Why this Blog Exists

To make the case for expanding the Park Slope Historic District

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Park Slope Historic District Expansion Project Update

So where does the project to expand the Park Slope Historic District currently stand?

One of the biggest issues in defining Historic Districts involves boundaries. What to include? What to exclude? Where to draw the lines? There are many factors to weigh, including historic significance, "sense of place", and character. Another big factor is the limited resources of the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC); they have to consider the entire city and we acknowledge that there are a great many deserving neighborhoods outside of Park Slope. One suspects that all of these factors conspired to produce the irregular boundaries of our current Historic District which was designated in 1973:

Park Slope Historic District

However, the current boundaries seem totally arbitrary to us. Nearly all of Park Slope has an incredibly strong "sense of place" that seems highly worth preserving, at least to our untrained eye. Park Slope's historic character is one of the main reasons we are all here in the first place, and we feel we must do everything in our power to preserve it for future generations.

Thus it was that our Committee first approached the LPC two years ago to reactivate the Park Slope Civic Council's "Request For Evaluation", first filed in about 2000, to consider expanding the Park Slope Historic District.

For our first "Study Area", we suggested to the LPC that they consider, basically, all of Park Slope that is currently undesignated. By Park Slope we mean Flatbush Avenue to 15th Street, Prospect Park West to 4th Avenue. By "undesignated" we mean everything that is not in the current Historic District. More precisely, our Study Area stopped 100' east of 4th Avenue; we felt it was useless to consider the properties facing 4th Avenue itself since they were all likely to be bulldozed quickly due to the recent upzoning. So here is a map of our 2007 "Proposal" to the LPC:

Park Slope Historic District Expansion - Study Area

This area includes about 4,900 properties. The LPC's response? Our Study Area was too large. It would take years and years to study this area! So, we went back to the drawing boards, to try to come up with something more "realistic".

Earlier this year, we went back to the LPC with a phased approach that included about 1,600 properties in "Phase 1", as shown below:

Park Slope Historic District Expansion - Study Area - phase 1

Phase 1 would have expanded the Historic District in both the South and North Slope, and would also have protected 7th Avenue, which we consider one of our highest priorities: it is the commercial "heart" of Park Slope; it has many magnificent, intact mixed-use late 19th-century buildings. In the North Slope, this "Phase 1" would have stopped 100' east of 5th Avenue.

At any rate, the LPC's reaction to our "Phase 1" was the same as to our initial proposal: way too large!

Therefore, we went back to the drawing boards yet again, and came back to them again in June with "Phase 1a", which reduced the Study Area to about 800 buildings. Basically what is included now is 7th Avenue, both sides, and the blocks between 7th & 8th Avenues in the South Slope:

Park Slope Historic District Expansion - Study Area - Phase 1a

And, miraculously, the LPC said "yes"; i.e. they agreed to "look at" this area and come back to us in the fall for further negotiations!

So is our "phase 1a" a formal proposal? No way! Obviously, these lines are just guidelines for the LPC; we do not think every building in this area is landmark-worthy, and we do not expect the LPC's proposal to look anything like this. They may even say that they find none of this area to be worthy of inclusion in the Historic District, although we would find that highly surprising. However, they have apparently agreed to at least consider this area and to come back to the community later with their findings, so this alone represents a "landmark" accomplishment!

Whatever form the first Study Area takes, however, be assured that we are in this process for the long haul; we intend to maintain the struggle to preserve Park Slope until the LPC protects a great deal more of our deserving neighborhood.

Besides working to define the boundaries of the initial Study Area, we have been conducting our own historic research, hosting meetings, and compiling expressions of support for an expanded Historic District in the form of postcards and petitions. We will highlight these diverse efforts in subsequent posts.

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