It’s time to go back to the drawing board, again.
At a Landmarks Preservation Commission hearing Tuesday afternoon, both the public and the commissioners were unanimous in their criticism of new plans that were presented for a five-story residential building at 375 Stuyvesant Avenue in Bed Stuy.
“While we recognize that the neighborhood has changed and evolved over time, we don’t believe this proposal reflects or preserves the architectural integrity of this beautiful landmarked area,” said Denise Manuel, who lives on Bainbridge Street. “I think it’s just disrespectful.”
The 10,000-square-foot lot where the developer, Oren Evenhar, and architects DXA Studios, plan to construct the building is the backyard of a landmarked Renaissance Revival-style mansion with Prairie School influences, built in 1914-1915 by Henry P. Kirby and John J. Petit and part of the Stuyvesant Heights Historic District.
The home has been in the same family since at least 1973. According to Patch, when the previous owner, Dr. Josephine English, passed away in 2011, she asked her family “that they keep a community center running in the lower levels of the building.” But recently, the family became “burdened with the cost of maintaining the massive mansion and decided to build in its empty lot,” according to the report.
The garage was formerly occupied by Bread Love, a popular cafe and bakery that opened in 2013. Its owners had previously run the cafe Bread Stuy on Lewis for eight years. In May 2014, an arson fire destroyed the shop. Bread Love later relocated to 1933 Fulton Street, then settled in a third location in the back of Bed Stuy Fresh and Local at 210 Patchen Avenue before shutting down in 2017.
Nine speakers in total provided testimony at the hearing and all opposed the current plans. Most who spoke were neighbors, including some who had lived on surrounding blocks for almost 60 years. Evelyn Collier, a representative from Community Board 3’s Landmarks subcommittee, said the group unanimously disapproves of the project as it currently stands.
Those who provided testimony spoke of the mansion in reverential terms, speaking of the dreams they have about the grand building. Indeed, the mansion is extremely well-known in the neighborhood. It has been home to various groups for decades and was once a doctor’s office. In recent years, it was home to nonprofit the Brooklyn Movement Center and Ancient Song Doula Services, hosted community meetings and was available to rent out for weddings and other events.
[Photos by Susan De Vries | Renderings by DXA Studio via Landmarks Preservation Commission]
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