Deserving but not Designated: Park Slope

The Park Slope Civic Council has been an effective advocate for enhancing Park Slope’s quality of life since 1896.  In the 1950s and 1960s, it organized the community to keep the urban renewal bulldozers at bay and sparked the efforts that led to the creation of the Park Slope Historic Distric in 1973, one of New York City’s earliest historic districts.  The American Planning Association recognized Park Slope in 2007 as one of America’s Ten Greatest Neighborhoods, an honor that coincided with the Civic Council’s revived advocacy to preserve Park Slope’s vaunted streetscape.  In 2008, the Civic Council adopted a master plan that incorporated five phases for expanding the historic district.  In April 2012, the Landmarks Preservation Commission designated a portion of the South Slope,, which includes the neighborhood’s industrial past in the form of the former Ansonia Clockworks and the adjacent blocks that housed its workers.  While the neighborhood is awaiting the LPC’s vote on an extension in the North Slope, which contains many Civil War-era buildings, PSCC is hard at work with its outreach to property owners within the Center Slope. This area, comprising the next two expansion phases, encompasses many of Park Slope’s most iconic blocks.  PSCC has completed its historical research on twenty blocks, conducted a detailed survey of the buildings within the first of the Center Slope’s phases, and is undertaking an on-going door-to-door canvas of its residents to inform them of the expansion campaign and to document community support.

In 1973 the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the Park Slope Historic District in Brooklyn. The designation report for the district notes that the district’s “tree-lined streets and wide avenues, with houses of relatively uniform height, punctuated by church spires, provide a living illustration of the 19th century characterization of Brooklyn as ‘a city of homes and churches.’” The area, which borders Prospect Park, contains a mix of mansions, rowhouses, apartments and institutional buildings constructed around the turn of the century. However, the district is best identified with its harmonious expanse of two and three-story rowhouses with deep front yards.

In the early 1970s, the Park Slope Civic Council conducted a block-by-block survey of the Park Slope neighborhood and asked the Landmarks Preservation Commission to designate the entire area from Sixth Avenue to Prospect Park West, from Park Place south to 10th Street. The group believed that this area best reflected the history, architecture, development and cohesiveness of the Park Slope neighborhood. However, in designating the Park Slope Historic District, the Commission chose an overly strict interpretation of the “Park Slope” neighborhood. The Commission designated a jagged, L-shaped district that primarily protected the blocks between Prospect Park West and Eighth Avenue. The almost-entire omission of Seventh Avenue, Park Slope’s commercial strip, was a reflection of the Commission’s reluctance in its early years to designate and regulate commercial buildings within residential districts. The architecture of the many un-designated blocks in Park Slope is similar in integrity, style and period of development of the blocks that have been protected for over thirty years.

The Park Slope Civic Council has continued throughout the years to advocate for an expansion of the district. HDC encourages the designation of the district by the LPC. It is incredibly important that we preserve the neighborhood and individual buildings from demolition and inappropriate alteration so that they can continue to bring life and enjoyment to the many individuals who make their homes and businesses here.

Study Area 3 (PSCC proposal; Center Slope above 6th Ave):

Study Area 5 (PSCC proposal; South Slope above 5th Ave):