Regarding the Designation of the second Crown Heights Historic District

October 27, 2009

Statement of the Historic Districts Council before the Landmarks Preservation Commission in support of the designation of the proposed Crown Heights North II Historic District 

The Historic Districts Council is the city-wide advocate for New York City’s historic districts and for neighborhood meriting preservation.  HDC is very pleased to offer enthusiastic support for the proposed Crown Heights North Historic District. 

Three years ago HDC joined many other supporters testifying in favor of landmarking the first phase of the Crown Heights North Historic District.  We are happy to be here again for phase two and look forward to hearings to designate further pieces of this architecturally important neighborhood.

Over thirty years since the Landmarks Commission first surveyed the area, Crown Heights North’s architecture is still incredibly intact, displaying an astonishing variety of brownstones, row houses, wood frame structures, free-standing mansions, as well as first-class educational and religious institutions. Earlier freestanding homes such as the Queen Anne-style 834 Prospect Place still stand by some of the most lovely and detailed rowhouses in Brooklyn.  Homes ranging in style from early Italianate to Romanesque Revival feature a wide mix of designs and treatments and make for a district that is both visually stimulating and rich with history; even the elevator apartments which replaced some of the mansions were designed by notable architects in the Tudor Revival, Mediterranean and Art Deco styles. Phase II also includes the Brooklyn Methodist Episcopal Church Home at 920 Park Place, a rare example of a Victorian era complex of this scale. This is truly a neighborhood of architectural elegance and excellence.

Many longtime residents have taken enormous pride in owning and maintaining such attractive and historic houses. Not only have they been fine stewards of their beautiful homes but in many cases, owners have gone the extra mile and restored buildings that had been previously lost to neglect and time. When HDC first visited this neighborhood in 2002, a few of the buildings were in obvious need of maintenance and restoration. One particularly prominent house had suffered from extensive fire damage. The years since have demonstrated a remarkable rejuvenation to many of these buildings. This is an exemplary example of community members acting to restore and enhance the historic character of their area.  Residents have spent their time, energy, money and heart in being guardians of the fantastic architectural treasure chest where they live. They deserve to see this area preserved and protected for future generations.

HDC has been an ardent supporter of the designation of Crown Heights North for many years working alongside the dedicated Crown Heights North Association. Early on, HDC was pleased to help organize community forums and meetings where local citizens could hear more about the designation process, and was intensely gratified to see that the response was overwhelming, with more than 250 people in attendance at the first community forum. In 2007, HDC gave the Crown Heights North Association a Grassroots Awards for their tireless advocacy.

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. HDC is pleased to support this second phase of the Crown Heights Historic District and is also pleased that the LPC incorporated HDC’s suggestions for inclusion of additional buildings in the district differing from the original proposed map. We urge the Commission to continue their exemplary work and calendar the next portion of the district as soon as possible so that the entire community can enjoy the benefits that landmark designation affords.

Posted Under: Brooklyn, Crown Heights North, LPC, testimony, The Politics of Preservation

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