Why this Blog Exists

To make the case for expanding the Park Slope Historic District

Monday, December 28, 2009

Permitted Changes in Historic Districts - Part 1

We've devoted some previous posts to changes that might not have been permitted by the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission, which issues permits for proposed changes within historic districts.

So what kinds of changes does the LPC allow?

Perhaps we might gain some understanding by reviewing changes that the LPC has already permitted within the current Park Slope Historic District.

Minor changes might include a new iron stoop handrail, such as the one below, on the south side of Garfield Place between 7th & 8th Avenues. The original brownstone stoop is only 14" high, and the owner added a new iron handrail in 1999. The permit application was submitted by the contractor, and a "Permit for Minor Work" was forthcoming from the LPC in about a week:

234 Garfield Place - Park Slope Historic District

In 14th Street one finds a modern stoop elevator, installed to facilitate access via wheelchair. We've heard an LPC spokesperson state that these kinds of accessibility modifications are approved "all the time":

484 14th Street - Park Slope Historic District

At the other extreme are entirely new buildings.

In 1992, the Berkeley-Carroll School constructed an addition on its Lincoln Place campus, which is within the Park Slope Historic District. The AIA Guide to New York City characterizes the addition, by Fox and Fowle, as "conservative brick and limestone":

Berkeley-Carroll School addition, Lincoln Place, Park Slope Historic District

More recently, Poly Prep constructed a new addition to its lower school building on Prospect Park West, within the current historic district. The original building, a white limestone high Romanesque Revival extravaganza ("cadaverous" - AIA Guide) designed in 1889-91 by Montrose Morris for industrialist Henry Hulbert, was one of only two free-standing mansions remaining on Prospect Park West, so the recent addition was subject to a particularly exacting review:

Poly Prep Lower School addition, 1st Street, Park Slope Historic District

Both school additions were built on empty land. But sometimes the LPC will permit demolition of an existing building, as long as the existing building does not "contribute" to the historic district. A small apartment house recently replaced an existing, "non-contributing" garage at 127 8th Avenue, between Carroll Street and Montgomery Place:

121-123-125-127 8th Avenue, Park Slope Historic District

In short, historic district designation does not "freeze" development. It does, however, control development and direct it in ways that enhance, rather than degrade, Park Slope's unique "sense of place"... at least in contrast to some of the changes outside the Historic District!:

12th Street - outside the Park Slope Historic District

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