Residents Talk of Retaining History of Bay Ridge’s Doctors’ Row at LPC Public Hearing

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Bay Ridge is one step closer to getting its first historic district.

A small number of local residents turned out for a public hearing on the proposed Bay Ridge Parkway Doctors’ Row Historic District in Bay Ridge this morning. Less than one block long, the proposed district consists of two intact rows of bay-fronted limestone row houses on Bay Ridge Parkway between 4th and 5th avenues.

It’s a “distinguished example of Bay Ridge’s transformation from a suburban resort community to a middle-class urban neighborhood,” said MaryNell Nolan-Wheatley of LPC’s research department.

The feeling was genial among the nine people who provided public testimony, two of whom were representatives for local politicians. Not one person spoke against designation.

Susan Brown, who lives in the proposed district, had the audience laughing with her plea to the commission.

“Just like Uncle Sam said, I want you,” she told the commissioners from the podium. “We want the army of preservation.”

bay ridge doctors row

There are 54 row houses included in the proposed district, which has a history as a doctors’ row. The houses are Renaissance Revival in style (some with Colonial Revival elements) and they were built between 1906 and 1913.

A few of the houses may have been built with offices on the basement level, but Doctors’ Row got its name from the medical practices in the basements that populated the area beginning in the mid-20th century. A few still exist today.

Linda Assini, a member of the Bay Ridge Parkway 400 Block Association and a former registered nurse, purchased her home in 1982 with her former husband, a doctor, the third in a line of doctors who had their practices there.

“I’m one of those people who embodies what Doctors’ Row was and is,” she said.

bay ridge doctors row

Peter Costalos, a dentist who lives and works in the proposed district, reiterated the community’s commitment to the history of the block.

“As a lifelong resident of Bay Ridge, I have seen in past years beautiful street scenes and century-old row houses mutilated, erasing the charm and history of the neighborhood,” he said. When he was at dental school at Harvard, he told the commissioners, his dream was to come back home and open a practice on Doctors’ Row.

bay ridge doctors row

Kelly Carroll, the Historic Districts Council’s Director of Advocacy and Community Outreach, spoke in favor of the designation not just as a preservationist but also as a resident of the neighborhood. “Without designation, there’s no guarantee that this block will retain its beauty for another century,” she said. “This is an exciting day for all of us.”

A vote will take place in June, according to LPC chair Sarah Carroll.

[Photos by Susan De Vries]

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