Doctor’s Row takes step forward to historic landmarking

If the famous Bay Ridge block known as “Doctor’s Row” is eventually declared a historic district by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, then homeowners on the street will be looking back at March 26 as a significant day.

The commission voted unanimously Tuesday to “calendar” the proposal for historic district status for the block of Bay Ridge Parkway between Fourth and Fifth avenues.

This begins the process of granting special status to the 400 Block of Bay Ridge Parkway.

“It is a first step and a very encouraging first step,” said Brian Kaszuba, chairperson of Community Board 10’s Zoning and Land Use Committee. The committee has enthusiastically endorsed an effort led by the Bay Ridge Parkway Block Association for historic status.

The next step in the process would be a public hearing.

“We’re excited!” Block Association Founder Linda Assini said on Monday. Historic district status would mean that the façades of the buildings would be protected, said Assini, who filed the application with the city.

Bay Ridge Parkway would be the first historic district in Community Board 10.

The tree-lined block of Bay Ridge Parkway has caught the eye of history buffs, architecture fans and housing preservationists who marvel at the beautiful Renaissance Revival limestone row houses lining the street that were built in the late 19th Century by the same firm, Bay Ridge Development Company.

“What’s really wonderful is that this block looks pretty much the same as it did when it was first built,” Assini said.

Bay Ridge residents know it as Doctor’s Row, a nickname that stems from the many physicians’ offices located there.

Dr. Roy Olsen, a podiatrist who has an office on the block, said his building was constructed in 1899. He recently dug up a photocopy of an old advertisement for the block that boasted “new coal and gas ranges and a maid’s toilet,” among the selling points. The price tag for the house was $6,500.

“We take a lot of pride in this block,” he said. “We put in new tree pits and plantings. We do what we can to take care of it.”

Historic district status would make it easier to obtain grants for other beautification projects, Olsen said. “It’s going to open doorways,” he predicted.

The Historic Districts Council of New York City provided support and guidance to the block association, according to Assini.

If historic district status is granted, a homeowner on the block who would want to make major changes to the façade of the house would have to obtain the approval of the Landmarks Preservation Commission. The restriction does not cover the interior of the building, meaning that homeowners are free to renovate within their homes.

Special status for Doctor’s Row would be a point of pride for all of Bay Ridge, Assini said.

“I think it’s fantastic for the whole neighborhood. It’s important for people to have a pride of place. It builds a sense of community,” she said.

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