NYC’s Top Six Neighborhoods for Historic Preservation (Part II)

Victorian suburbs in urban Brooklyn

By Tara MacIsaac
Epoch Times Staff
Created: January 19, 2012 Last Updated: January 24, 2012
Related articles: United States » New York City
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The Epoch Times is featuring the six neighborhoods and their unique characteristics in a three-part series; this is the second part. Please CLICK HERE for part one.

A Victorian-style home in Beverley Square East, Flatbush, Brooklyn. (Tara MacIsaac/The Epoch Times)

A Victorian-style home in Beverley Square East, Flatbush, Brooklyn. (Tara MacIsaac/The Epoch Times)

NEW YORK—New York City’s Historic Districts Council, an organization that advocates for preservation in the city, asked New Yorkers to nominate neighborhoods they feel should be top priorities for preservation. HDC picked its 2012 Six to Celebrate, from among the nominations, its second annual list of six neighborhoods that merit special attention from the Landmarks and Preservation Commission.

HDC launched its Six to Celebrate campaign on Wednesday, which includes: Van Cortlandt Village and the Port Morris Gantries in the Bronx; Victorian Flatbush and Bay Ridge in Brooklyn; Morningside Heights in Manhattan; and the Far Rockaway beachside bungalows in Queens.

In the first part of this three-part series on HDC’s six picks, The Epoch Times featured Van Cortlandt Village and the Port Morris Gantries in the Bronx. Now, The Epoch Times will take a look at Victorian Flatbush and Bay Ridge in Brooklyn.

Victorian Flatbush

83rd street-victorian home. (Amal Chen/The Epoch Times)

83rd street-victorian home. (Amal Chen/The Epoch Times)

Once upon a time, in the middle of Brooklyn, developers fought to maintain a suburban environment they could market as such: largish single-family homes, quiet surroundings, lawns, and white picket fences— it was called, “The Village in the City.”

Today, apartment buildings and bodegas crowd in on pockets of Victorian-style homes, making them islands of suburbia in the middle of urban Brooklyn.

The area already has five designated historic districts, but HDC wants to help local community organizations get designation for the remaining six districts containing homes of the same vintage and style. Preservation would maintain this unique vintage and style by legally requiring owners to obtain approval from the city before doing any work on their buildings.

Spanning approximately 2,000 buildings erected by several different developers, the area runs roughly from Church Avenue to Avenue H, between Coney Island Avenue and Ocean Avenue.

Developers insisted on an underground subway line to avoid the “noxious” sound, as HDC Executive Director Simeon Bankoff puts it. That is why the Brighton line, the B and Q trains, remains below ground until just past that area where it emerges and runs above ground through the rest of Brooklyn. It was also one of the first neighborhoods in New York to have its utilities underground.

Bankoff and the seven community groups he is working with—representing Beverley Square East, Beverley Square West, Caton Park, Ditmas Park West, South Midwood, West Midwood, and the Flatbush Development Corporation—hope to preserve the “suburban ruralesque” area of Brooklyn as Bankoff describes it.

Bay Ridge

“People have an image of Bay Ridge, which actually has nothing to do with its reality,” says Bankoff. He says people generally think of mid-20th century detached houses, like those found in parts of Queens. A raised awareness of what this 250-block area has to offer will help preservation efforts, says Bankoff.

He paints a different picture of Bay Ridge: Beautiful 19th century row houses like those in Park Slope, early 20th century apartment buildings like those scattered throughout Manhattan, mid-19th century detached mansions, and thriving commercial space.

“I can’t help you with the sociology, I just know what people expect,” responded Bankoff when questioned about the false impression of the area. Aside from raising awareness, Bankoff sees zoning enforcement as another obstacle.

“They’ve got good zoning, but they have real problems with enforcement,” said Bankoff.

Like Flatbush, Bay Ridge also has Victorian homes, some of which have greatly deteriorated. HDC is now partnering with Bay Ridge Conservancy, which has long worked to preserve the area’s Victorian houses and stone bridges along the Belt Parkway in Leif Eriksson Park.

Local resident Yvonne Lee said the preservation was a good idea.

“I love how the old buildings are,” she said. “If you start building the buildings and everything it’s going to look like everywhere else, you lose the family feeling of it, of the neighborhood.”

Another resident, who had lived in the area for 32 years and preferred not to be named, said: “Everybody should be free to do what they want with their property, why to preserve it? There’s nothing historic here.”

Please CLICK HERE to read the final part in the series of the Six neighborhoods and their unique characteristics.


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