Historic district designation would ensure protections for the largely intact, over 100 year-old, block of limestone row houses. On March 26, 2019, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously to calendar a proposed historic district in the Bay Ridge area of Brooklyn. The Bay Ridge Parkway – Doctor’s Row Historic District would be comprised of 54 row houses built in the early 1900s on Bay Ridge Parkway between 4th and 5th avenues. Constructed in the Renaissance Revival along with elements of Colonial Revival styles, the intact rows’ high degree of architectural integrity and aesthetic consistency gives them a strong sense of place and distinguishes them in the neighborhood.
The entire block was constructed over a seven-year period between 1906 and 1913 by the Bay Ridge Development Company. The north side of the street was largely designed by architect Benjamin Dreisler, while most of the south side was designed by William Flanagan. The houses’ prominent features include intact limestone facades, bowed fronts, low stoops, stone lintels, sills, and door surrounds, and original cornices. Noticeable set-backs with paved and landscaped areaways along the wide Bay Ridge Parkway are among the block’s distinguishing qualities.
The block is a representation of Bay Ridge’s transformation from a suburban community to a middle-class urban neighborhood in anticipation of construction of the early 20th century 4th Avenue subway line. The block is frequently referred to as Doctors’ Row given the number of medical professionals that have lived and worked on the block both today and in the past.
Landmarks’ consideration of the proposed district follows a unified effort by the Bay Ridge Parkway 400 Block Association and the Historic Districts Council to have the block landmarked, a process that began in the Fall of 2016. Historic district designation of the block will ensure that the aesthetic significance of the intact century-old buildings is preserved and that any alterations would require Landmarks Preservation Commission approval.
“Zoning does not regulate aesthetic changes to property, and much of southern Brooklyn’s architectural patrimony is under assault from tear-downs, inappropriate and non-contextual development, and irreversible alterations to historic fabric. What’s more, Bay Ridge and surrounding neighborhoods do not possess any historic district protection, and it is time to consider it. Without historic district designation, there is no guarantee that this block will retain its beauty for another century…,” stated Simeon Bankoff, Executive Director of the Historic Districts Council in HDC’s letter of support for designation sent to Landmarks.
“For 120+ years Doctor’s Row [intact] architecture inspires the many people who experience this street with dignity, beauty, and sense of place. The opportunity to preserve this has energized our community; BRP400BlockAssociation’s work here is the best of us all,” said Linda Assini, on behalf of the Bay Ridge Parkway 400 Block Association.
The calendaring also received strong support from Brooklyn Community Board 10, which voted in favor of calendaring the proposed historic district at a hearing held on June 19, 2017. Brian Kaszuba, Chair of CB 10’s Zoning and Land Use Committee commented, “I am happy that Landmarks will consider Doctor’s Row for designation. I believe Bay Ridge has many blocks worthy of designation and I hope this is only the first of many designations that we see in our community.”
“Ever since I was a kid, I knew “Doctor’s Row” was a special block. Now, thanks to the hard work of local preservationists and residents of Bay Ridge Parkway, we are one step closer to giving our community its first landmarked block! It is very exciting. I have supported this effort since day one and look forward to helping see this process across the finish line,” remarks Bay Ridge’s Council Member Justin Brannan.
Calendaring is the first step in the Landmarks designation process, with public hearings and a formal vote to designate the block to follow.
*DISCLAIMER*: CityLand’s Managing Editor, Brian Kaszuba, also serves as Zoning and Land Use Chair for Brooklyn Community Board 10.
By: Viktoriya Gray (Viktoriya is the CityLaw Fellow and New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2018).