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The Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council and the Municipal Art Society have been advocating for an historic district in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn since 2006. Neighborhood volunteers catalogued and photographed roughly 1,100 buildings, which formed the basis of a report to the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC).

Tomorrow (Tuesday, October 28) from 1:30-3:30pm, the LPC will holding a public hearing at the Municipal Building on the proposed historic district, which includes roughly 870 properties. Read more about it at the MAS website. View a map of the proposed district here (PDF).

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Task Force member organization The Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance, which focuses on the outer boroughs, has announced it’s 2008 Preservation Awards. This year’s honorees are:

-David Carnivale, an architect and preservationist who saved the 1678 Lakeman-Cortelyou house in Staten Island

-Castle Coalition, a resource for businesses and residents fighting eminent domain around the country and in New York neighborhoods such as Downtown Brooklyn, Prospect Heights, Willets Point, and 125th Street

-Crown Heights North Association, for its work on the Crown Heights Historic district and promotion of the neighborhood’s architecture

-Historic District Council’s League of Preservation Voters, an initiative to facilitate an informed dialogue in City Council races that encourages community input on local development and preservation concerns

-Juniper Park Civic Association, which Fought valiantly to save an 1847 Richard Upjohn country gothic church, which has been moved and will be reassembled

-Assembly Member Rory Lancman, who has cosponsored much legislation protecting homeowners and worked to provide greater oversight of the DOB.

-Barnett Shepherd, founder of the Preservation League of Staten Island

-South Brooklyn Legal Service, which was instrumental in litigation preventing NYC from destroying the Duffield Street Abolitionist homes in Downtown Brooklyn via eminent domain

The awardees will be honored on Thursday at 6pm at a fundraiser for the organization at the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace, 28 East 20th Street. Tickets are $40 and must be paid for in advance by mailing a check to:

Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance Foundation
c/o Neighborhood Preservation Center
232 East 11th St.
New York, NY 10003

Yesterday, the Landmarks Preservation Commission approved revised plans for the redevelopment of the Domino Sugar Factory on the Williamsburg waterfront. The new plan includes less glass on top of the historic factory building, and saves the complex’s iconic sign, as shown in this rendering, via the NY Observer.

Developer Michael Lappin of CPC Resources implied in a statement that the new design may threaten some of the planned affordable housing: “The reduction in size translates into a loss of more than 20,000 square feet of residential space or over 20 apartments. This presents an economic challenge that we must meet to fulfill our firm commitment to develop 660 affordable housing units,” he said.

Blogger Flatbush Gardener attended the Department of City Planning’s preliminary public hearing on Thursday regarding the rezoning of the northern section of Brooklyn Community District 14, which includes part of Flatbush, Prospect Park South, Ditmas Park, Fiske Terrace, South Midwood, etc. The goal of the plans is four-fold:

1) Preserve the existing free-standing (detached) single- and two-family houses.

2) Match new zoning to existing buildings as closely as possible without “under zoning.”

3) Encourage creation of affordable housing through incentives.

4) Create opportunities for commercial growth.

Flatbush Gardener has a thorough overview of the hearing, and goes into detail with case studies explaining how the rezoning will affect certain areas. A main concern in the neighborhood seems to be that the rezoning could threaten the area’s historic Victorian homes. The proposal has not been certified yet, so ULURP has yet to begin.

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Meanwhile, DCP has certified, and begun the ULURP process, for a contextual rezoning of Waldheim, Queens, located southeast of downtown Flushing. According to DCP, the rezoning would,

“-preserve the predominantly lower-density character of the Waldheim neighborhood;

-ensure that future development be consistent with existing development patterns;

-reformulate commercial zoning to be more reflective of existing development patterns;

-and provide limited opportunities for new housing development in areas most able to support it.”

Queens Community Board 7 has until August 11 to hold a public hearing and issue a recommendation.

What do YOU think? Considering that PlaNYC 2030 posits that New York City will have a million more people by 2030, are downzonings like these good for the City’s future? How can the Administration balance the need for growth with the preservation of neighborhood character?

The NYC Economic Development Corporation today announced the selection of three Brooklyn non-profit organizations, including Community-Based Planning Task Force members Neighbors Allied for Good Growth (formerly Neighbors Against Garbage), to redevelop two former firehouses.

The Brooklyn Philharmonic will turn one site on Degraw Street in Cobble Hill into the BP Music Center, which will house the orchestra and serve as a community cultural center.

NAG and the People’s Firehouse will turn a second site in Williamsburg into the Northside Town Hall Community Center and Cultural Center, which will contain the offices of both organizations, and meeting space, exhibition and performance/rehearsal space for local arts organizations. According to EDC, all three organizations plan to preserve the character and appearance of the 19th Century firehouse buildings.

“Good economic development should always be accompanied by development that makes communities more attractive places to live and work. I am pleased that EDC was able to assist in this remarkable effort to redevelop these historic firehouses for use by and service to their communities,” said EDC President Seth W. Pinsky. “The projects will also provide growth opportunities for three important not-for-profit community cultural organizations.”

Wednesday, May 28 is the second annual Preservation Lobby Day in NYC. At 2pm, over 40 preservation organizations will gather on the steps of City Hall to advocate for a restoration of $300,000 to the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s budget.

In 2006, the City Council allocated $250,000 in additional funds to the LPC, allowing the agency to hire five new full-time staff researchers. Last year, that amount increased to $300,000. However, this year, the Mayor has not included this funding in the LPC’s 2009 budget. Including the extra $300,000, the LPC’s budget comprises less than one-hundredth of one percent of the entire city budget, however this small amount can make a huge difference in the way the agency functions.

The organizations involved ask that anyone wishing to join the rally bring a sign or prop illustrating your favorite undesignated neighborhood or building so that the Council and the public can see all of the various sites across the city that require the LPC’s attention.

The Municipal Art Society has created a video supporting LPC funding, which you can watch here.

Cornell University’s Preservation Planning program is offering a four-session “shortcourse” on preservation and sustainability for professionals in the public and private sectors and students, taking place in the first week of June.  According to the website “Each one-day course addresses a different aspect of sustainability—green building, environment, equity and economics— through the strategies, tools and ethos of historic preservation.”  The schedule is as follows:

  • 6/2 Green Preservation: Tools and Strategies for a More Sustainable Re-Use
  • 6/3 Equity: Historic Districts and Fluid Communities: The Case of Jackson Heights
  • 6/4 Economics: New Life for Vacant and Abandoned Housing: The South Bronx
  • 6/5 Rivers Lost, Resources Rediscovered: The Bronx and Sawmill Rivers

Registration is $110 per course, or $440 for all four.  Check out the online schedule for more details about topics, locations, and professors.

Each year, the National Trust for Historic Preservation issues a list of what it considers the 11 most endangered historic places in the country. Last year, they recognized Brooklyn’s threatened industrial waterfront. This year, they turn their sights on Manhattan, adding the Lower East Side to the list. The Trust writes,

Few places in America can boast such a rich tapestry of history, culture and architecture as New York’s Lower East Side. However, this legendary neighborhood—the first home for waves of immigrants since the 18th century—is now undergoing rapid development. New hotels and condominium towers are being erected across the area, looming large over the original tenement streetscape. As this building trend shows no sign of abating, it threatens to erode the fabric of the community and wipe away the collective memory of generations of immigrant families.”

The National Trust encourages readers to support the proposed Lower East Side Historic District, which, despite its controversial beginnings, now has a broad coalition of support. The public will also have the opportunity to participate in discussions about the Lower East Side’s future during the public hearing process for the proposed East Village/LES rezoning, which is now in front of Community Board 3, and will soon move forward to the Borough President, the City Planning Commission, and the City Council. (This rezoning has been extremely controversial as well).

Other NYC locations have made the National Trust’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list over the years, including: Ellis Island (1992), historic cornices and buildings of Harlem (1994), the Bronx River Parkway (1995), The East End Historic District (1996), Governors Island (1998), the TWA terminal at JFK Airport (2003), and the “Survivors’ Stairs” at the World Trade Center site (2006).

Image of the LES from the Williamsburg Bridge via Wired New York.

The Citizens Emergency Committee to Preserve Preservation is hosting PRESERVATION SUMMIT III this Thursday, April 17, 2008 at 6pm at the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen Library (20 West 44th Street, Manhattan between Fifth and Sixth Avenues).

According to the CECPP, the agenda will include a special presentation by former Landmarks Chair Gene A. Norman on the creation of an independent process for evaluating candidates for appointment as Landmarks Commissioners, as well as a report on CECPP’s new lawsuit to compel LPC action on longstanding Requests for Evaluation on potential landmarks and historic districts.

This is part of CECPP’s strategic campaign designed to 1) ensure fairness in the LPC’s process, 2) re-establish LPC independence, and 3) secure appropriate resources so that the LPC has the budget and staff it needs to perform its crucial mandate.

RSVP to citizens@savelpc.org or call 212-380-8612. (Side note: Have you seen their YouTube video? This song will never leave your head. Don’t say we didn’t warn you).

Yesterday, the Landmarks Preservation Commission hosted a continuation of the public hearing on St. Vincent’s/Rudin Management Co.’s planned development in Greenwich Village.

According to our source, who attended the meeting, public testimony took about two hours, during which about 50 people testified, approximately 90% of whom opposed the plan.  St. Vincent’s then had 30-minutes to respond, followed by a 2-hour question/answer session between the Commissioners and St. Vincent’s CEO, lawyer and architects.

According to thee Observer, LPC Chair Bob Tierney stated that St. Vincent’s plan clearly needs rethinking: “‘You can reasonably infer from some of the lines of questioning that aspects of this proposal should be rethought and restudied,’ Mr. Tierney said in an e-mail yesterday.”

Still, as the Commission did not have adequate time to complete its questioning, the hearing will likely be continued again in early May.  Updates to come.

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