about the effort to designate the Gowanus Canal area a historic district. What he revealed: The National and State registers are more or less interchangeable. An owner of a listed property is free to demolish or alter his or her property. And, most surprising of all, an “eligible” property, which the Gowanus area has already been for eight years, is almost as good as listed. Read on for more details.

Brownstoner: What are the criteria for designation and why might an area such as Gowanus be eligible?
Daniel McEneny: To be eligible for State and National Register listing, a property or district must represent a significant theme in local, state or national history and be intact enough to illustrate that theme. Significant themes might include architecture, industry, commerce, invention, engineering, planning, science, economics, social history, or any number of other subjects. Integrity means that the property or district retains aspects of location, setting, design, materials, workmanship, feeling and association that relate to the identified theme.

The Gowanus Canal Historic District is significant as a cohesive collection of industrial and manufacturing facilities and associated resources located adjacent to the Gowanus Canal that together represent the development of water-borne transportation and industrial development in a South Brooklyn neighborhood between the mid-nineteenth century and the mid-1960s. Factories and industrial operations in the Gowanus district were directly associated with the canal as a primary source of materials, power and supplies; the majority of the single and multiple family residences in the neighborhood were constructed so that the workers could live close to their places of employment. The character-defining features of this district are those that illustrate its industrial past. A full copy of the draft nomination is available on the New York State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) website:

BS: Is designation as a Historic Place the same thing as landmarking? (more…)


We thought you might like to see some photos we took at the Wallabout tour a couple weeks ago, a joint effort of The Wooden House Project and the Brooklyn Historical Society. The area has one of the largest concentrations of pre-Civil War-era wood frame houses in New York City. The neighborhood developed as a place to live for boat builders, captains, and other workers associated with the shipping industry.

The house above at 73 Vanderbilt Avenue was built in 1851 and 1852 in a mix of the Greek Revival and Italianate styles. The clapboard and the detail around the front door are original, but the Greek Revival moldings around the front entrance come from an interior doorway, and the ears around the windows and six-over-six windows were added in a 1970s restoration.


Community Board Six’s Landmarks Committee will consider the second extension of the Park Slope Historic District Thursday. The LPC has already calendared the extension, known as Park Slope Historic District Extension II, which is about half the size of the recent South Slope extension and includes about 287 buildings. The original Park Slope Historic District was landmarked in 1973 and then extended again in April 2012.

The proposed district would extend landmarking further west toward 5th Avenue and as far south as Union Street (above, 6th Avenue between Union Street and Berkeley Place.) The area comprises a wide variety of architectural styles, including Queen Anne buildings by Montrose Morris and C.P.H. Gilbert. The Land Use and Landmarks Committee meeting will take place at the Cobble Hill Community Meeting Room, 250 Baltic Street between Court and Clinton Streets. For more information and a map of the proposed extension, go here.

Park Slope Extension II on Calendar [Brownstoner]
Photo via Google Maps

The Brooklyn Heights Cinema building at 70 Henry Street is going through the final stages of approvals on designs for its renovation project, and the architects revealed two potential renderings and floor plans at last night’s Community Board 2 meeting. Gerner Kronick and Valcarcel‘s revised designs involved completely rebuilding (but not demolishing) the current one-story building and adding three stories of residential apartments on top of it. The theater will remain on the ground floor with an entrance on the corner of Henry and Orange Streets, but it will get a new sign that looks like a film strip. Also, it will be soundproofed so that residents above and next door won’t be bothered by noise from the movies. The apartments will have their own entrance on Orange Street, as well as an internal courtyard on the northwest end of the property.

Architect Randy Gerner presented two different-colored renderings for the new building: either it can be white, like the current one, or a brick-red color that closely matches the original color of the bricks before they were painted with concrete and white paint. The CB didn’t vote on the color and instead passed the decision onto the LPC, which has final approval over the building’s design. The architects would not let us photograph the renderings; a previous rendering showed a five-story modern, red-brick building. An alt 1 permit was filed and disapproved last year.

70 Henry Street Has a Date With the LPC [Brownstoner]
New Building, and Cinema, for 70 Henry Street [Brownstoner]

Scaffolding is going up at the Townhouses of Cobble Hill project on Hicks and Congress. This is the Landmarks approved project at 110-126 Congress Street that will involve restoring some existing buildings and putting up new ones with a traditional exterior. The insides, though, are thoroughly modern. They should be ready late this year; marketing started in May.

On this blog, we are always debating the effects of landmarking: Will the Landmarks Preservation Commission compel owners in landmarked districts to restore their houses to their original appearance? Will owners have to pay more for repairs? Does landmarking cause property prices to rise? Does it cause gentrification? The answers to the first three questions are: No, yes, and a qualified yes, according to a story in the Times today. (It didn’t address the gentrification question.) The story follows the renovation of Park Slope row house, whose owner was compelled to correct improper alterations made by the previous owner because he embarked on a major renovation that required permits. His architect estimated that Landmarks-approved wooden replacement windows cost about 30 percent more than “conventional” ones. Expensive custom ironwork was also required to restore items the previous owner had removed without permission since the area was landmarked. Nonetheless, he and another homeowner and architects who deal frequently with the LPC spoke approvingly of the process. “It can make a project better,” said Morris Adjmi of Morris Adjmi Architects. The story also found that house prices in landmarked districts “rose slightly more” than elsewhere in the city between 1975 and 2002, although cause and effect is unclear. “The nicer homes tend to be in historic districts,” said an executive with Douglas Elliman. What’s your take?
High-Mileage Alterations [NY Times]