Preservationists “Overjoyed” as Landmarks Approves Bedford Historic District

480 Nostrand Avenue, Renaissance Apartments

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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.

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832 Marcy Avenue, Bedford Stuyvesant’s Boys High School

Located between Monroe and Fulton streets and Bedford and Thompkins avenues, Bed Stuy’s third historic district includes some of the area’s most extravagant brownstones and other buildings by a slew of Brooklyn’s most celebrated 19th century architects, including Montrose Morris and Amzi Hill.

The vote was unanimous, according to an LPC statement.

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A brownstone at 81 Halsey Street with elaborate terra cotta details. Photo by Cate Corcoran

Particularly notable are townhouses on Hancock Street and the already landmarked Romanesque Revival Boys High School on Marcy Avenue and the Victorian Gothic Girls High School on to Nostrand Avenue.

“We in Bedford Styuvesant are happy and thrilled that the commission voted to designate,” longtime area resident and pivotal community activist Claudette Brady told Brownstoner. She cofounded the Bedford Stuyvesant Society for Historic Preservation and helped lead the push for designation.

“The designation is a testament to historic, architectural and cultural significance of the neighborhood,” Brady said.

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Claudette Brady (far right) speaking at a panel about preservation in July. Photo by Cate Corcoran

Brownstoner columnist Suzanne Spellen (aka Montrose Morris), who won an Historic Districts Council award for her preservation efforts and leads historic tours of Bed Stuy with the Municipal Arts Society, told Brownstoner she is “overjoyed” by the designation.

“I lived on what will be a landmarked block in Bedford Stuyvesant for 17 years,” she said. “Living in Bed Stuy nurtured my love for Brooklyn’s rich architecture and history, and I’m so very glad to know that the center of the Bedford community will be protected.”

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832 Marcy Avenue, Bedford Stuyvesant’s Boys High School

“I am so happy that this day has come,” historical tour guide and preservationist Morgan Munsey wrote Brownstoner in an email. “Bedford is a beautiful section of this great borough and it is almost shocking that it was not landmarked 45 years ago when the city did Stuyvesant Heights.”

A real estate agent in Halstead’s Bed Stuy office and a resident of the neighborhood, Munsey leads tours with Spellen and is active on Community Board 3’s landmarks subcommittee.

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832 Marcy Avenue, Bedford Stuyvesant’s Boys High School

The designation comes at a time when developers are rapidly changing the historic neighborhood, with recent sales of such neighborhood icons as the Slave Theater.

The Bedford area now joins the Stuyvesant Heights and Stuyvesant Heights Extension historic districts in being architecturally protected. Activists are working to designate two more areas of the sprawling neighborhood: Stuyvesant North and Stuyvesant East.

475 Nostrand Avenue, Girls High School

475 Nostrand Avenue, Girls High School. Photo via Wikipedia

The new district, originally known as the Bedford Corners Historic District, contains 824 buildings in all. It is “unique for its remarkably well-preserved and concentrated collection of houses by celebrated Brooklyn architects, including Montrose W. Morris, and contains some of the boroughs most distinctive and well-preserved late-19thcentury streetscapes,” said the LPC in a prepared statement.

The area is also culturally significant “as a major residential district for African-American and Caribbean families since the 1920s,” the LPC added.

Bedford Historic District Map

The Bedford Historic District. Image by the LPC

Although local residents have tirelessly campaigned for landmarking the Bedford Historic District for years, its designation appeared uncertain after the Daily News and New York Times published stories in 2013 and 2014 quoting a pastor who opposed it — although he did not live in the district.

The campaign got a shot in the arm with the 50th anniversary of the Landmarks Law and a movie about it which featured the area and residents Brady and Munsey. — Hannah Frishberg and Cate Corcoran

[h/t BK Paper | Photos by Suzanne Spellen]

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