East New York Brooklyn Landmark

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. (more…)


A highly controversial bill that would regulate the Landmarks Preservation Commission, Intro 775, did not come to a vote Wednesday as expected but rather was “held over in committee,” the City Council website reveals. But the hearing was epic: It went on for six hours and was mobbed, mostly by opponents of the bill.

Opponents said the legislation would “strip the LPC of power to preserve our city’s landmarks,” in the words of one such opponent, preservation nonprofit Landmarks West, in an email Thursday. The LPC itself came out against the legislation during the hearing — an unexpected development. (more…)

Ortner Preservation Awards 2015

The Park Slope Civic Council has put out a call for applications for the second annual Evelyn and Everett Ortner Park Slope Preservation Awards, which honor local projects compatible with the neighborhood’s architecture and efforts to preserve the area’s historic character.

Awards will be given in categories such as exterior restoration, adaptive reuse, storefront design and more. All projects must have been completed between January 1, 2010 and September 1, 2015, and applications are due November 2. (more…)


The clock is ticking for more than one proposed landmark. A bill setting time limits on how long the Landmarks Preservations Commission can take to consider landmarking a proposed site is coming up for a City Council vote Wednesday, September 9.

The American Institute of Architects, New York Landmarks Conservancy, Municipal Art Society, Historic Districts Council and more than 60 preservation groups recently voiced their opposition to the bill, known as Intro. 775, with memos and letters addressed to the City Council. And today the Times had a story looking at various sides of the issue.

What the Bill’s Backers Want

The review period for a proposed individual landmark could not exceed 360 days. A hearing would be required within 180 days. Historic districts — much more complex — would require a hearing within a year and a decision within two years. (more…)


Does historic preservation create “special rich people neighborhoods”? Not according to Brownstoner commenter fiordiligi, who shared his experience in Tuesday’s post about preservation and elitism. We thought his comment had an interesting perspective and is worth a closer look:

Homeowners in landmarked neighborhoods are not by definition “rich.” For example, I own a house in a landmarked neighborhood. I bought it in 1988 when there was almost no market for houses in this area despite the fact that it was landmarked. I bought it because after saving up for a down payment for many years, it was what I could afford; because I thought the neighborhood was beautiful; and because it had decent access to public transportation. I wasn’t rich then, and I’m not now — aside from the fact that the building has appreciated considerably. But I certainly never expected it to do so. And the building’s value means little to me at this point aside from the fact that I couldn’t afford to live in NYC if I hadn’t bought it when I did. And I am just as entitled as rich people to enjoy historic architecture — as are my tenants. My mortgage is paid off, and for me, this house IS affordable housing. Besides, the percentage of landmarked areas in NYC is too small to impact affordable housing in any case; and developers’ efforts to blame landmarking for their own greed in failing to build more affordable housing is nothing but laughable. Did they want to build in landmarked areas before rents and condo prices went through the roof? No, they cared nothing about landmarking. But now, suddenly, landmarking is a villain? Give me a break. Preservation of historic architecture is just as important as preservation of historic artwork — and that’s not an elitist statement. Human life is too short not to enable new generations to learn about, and appreciate, the history of architecture.

Left to right: Panelists Fedak, Powell Harris, Lodhi and Brady

Is historic preservation elitist? It depends who you ask. Six experts and a very well informed audience — many of them professional or grassroots preservationists — convened Monday night at the Museum of the City of New York to ponder the question. Here are the answers:

Sometimes. But the bigger problem is it doesn’t help housing.
Even the two pro-development speakers didn’t exactly argue that preservation is elitist. Nikolai Fedak, founder of pro-development website New York YIMBY (it stands for “yes in my backyard”), blamed zoning restrictions for the affordable housing crisis.

The nut of his argument is that if restrictions were eased, and developers could build higher and more densely throughout New York City, we would have enough units to meet demand, and prices would fall.

Nope. But it should be used sparingly.
Real estate trade association Real Estate Board of New York favors landmarking but in moderation. Only worthy buildings should be designated, said REBNY Vice President for Urban Planning Paimaan Lodhi, who was previously a district manager for a community board in Manhattan.

Irresponsible landmarking — such as of empty lots and gas stations — restricts development, he said. (REBNY has supported recent designations, including Chester Court in Prospect Lefferts Gardens.) (more…)


As part of the Saving Place: 50 Years of New York City Landmarks exhibit, the Museum of the City of New York is hosting several panel discussions that will run through the summer. The first panel talk, Preserving the Fabric of Our Neighborhoods, takes place this evening and examines the relationship between historic preservation and affordable housing. The panelists include Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Ingrid Gould Ellen, the director of the urban planning program at NYU Wagner.

Is Preservation Elitist? will examine the question of not just how to preserve buildings but how to preserve a “culturally distinctive” place. Tia Powell Harris, the arts director for the Weeksville Heritage Center; Nikolai Fedak, founder of New York YIMBY; Claudette Brady of the Bedford Stuyvesant Society for Historic Preservation, and others will examine the question of how to preserve more than just buildings in the city’s rapidly changing neighborhoods. (more…)


The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce last week announced the winners of its 2015 Building Brooklyn Awards. The annual event honors recently completed construction projects that improve Brooklyn in 13 categories.

“The borough of Brooklyn is truly an innovation hub, where builders and designers can put their craft to use and enhance the city that surrounds them,” said Chamber President and CEO Carlo Scissura in a prepared statement. “These projects represent the creative influence and inventive culture that inhabit our borough.”

The judging committee includes architects, city planners, economic development experts, business leaders — including Brownstoner’s publisher, Kael Goodman — and government officials. It meets every spring to select the winners.

A celebration and ceremony will take place July 21 at the Kings Theatre. Guests of honor will be CEO of Industry City Andrew Kimball and NYC Department of City Planning Executive Director Purnima Kapur.

The winners are:

Green-Wood Cemetery won in the Arts and Culture category for its Green-Wood Cemetery Chapel Extension.

Brookland Captial won in the Adaptive Reuse catogory for its renovation and restoration of 156 Broadway. The long-neglected and crumbling former cabinet factory was made over into eight loft-like condos. The exterior of the building was restored on the upper floors, and a new retail space created on the ground floor. You can read more about it here. (more…)


Fifty years ago last month the city passed the Landmarks Law — and if it hadn’t we’d be living in a very different place today.

That’s the premise behind “Saving Place: 50 Years of New York City Landmarks,” an exhibition currently running at the Museum of the City of New York. The exhibit, which opened last month, looks at the growth of the preservation movement, the roots of the pioneering law, its evolution and its impact on the city.

There’s plenty there relating to Brooklyn, including a section on the role of Brooklyn Heights in creating the law. (more…)


Brownstoner columnist Suzanne Spellen, who writes under the name Montrose Morris, has been chosen by the Historic Districts Council as one of the recipients of its Annual Grassroots Preservation Awards. The nonprofit group advocates for historic preservation, and helps local community organizations in their work to preserve and improve their neighborhoods.

“We’re thrilled to be honoring Suzanne,” Historic Districts Council Executive Director Simeon Bankoff told us. “Through her columns, she’s introduced readers to the interesting histories of the buildings they pass every day and, hopefully, made people go out of their way to see these buildings for themselves. More than that, through her research, her writing, her tours and her work with the Crown Heights North Association and more, she’s become a steady, solid force for preservation in Brooklyn.” (more…)


The New York Landmarks Conservancy has announced the winners of its 25th annual Lucy G. Moses Preservation Awards. And Brooklyn is well represented. Five buildings in the borough that have recently gone through meticulous restorations have been chosen to receive the organization’s highest honors for outstanding preservation.

In Brooklyn, King’s Theatre in Flatbush (pictured above) will be receiving the award, as will the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph in Prospect Heights, the Conrad B. Duberstein U.S. Bankruptcy Courthouse in Downtown Brooklyn, Grace Church in Brooklyn Heights, and 1000 Dean Street and Berg’n. Congratulations to all of those involved in each of these projects.

The awards will take place on April 30 at 6:30 pm at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph at 856 Pacific Street. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased here.

Click through for photos of each of these remarkable buildings.

Photo above by Matt Lambros