Proposal has wide support at Landmarks Commission hearing
The residents of a picturesque Bay Ridge block moved a step closer on Tuesday to winning their fight for landmarking, an achievement that would establish the first historic district in the neighborhood.
The city’s Landmark Preservation Commission held a public hearing on the proposal, where they heard testimony from a wide variety of witnesses.
Neighborhood residents, preservation experts, Community Board 10 representatives and local lawmakers testified in front of the city’s Landmark Preservation Commision on Tuesday, either in person or via written testimony, on the proposal to grant official historic district status to the block of Bay Ridge Parkway between Fourth and Fifth avenues.
The commission will vote on the proposal next month. If it is approved, the City Council has 120 days to modify or disapprove the designation. A vote in favor of the designation by the council is not required.
Witnesses at the hearing were unanimous in their support for landmarking, said Linda Assini, who co-founded the Bay Ridge Parkway 400 Block Association and filed the application with the city.
“I think it went very well,” she said.
Bay Ridge Parkway is a tree-lined street boasting lines of well-preserved limestone row houses. The two-story homes, many fronted by gardens, were built in the early years of the 20th century.
Bay Ridge residents came to call the block “Doctors’ Row” due to the large number of medical offices located there. There are still several doctors’ offices on the block today.
State Sen. Andrew Gounardes, Councilmember Justin Brannan and CB10 Zoning Committee Chairperson Brian Kaszuba all expressed enthusiastic support for the proposal.
“It means a lot to us that our elected officials and the community board are supporting us,” Assini said.
Historic district status would preserve the façades of the 54 buildings on the block, according to advocates. A property owner seeking to make major changes to the façade would first have to obtain the approval of the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
“The block is worth taking care of,” Assini said.
Bay Ridge Parkway would be the first street in CB10 to be declared a New York City historic district. Board 10 covers Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Fort Hamilton. There are three city landmarks in the area — Fort Hamilton, the Bennett-Farrell House at 119 95th St. and the Gingerbread House at 29 83rd St. — but no historic districts.
History buffs, architecture fans and housing preservationists have marveled at the beautiful Renaissance Revival limestone row houses on the block. The buildings were constructed by the same firm, the Bay Ridge Development Company, between 1906 and 1913.
Kelly Carroll, director of advocacy for the Historic Districts Council, who has provided expertise and technical assistance to Bay Ridge Parkway residents, testified at the hearing and said she was impressed by the unanimous support for the proposal. “No opposition is always a good thing. All of the testimony was positive. It helped that there were many property owners on the block who showed up,” she said.
The council is a nonprofit organization that advocates for the preservation of historic buildings in New York City. The organization works with grassroots groups across the city.
The block in question is special, according to Carroll, who is a Bay Ridge resident. “It has a distinct sense of place,” she said. “The block has remained intact. Several of the houses have retained their original doors. And limestone is an exceptionally high quality of stone.”
Assini said having a historic district could be positive for all of Bay Ridge, not just her block’s residents. “The sense of pride in our community is priceless,” she said.