Preservationists and elected officials are pushing to expand Park Slope’s historic district — a move that could protect the neighborhood’s charm amidst a predicted wave of development sparked by the soon-to-open Barclays Center.
Councilmen Steve Levin (D–Park Slope) and Brad Lander (D–Park Slope) are throwing their weight behind a longstanding Park Slope Civic Council effort to extend the community’s already substantial landmark district to include 12 blocks of buildings between Fifth and Sixth avenues bounded by Flatbush Avenue and President Street — effectively barring non-contextual construction in the neighborhood anywhere near the arena.
“For people who live nearby, this is a pretty important thing,” said Park Slope historian Francis Morrone, noting that stadiums rarely rise so close to buildings with so much history and unique style. “Without protection, there’s every reason to think [future development] would be inconsistent with the historic character.”
Indeed, merchants and property owners near the new home of the Brooklyn Nets have already begun putting their land up for sale — raising concerns that a real-estate gold rush near the arena will change the look of Park Slope dramatically.
The proposed district would force owners of landmarked properties to seek special permits from the Landmarks Preservation Commission before altering the facades of their buildings or demolishing their homes, but it won’t include retail establishments on Flatbush and Fifth avenues.
The Civic Council has fought for years to implement a three-phase Park Slope landmarking plan that initially called for preserving almost every building in the neighborhood, but the group began pushing for the smaller historic zone because it is more likely to gain city approval, said Peter Bray, chair of the council’s historic district committee.
Bray claims the landmarking push isn’t a direct response to scheduled opening of the Barclays Center, as the proposal has been in the works for years. But he says the historic zone would help if an arena-influenced wave of development hits Park Slope.
“It’s a tool for preserving architecture integrity, the character of the streetscape and quality of life — and Atlantic Yards has some bearing on that,” said Bray.
Levin — who has not taken a strong public stand on the Atlantic Yards project — also refused to link the landmarking push to the mega-development, but said historic districts can protect buildings that need to be saved.
“As development increases throughout Brooklyn, it is more and more important to preserve the historic character of Park Slope,” said Levin.
Landmarks officials are midway through a survey examining the neighborhood’s “architectural and historical significance” and are now “working to finalize boundaries,” according to spokeswoman Lisi De Bourbon.
It is unlikely the city will approve the district before the Barclays Center opens its doors in September, considering that a similar proposal to expand a landmarked district in South Park Slope has taken about a year and a half with a scheduled final vote in April.Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.
©2012 Community News Group
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