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Landmarks Commission Votes to Expand Stuyvesant Heights Historic District

By Paul DeBenedetto | April 16, 2013 1:45pm | Updated on April 16, 2013 2:11pm

BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — A long-awaited expansion to the Stuyvesant Heights Historic District was finally approved on Tuesday morning, capping what neighbors called a decades-long battle to include a significant portion of the surrounding area into the district.

In a unanimous vote, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to more-than double the existing district, an announcement that resulted in applause from the roughly dozen members in attendance. 

"When it was first heard, it was tabled at that time, because of lack of consensus," said commision Chair Robert B. Tierney shortly before the vote. "There is no lack of consensus today."

Since its initial designation as a historic district in 1971, neighbors and activists say they've tried to expand the district in order to include surrounding blocks with similar architecture. But attempts to expand in 1993 and 2006 were rebuffed by the landmarks commission, neighbors said.

After repeated requests from Brooklyn Community Board 3 and the Bedford-Stuyvesant Society for Historic Preservation, the commision finally agreed to meet again with locals in 2010. What they found was a group of knowledgable, passionate residents, according to Claudette Brady of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Society for Historic Preservation.

"What really got LPC to move forward was really coming out to the community," Brady said. "They were amazed at the knowledge of the residents."

A small sticking point during Tuesday's vote involved a small section of the proposed expansion that some commissioners said should not be included.

The section, on the corner of Chauncey Street and Malcolm X Boulevard, includes a one-story deli and an empty lot. Some on the commission argued that the space didn't fit with the rest of the neighborhood.

"There's a reason you designate districts," said commissioner Margery Perlmutter. "There's got to be some way to limit the contours of the district."

Pablo E. Vengoechea, the commision's vice chair, argued that the section should be included so that landmarks could have some control over what becomes developed in the area. He also argued that including the two lots would better define the boundaries of the district.

"I'm very concerned about cohesive boundaries," said Vengoechea. "We should really be looking at this with a view toward the future."

The commission ultimately voted to keep the section.

After the vote, excited Bedford-Stuyvesant residents left the hall, smiling and carrying signs that read "Landmark Historic Bedford-Stuyvesant."

Community Board 3 Landmarks Chair Evelyn Collier called the decision "long overdue."

"It should have been done in '71, but we're glad the consensus is now here," Collier said. "It's a great feeling. Now we can move on."