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Save our nabe - Locals: expand historic district

Preservationists from Fort Greene and Clinton Hill continued their push to get expanded historic districts in their neighborhoods with a recent pitch to Community Board 2.

Sharon Barnes, the co-chair of the Society for Clinton Hill (SCH), and Richard Norton from the Fort Greene Association (FGA) presented the expanded plan at the recent CB 2 Land Use Committee meeting.

“We got an irregular [historic] district designated in 1981, so now we’re going back to the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) to fill in the holes,” said Barnes.

An historic district is an area of the city designated by the LPC that represents at least one period or style of architecture typical of one or more areas in the city’s history.

Once a historic district is created, property owners cannot change the façade of their building without approval from the LPC.

According to the LPC map, the current Clinton Hill Historic District is bound by Myrtle Avenue to the north; Hall Street, Grand Avenue and Downing Street to the east; just north of Putnam Avenue and Fulton Street to the south; and Vanderbilt Avenue to the east.

Generally, the expanded district would include properties and areas northwest between Myrtle Avenue and Willoughby Avenue to Vanderbilt Avenue; and south along Fulton Street extending to Atlantic Avenue and including neighborhoods around St. James and Lefferts Place.

According to the LPC map, the current Fort Greene Historic District includes all of Fort Greene Park and is generally bound by Myrtle Avenue and Willoughby Avenue to the north; Vanderbilt Avenue to the east; along jagged blocks almost to Fulton Street to the south; and St. Edwards Street and South Elliott Place to the west.

The extension would combine the designated Fort Greene and Brooklyn Academy of Music Historic Districts into a single entity and entail the designation of blocks to the north, south, east and west of the designated buildings.

The largest extension is proposed for the south and the west. It would include Ashland Place, St. Felix Street, Fort Greene Place, and the west side of South Elliott Place between DeKalb Avenue and Fulton Street/Lafayette Avenue.

A second, smaller extension is proposed to the north of the designated historic district and generally includes block fronts on Carlton Avenue, Adelphi Street, and Clermont Avenue between Myrtle Avenue and Willoughby Avenue.

This portion also includes buildings on the west side of Vanderbilt Avenue between Willoughby and DeKalb avenues, as well as buildings facing onto Myrtle and Willoughby avenues.

Andrew Dolkart, professor of Historic Preservation at Columbia University, prepared both the Fort Greene and Clinton accompanying reports with the application to expand the respective historic districts.

“We tried to be very precise on only recommending things the LPC would accept and were coached to not over-reach,” said Barnes.

Both Barnes and Norton allowed that some property owners were concerned that expanding the district to include their property would cause more red tape delays if they planned façade improvements.

However, the two proponents of the expansion countered that realtors in the area have testified that historic districts add to property values.

Barnes and Norton came to the CB 2 Land Use Committee for a vote to recommend the expansions to expedite the process as the LPC has many such applications concerning historic districts citywide.

City Councilmember Letitia James and Borough President Marty Markowitz have already provided letters in support.

Following Barnes’ and Norton’s presentations, the CB 2 Land Use Committee recommended the expansions. The measure will now move to the full community board for a vote at their May meeting.

LPC spokesperson Elisabeth de Bourbon stopped short of saying the expansions would be calendared in for a vote for approval.

“In August 2007 Councilmember Letitia James asked the Commission to evaluate proposed extensions to the existing Clinton Hill and Fort Greene Historic Districts,” said de Bourbon in an email.

“Those extensions are currently under review by Commission staff, and boundaries have not yet been finalized,” she added.

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