New residential district near Brooklyn Navy Yard

Working-class 19th century buildings along Vanderbilt Avenue designated as a historic district. On July 12, 2011, Landmarks voted to designate the Wallabout Historic District in the Clinton Hill area of Brooklyn. The new district encompasses approximately 55 buildings along a stretch of Vanderbilt Avenue between Myrtle and Park Avenues near the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

The district’s name is derived from the Belgian Walloons who settled the area in the 17th century. The district is notable for its rare conglomeration of wood-framed dwellings constructed in the mid- 19th century which largely housed Brooklyn Navy Yard workers. The area was not considered prestigious, and the laborers and tradesmen who lived there constructed less-expensive wooden buildings, rather than the brick and stone architecture that characterized other Brooklyn neighborhoods developed in the same period. The district includes Greek Revival, Italianate, and Gothic Revival architecture. 

At the district’s public hearing on October 26, 2010, proponents of designation included local elected officials, residents, and preservationists. However, property owner Daniel Kimiabakhsh strongly objected to the inclusion of his recently constructed seven-story building at 122 Vanderbilt Avenue. 7 CityLand 157 (Nov. 15, 2010).

At the subsequent July 12 meeting, Landmarks’ research department recommended that Kimiabakhsh’s property be included in the district, but listed as a “no style” building in the district’s designation report. Mary Beth Betts, director of research at Landmarks, stated that removing the building from the district would create a gap “in an otherwise cohesive street front.”

The Commissioners unanimously approved the district’s designation. Commissioner Fred Bland noted the district’s importance to the City’s maritime history, and pointed to the district as evidence that there were still important and unprotected areas in the City to be discovered. Commissioner Michael Goldblum commended the area’s historic and aesthetic qualities, and noted the scarcity of collections of wooden architecture in the City. Vice Chair Pablo Vengoechea agreed with Landmarks’ staff that including 122 Vanderbilt would be necessary for a “cohesive, recognizable district.”

LPC: Wallabout Historic District, Brooklyn (LP-2445) (July 12, 2011).

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