Put your crafting skills to good use this month with a light-hearted event bringing attention to a serious issue in East New York.
Local advocacy group Preserving East New York (PENY) is hosting a “heart bombing” event on February 23 to bring together community members and lovers of history for an afternoon of crafting and learning about the endangered heritage of their neighborhood.
Amidst the rezoning of East New York, advocates have identified a number of buildings that are important to the history and cultural identity of the neighborhood, including the 75th Precinct Station at 484 Liberty Avenue. Originally known as the 17th Precinct, the Romanesque Revival style structure was completed in 1891.
Brooklyn’s police system was expanding rapidly in the late 19th century and a number of new stations were constructed. Included in that building boom were two nearly identical fortress-like designs by the same architect, the 18th in Sunset Park and the 17th in East New York.
While the stations have often been credited as the work of architect Emile M. Grewe, contemporary news accounts credit George Ingram with the design. George Ingram was an engineer, starting work as a surveyor in Brooklyn and then becoming an assistant engineer in the Department of City Works in 1886. He left in 1890 to set up his own practice, but continued to produce work for the city. According to Brownstoner’s Suzanne Spellen, since Ingram was not a trained architect he collaborated with architects like Emile Gruwe, leading to the confusion over attribution.
In 1891, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle published details for the “imposing building” to be built by contractor Cleary based on plans by George Ingram. In appearance it would be “modeled on the same general plan” as the recently completed building for the 18th Precinct. The Liberty Avenue building would accommodate 80 patrolmen, cells for male and female prisoners, and would have a stable — reached via a passageway from the main building — that would not only accommodate 12 horses but also store the patrol wagon.
By the 1930s it was renamed the 75th precinct and continue to be used by the force until the 1970s. The city sold the property to the Peoples Baptist First Church in 1976. The vacant and crumbling property most recently changed hands in 2016 when it was bought by Triple Five Holdings LLC. In November of 2018 a permit was issued for the installation of floor joists to stabilize the building, but the application noted the work would not be enough to allow the building to be occupied.
Its architectural sibling at 4302 4th Avenue in Sunset Park has fared even worse over the years. Despite the fact that it was designated an individual landmark in 1983, years of neglect and a string of owners took their toll. In 2017, plans were announced for the transformation of the building into a grade school. The design calls for the preservation of the street-facing facades and the demolition of the stables.
PENY is hoping the historic precinct on Liberty Avenue can be saved and is spreading the word by “heart bombing” the building. They held a similar event in 2017 for the Empire State Dairy at 2840 Atlantic Avenue. Years of advocacy work resulted in the designation of the dairy complex in December 2017.
You can join PENY and show your passion for history on Saturday, February 23 by creating some paper hearts and love notes while chatting with advocates and learning more about the preservation issues facing the building and the East New York community. A photo session featuring the artistic results will cap the afternoon.
The crafting takes place at noon at Grace Baptist Church of Christ at 233 Jersey Avenue and a group photo will be taken at 2 p.m. at the 75th Precinct at 484 Liberty Avenue. The event is free, and more information can be viewed here.
[Photos by Susan De Vries unless noted otherwise]
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