Why this Blog Exists

To make the case for expanding the Park Slope Historic District

Thursday, September 16, 2010

"Lock In the Past?"

The Courier newspaper recently ran a front-page article, reproduced (and corrected) below, about the proposed Park Slope Historic District extension.

The print version was accompanied by photographs of the following buildings from 12th Street, presumably to illustrate the article's contention that "some of [the buildings in the proposed extension] are historic, some not so much."

457 12th Street, between 7th & 8th Avenues, n s

Garage, 12th Street between 7th & 8th Avenues, n s

The fact that not every building in historic districts is equally historic is not at all surprising. Below are some "not so historic" buildings that were included in the original Park Slope Historic District:

543-549 2nd Street - circa 1950
Park Slope Historic District

Buildings such as these are usually said to be "non-contributing," i.e. that they do not contribute to the historic fabric or unique sense of place of the neighborhood. Presumably the Landmarks Preservation Commission would be much more likely to allow changes to (or even demolition of) a "non-contributing" building.

The Courier article, in italics below, contained a number of inaccuracies, for which we offer non-italicized corrections.

Lock In the Past?

The city is moving forward with a controversial plan to add roughly 600 buildings to the Park Slope historic district. The existing 34-block zone, which covers a thin swath between Seventh Avenue and Prospect Park West, is already the largest historic district in the city with 1,975 apartment buildings and houses.

[Actually, the Greenwich Village Historic District has always been larger, according to this press release from the Landmarks Preservation Commission. The Greenwich Village district was created in 1969 with 2,035 buildings, and has been extended twice to its current size of 2,320 buildings.]

But the new proposal — a wider area that would go all the way from Prospect Park West to Fifth Avenue and from Flatbush Avenue to 15th Street — would add 564 more buildings, some of them historic, some not so much.

[Actually, the proposed Park Slope Historic District extension lies mostly between 7th & 15th Streets, and between 7th & 8th Avenues, as shown on this map.]

The boundary was drawn up last year, and presented to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which has scheduled hearings and analysis for sometime this fall, the first step in a months- or years-long process.

[Actually the boundary of the proposed extension was drawn up by the Landmarks Preservation Commission and presented to the community, not the other way round.]

It’s one that the local councilman thinks is worth doing — mostly because the plan would include city loans for landowners who want to renovate their historic buildings, a costly venture. “The original district is 30-plus years old and there’s a lot it doesn’t cover,” Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope) said on Wednesday. “This would be fair for owners — if you apply to do some work on your building, you have the option of getting city help, while keeping the look and feel of the neighborhood.” The commission has no timetable, but the fact that Park Slope got the city’s attention is a huge milestone for the effort to lock in the aesthetic of one of the best-preserved districts of 1800s Greek Revivals in the borough.

[Actually, the Greek Revival style (1830-1850) is nonexistent in Park Slope, which was constructed decades later.]

After all, any new buildings in the proposed district would have to help “create a coherent streetscape [and] a distinct sense of place,” according the commission.

So much for the Courier's overview of the proposed extension. For the perspective of the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission, scroll down to the next post.

1 comment:

Eric McClure said...

Is there ever a story in the Courier or Brooklyn Paper that doesn't include "controversial" among the first 10 words?

Like the traffic-calming redesign of Prospect Park West, the expansion of the Park Slope Historic District isn't really controversial -- it's just smart. While a few cranks and reactionaries oppose these advances, most people embrace them on the merits.