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Landmarks Commission Votes to Designate Bedford Historic District

By Camille Bautista | December 8, 2015 2:03pm
 The city's Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to designated the Bedford Historic District on Tuesday.
The city's Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to designated the Bedford Historic District on Tuesday.
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Landmarks Preservation Commission

BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — In a victory for preservationists, the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission voted Tuesday to designate another section of Bedford-Stuyvesant an historic district.

LPC approved the designation of the Bedford Historic District, a swath of 800 buildings between Bedford and Tompkins avenues and Monroe and Macon streets.

The vote garnered cheers and applause from audience members, many of whom had fought in favor of the proposal for the past eight years.

“When you walk around this district, it clearly is the definition of why we’re doing what we do,” said LPC Commissioner John Gustafsson.

Another commissioner marveled at how long it took for the designation, adding that the area is a “museum of late 19th century architecture.”

The earliest development in the district began in 1870 to 1877, according to LPC’s Michael Caratzas, who gave Tuesday’s presentation.

Early Italianate, Neo-Grec and Queen Anne architectural styles are among those seen in the neighborhood and the area is home to several landmark buildings including Nostrand Avenue’s Girls High School and Boys High School on Marcy Avenue.

LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan noted Bed-Stuy’s historical significance as a hub for African-American and Caribbean families.

“I think that cultural layer is equally important as its architectural merits,” she said, adding that the neighborhood is “obviously an historic district.”

During a public hearing in January 2013, the proposal faced opposition from residents who argued that the designation would raise property values and rents, which would in turn push out long-time residents.

LPC received 355 letters and emails in support of the designation, according to agency representatives, and more than 220 letters from people seeking more information on the process.

Following the hearing, questions were raised about the proposed boundaries and inclusion of the northern-most parts of the district, specifically the south side of Monroe Street, and both sides of Madison and Putnam avenues, Caratzas said Tuesday.

Analysis of the streets led to LPC’s recommendation to include them for their "high architectural integrity" and historical relationship to the rest of the district, he added.

For Claudette Brady, who has been working with fellow Bed-Stuy residents on the designation since 2007, Tuesday’s vote was long overdue.

“I’m just happy,” said Brady, a founder of the Bedford Stuyvesant Society for Historic Preservation. “We’ve been at this for a long time. It should have been done, it’s taken way too long.”

Linda Thorne, who has lived in the neighborhood for more than 50 years, shared in Brady’s elation. Her grandparents moved to Bed-Stuy in the 1930s and her family has been in the area since, she said.

“It’s very emotional,” said Thorne, who testified in favor of the district in 2013. “These buildings are the gems of Brooklyn, the gems of Bed-Stuy.”

“I’m so happy to be here at this moment to witness this, for my grandchildren to know I was part of making this area historical. We just appreciate the years to come.”

The designation will now go before the City Planning Commission for review and the City Council for a vote.

If approved by the council, the Bedford Historic District will join the Stuyvesant Heights Historic District, which was approved in 1971, and its expansion, which was designated in 2013.