Regarding the proposed Bedford-Stuyvesant /Expanded Stuyvesant Heights Historic District
Statement of the Historic Districts Council
Before the Landmarks Preservation Commission
Regarding the proposed designation of the Bedford-Stuyvesant/Expanded Stuyvesant Heights Historic District
August 2, 2011
The Historic Districts Council is the citywide advocate for New York’s historic neighborhoods and buildings. HDC is thrilled to have the opportunity to speak in support of the Bedford-Stuyvesant/Expanded Stuyvesant Heights Historic District.
The architectural splendor of this remarkable Brooklyn neighborhood speaks for itself. It is one of New York City’s richest and most remarkable collections of 19th-century rowhouses, punctuated with handsome small apartment buildings and drop-dead gorgeous institutional structures. Looking at Bedford-Stuyvesant, one almost imagines the speculative developers of the Gilded Age sitting down together at a gentleman’s club and deciding that as long as they were going to build houses for a living, they were going to make darned sure those houses were elegant since – as everyone knows – beauty sells. They did their job well.
In addition to the obvious architectural merit of the area, the cultural significance of the area is also note-worthy. Bedford-Stuyvesant is a supreme example of the enduring value of historic neighborhoods. Built for an immigrant population of Europeans and New Englanders, it became home to another newly-arriving population during the 20th century, transforming into one of the largest and most well-known Black neighborhoods in America. The African- and Caribbean-American New Yorkers who have called this neighborhood home for almost a century have grown deep roots in the community, roots which are nurtured by and have helped protect their fantastic built urban environment. This community is truly an example of the lasting value of a historic neighborhood – these buildings have been home to generations of New Yorkers and with the LPC’s oversight, they will remain to become the homes and churches and gathering places for generations to come.
This year, HDC chose the first class of our “Six to Celebrate”, New York City’s only list of preservation priorities selected directly from the communities. Placing Bedford-Stuyvesant on that list was an obvious choice, given the architectural quality of the neighborhood, the significance of its history to New York City and the strength of its community. We have had the pleasure of working closely with a diverse, intelligent and passionate group of volunteers from Bedford Stuyvesant who are devoted to preserving and protecting their neighborhood. It is to a large extent due to their efforts that we have come to today’s hearing. HDC thanks the Landmarks Commission for taking this long-awaited first step in recognizing and preserving Bedford Stuyvesant and we look forward to continuing to work with the agency and all our neighborhood partners in furthering and expanding preservation efforts in the area.