A historic district for Ridgewood?

From the Queens Times Newsweekly (is it possible for a Queens newspaper to have an article on preservation & not talk about the Sunnyside Gardens opponents?)

City May Consider Landmark District In Ridgewood

by Robert Pozarycki
After a year in which homes in Sunnyside Gardens were given landmark status, civic activists in Ridgewood are hoping that the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission will do the same for their neighborhood in 2008.

The Times Newsweekly was informed that local elected officials have approached the LPC with an idea put forth by the Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association that would result in the creation of a historic district similar to the one created in Sunnyside Gardens intended to protect multi-family homes in the area.

According to a source with knowledge of the situation, commission officials have indicated their interest in creating some semblance of a landmark district in Ridgewood, though it is not expected to be an “expansive” area of the neighborhood.

“It’s a healthy and good first start,” the source said, noting that the actual size and scope of the proposal would be further discussed among commission officials and local civic and community leaders in the weeks to come.

Nearly 3,000 residential structures in the neighborhood are currently recognized as places of historical significance on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, according to RPOCA President Paul Kerzner.

These homes are located in several small historic districts that were established within Ridgewood that year, including the Central Ridgewood Historic District, which is generally bounded on the north by Putnam Avenue, on the south by Myrtle Avenue, on the east by Fresh Pond Road and on the west by Onderdonk Avenue.

Most of the dwellings are apartment houses that were built atop farmland between 1900 and 1920 as the community grew following the extension of the Myrtle Avenue subway line from Wyckoff Avenue to Metropolitan Avenue.

Among the structures built during the housing boom were six-family apartment houses commonly referred to as the “Mathews Flats,” which were designed and constructed by Gustave Mathews and his brothers between 1904 and 1905 along the northern side of Linden Street between Cypress and St. Nicholas avenues.

The large brick tenements were also constructed by the Mathews family on Catalpa Avenue off Seneca Avenue.

The register also includes hundreds of two-family brick rowhouses—which Kerzner referred to as “Stier homes”—constructed in an area of Ridgewood generally bounded by Linden Street and Putnam Avenue east of Forest Avenue. The structures were built between 1911 and 1915 by Bauer and Stier, Inc., a local corporation formed by builders August Bauer, Paul Stier and Louis Berger, an architect who had designed 90 percent of the local housing stock.

The federal register, which is overseen by the National Park Service, recognizes over 80,000 locations across the United States that are deemed “worthy of preservation,” according to the NRHP’s website. Even so, the distinction does not prohibit major alterations or demolitions of structures included on the list.

Restrictions eased

Originally, RPOCA had considered seeking landmark status from the city for Ridgewood homes included in the national register. Kerzner told this paper that the idea had been abandoned due to tight restrictions imposed by the LPC regarding home maintenance.

The fear of new restrictions as a result of landmarking was a topic of major debate that arose during public hearings on the then-proposed Sunnyside Gardens Landmark District during the early months of 2007.

As previously reported, numerous residents in the community came to various sessions held in the community and the LPC’s Manhattan headquarters to voice their opposition to the plan, charging that the designation would result in strict rules regarding the renovation and alteration to their homes.

Under LPC regulations, any project that involves changes to the exterior of a structure in a landmark district—such as window replacement—must first be reviewed and permitted by the commission.

An LPC permit must also be secured by any homeowner who seeks to perform work on the interior of their home that would also require a permit from the Buildings Department, according to commission regulations.

Opportunities to speak

Should the LPC bring forth a plan to landmark homes in Ridgewood, the community must be provided with “ample” opportunities to meet with commission officials to review the plan, noted City Council Member Dennis Gallagher.

He told the Times Newsweekly that the commission would need to not only take testimony from the public for or against the plan, but to also provide information that would clear up rumors about requirements for homeowners in landmarked dwellings.

“When this process goes into full stride, we need to hold meetings with the Landmarks Preservation Commission” and the public, the Council member said. “We need to take testimony publicly from homeowners and civic groups interested in preservation and we’ll look to see how we could assist them.”

Among the common misconceptions he cited were that every structure that is in a landmark district must be renovated to its preexisting condition, which Gallagher stated is “not necessarily so” with every building in a given area.

Kerzner observed that in recent years, the LPC has become “more liberal in its interpretation” of regulations for homeowners in landmark districts, adding that RPOCA has tried for a decade to seek landmarking for the area after their regulations were relaxed.

“The effect won’t be so bad on the average homeowner,” he said.

Seek landmarks in Rich. Hill

While keeping an eye on the potential creation of a landmark district in Ridgewood and other areas in Queens, Council Member Gallagher also expressed his “disappointment” that a Richmond Hill historic district has yet to be created.

“While I’m thankful that they’re starting to look in other directions, I’m still disappointed that there is no landmark district in Richmond Hill,” he said. “It’s a failure on their part that they haven’t recognized the history of” the neighborhood.

Gallagher stated that he along with a number of civic groups in Richmond Hill have called on the commission in recent years to institute a landmark district in an area of the neighborhood between Myrtle and Jamaica avenues where scores of Victorian homes were built.

In recent years, he noted, many of those residences have been demolished to make way for multi-family brick houses in their place.

The Council member lamented the lack of a landmark district in Richmond Hill, adding that the community is continuing to lose homes and buildings that have been a part of the community fabric for years.

“Every day there’s no landmark status, we lose a part of our history, and that’s sad,” he added.

All Contents © Times Newsweekly

Posted Under: Queens, Richmond Hill, Ridgewood

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