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Historic District Vote Divides Residents of Stapleton Block

By Nicholas Rizzi | January 24, 2014 10:58am
 Residents have divided against a vote to turn Harrison Street into a historic district next month.
Harrison Street
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STAPLETON — A yearslong fight over designating a quiet Stapleton block as a historic district has divided neighbors again after the Landmarks Preservation Commission set a date for a vote on it next month.

Residents against the plan have started to canvas the block to try and get the LPC to shut down the plan, which they feel will make living in the neighborhood expensive and force residents out.

"If we were wealthy upper class, if we bought homes to flip them, this wouldn't be such an issue," said Linda Acevedo, a teacher who has lived on the block for more than 10 years.

"Whenever something goes wrong with this house, it could bankrupt us."

However, residents who have backed the plan, which has been discussed for more than 20 years, say they're excited a vote has been set and it will be the only thing to save the block from future overdevelopment.

"A developer could come and knock down a house and put a road up the middle and two rows of houses on both sides," said artist Jeff Kolasinski, 54, who's lived on the block for 20 years. "If it's not protected it's just going to disappear."

Cynthia Mailman, who owns 90-95 Harrison St. and lives nearby on Broad Street, said with new development on the waterfront, the block's historic homes probably would be pulled down if they weren't protected.

"It's the only thing that can protect the homes, besides zoning," she said. "I believe that there are things that should be saved for future generations."

The historic Harrison Street, tucked away in Stapleton near Broad Street, has 43 homes that make up a "rare surviving mid-to-late-19th-century residential village enclave in New York City and a significant reminder of when Stapleton was an important business center," the LPC said.

Ray Pose, 67, a licensed contractor who owns two houses on the block, said he wants the historic nature of the block saved, but the creation of a historic district would make it costly to make any repairs on his homes.

"It's admirable that they want to save the houses but their approach is put on the shoulders of the homeowners," Pose said. "That's going to change the whole character of the neighborhood."

After historic designation, homeowners have to ask the LPC for permission to make repairs and have to use more expensive materials than they would if the houses weren't protected, Pose said.

"I can't just go down to Home Depot and put something on the house — I have to do all custom work," Pose said. "Right there, that brings the price up tremendously."

But Mailman said that the designation would stop people from making additions that ruin the historic nature of the homes.

"People have been doing things to their homes that are not good," she said.

The LPC set the vote for Feb. 11.