Hearing held on proposed Crown Heights district

Neighborhood had originally been surveyed for designation in the 1970s. At its September 19th meeting, Landmarks held a hearing on the proposed Proposed Crown Heights North Historic District. The district, on land that was once part of the Lefferts family’s large holdings, had originally been surveyed in the 1970s along with the Fort Greene and Park Slope historic districts. An upper-class suburb in the 1870s, several free-standing Victorian homes still remain in the neighborhood. Following the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge, developers built residential Neo-Grecian row houses to accommodate the expanding community. Near the turn of the century, Queen Anne and Neo- Romanesque styles began to predominate, which then gave way to the Renaissance Revival style. In the 1920s, Crown Heights became a haven for immigrant communities, and apartment buildings in the Tudor, Art-Deco, and Mediterranean styles were added. The district incorporates the individually landmarked Imperial Apartments. The proposal was calendared in June 2006. 3 CityLand 93 (July 15, 2006).

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who grew up in Crown Heights, spoke at the hearing in favor of designation. He noted that it was the first hearing on a proposed Brooklyn Historic district since Vinegar Hill, designated in 1997, and that he hoped to attend more hearings on Brooklyn designations. City Council Members Letitia James and Albert Vann also urged designation, with James promising to preserve affordable housing within the district.

The few community residents opposing designation were property owners who were worried about restrictions and bureaucratic hurdles they would face when altering their property. One, Kevin Anthony Williams, stated that his vision for his home “didn’t fit within the Commission’s parameters.” A representative from Bedford Central Presbyterian Church testified that the church was considering renovation, and wanted to know how landmarking would affect its plans.

Representatives from several preservationist groups also spoke in favor, including the Historic Districts Council, the Municipal Art Society, and the New York Landmarks Conservancy. Christabel Gough, of the Society for the Architecture of the City, added that living in a historic district “is not so bad,” and that Landmarks was usually responsive to residents.

In response to residents that were concerned over what designation would mean for their property, Landmarks Chair Robert Tierney declared that another community meeting would be held and widely publicized. The hearing was closed without any further comments by commissioners.

LPC: Proposed Crown Heights North Historic District (LP-2204) (Sept. 19, 2006).

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