From the Preservation Archive (project that is): Tales of the Brooklyn Heights Promenade

From the Brooklyn Eagle

Review & Comment:
Preservation Agonies

by Henrik Krogius (,
published online 11-28-2007

In the spring of 1953 alarm swept Brooklyn Heights. The new Promenade, open to the public for a little over two years, was threatened with view-blocking new warehouses across Furman Street that would rise 20 feet higher than the Promenade’s 50-foot level. The Brooklyn Heights Association mobilized a letter-writing campaign. Curiously as it seems now, people were advised not to complain about the loss of the view but to stress such factors as noise and noxious fumes bouncing back from the proposed warehouses and affecting the health and well-being of Heights residents. But of course the view was what really mattered to most people.

The campaign for the Promenade view is briefly alluded to by Anthony C. Wood in his new book, “Preserving New York: Winning the Right to Protect a City’s Landmarks”, as one of the many strands that went into the almost century-long efforts that eventuated in the city’s 1965 Landmarks Law. A variety of campaigns, such as an early one to curb the proliferation of billboards, helped generate a consciousness that the city could be more beautiful than it was shaping up to be. Indeed, the notion of beauty – whether in the distinction of architecture or in the quality of certain views – plays a central role in Wood’s history.

© Brooklyn Daily Eagle 2007

See also:

Cityroom Blog

November 27, 2007, 5:10 pm
Rewriting the History of New York Preservation
By Sewell Chan

A new book challenges the widely held notion that the destruction of the original Pennsylvania Station in 1963-64 — a watershed event in New York’s postwar history — gave birth to the movement to preserve landmarks and save the city’s architectural heritage.

To be sure, the demolition of Pennsylvania Station is widely seen today as a tragedy. The eagle-topped Beaux-Arts edifice had served since 1910 as an elegant neoclassical gateway; it was replaced with the squat, drab and never widely loved Madison Square Garden complex. In recent years, the destruction of Penn Station has assumed a greater and greater importance in the public imagination.

“The power and romance of this straightforward explanation of how New York City won the right to protect its landmarks is hard to resist,” Anthony C. Wood writes in the new book. “As the answer to the question ‘How did New York get its Landmarks Law?’ it suffers from just one fundamental problem. It is a myth.”

The book, “Preserving New York: Winning the Right to Protect a City’s Landmarks,” traces the history of the modern preservation system all the way back to the City Beautiful movement of the early 20th century.

“What grew out of the rubble of Pennsylvania Station was the powerful myth that New York’s Landmarks Law owed its very existence to the loss of that station,” Mr. Wood has said. “As wonderful a morality tale as that has become, it has just one problem: It just isn’t true. It’s robbed us of 50 years of wonderful history that is inspiring, informative and instructive.”

He added that his book marked an effort to “reclaim” that history.

Posted Under: Brooklyn Heights, Legislation, LPC

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *