On May 7, 2019, the Landmarks Preservation Commission held a public hearing on the proposed landmark designation of four historic districts in Sunset Park, Brooklyn: Sunset Park North, Sunset Park South, Sunset Park 50th Street, and Central Sunset Park. The four proposed districts encompass blocks that were found to be the most cohesive and intact concentrations of Sunset Park’s architecture, representative of its primary periods of development. If approved, designation would provide Landmark protection to over 539 buildings, the majority of which are rowhouses constructed between the 1890s and 1910s.
Following years of extensive work and research by the Sunset Park community and the help of a community-formed Sunset Park Landmarks Committee, Landmarks began evaluating the area in 2014 and calendared the districts in January, 2019. Landmarks studied the blocks between 40th and 60th Streets and 4th and 7th Avenues, documenting over 4,000 buildings in their determination of the blocks worthy of Landmark designation.
At the public hearing, close to two dozen residents spoke in favor of designating the historic districts. Many shared their stories about growing up in the neighborhood, and those of their parents and grandparents. There was an overwhelming amount of gratitude to Landmarks for taking the historic districts into consideration as well as to the community members who came together and worked on ensuring that Landmarks would consider the area. Many reflected on prior efforts to have the area preserved, going back to the 1970s and 1980s. Many also spoke of the special character of the neighborhood and sense of community that exists today and the desire to preserve it for future generations. Several residents urged Landmarks to continue exploring other areas within Sunset Park for possible designation.
Council Member Carlos Menchaca commended the residents’ persistence, dedication and effort in researching and documenting the area and Landmarks for taking it into consideration. “We want to preserve not only the fabric of this neighborhood but the fabric of the future Sunset Park, which is going through a major transformation,” Menchaca stated.
On behalf of the Sunset Park Landmarks Committee and Brooklyn Community Board 7, Lynn Massimo stated there are thousands who wish to support designation, including over 3,000 owners and renters who signed the petition to Landmarks, and politicians including Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, former State Senator Jesse Hamilton, Community Board 7, the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and others.
Simeon Bankoff on behalf of the Historic Districts Council, and Andrea Goldwyn on behalf of the New York Landmarks Conservancy, also supported designation, saying that this was important particularly as the neighborhood faces pressure from development.
One resident spoke in opposition of designation, stating that they are worried about the resulting restrictions on their property following designation.
Landmarks Chair Sarah Carroll shared that the Landmarks Preservation Commission received 53 emails and two letters in support of designation, and three emails against. Carroll thanked everyone for speaking and said that Landmarks will vote on the application in the near future.
By: Viktoriya Gray (Viktoriya is the CityLaw Fellow and New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2018).