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Prospect Heights Historic District: LPC Takes First Step in Making it Official

prospect heights brooklyn new york historic district landmarkOn Tuesday, July 15 the Landmarks Preservation Commission will “calendar” the Prospect Heights Historic District, the first step toward protecting one of Brooklyn’s finest – and most endangered – historic neighborhoods.

“MAS applauds the Landmarks Preservation Commission for moving to protect this very special and threatened neighborhood,” said Lisa Kersavage, director of advocacy and policy for the Municipal Art Society. “The process by which the historic district was created is a model of civic partnership coupled with cutting-edge technology.”

Prospect Heights is rich in historic architecture, with blocks of beautiful Italianate and neo-Grec rowhouses, interspersed with churches, small commercial and apartment buildings. Located just north of Prospect Park, the neighborhood has seen few changes since it was first developed in the late-19th Century. Today it is threatened by the Atlantic Yards project, a proposal by the developer Forest City Ratner to build 16 towers and a sports arena on a 22-acre site adjacent to the neighborhood.

“The Landmarks Commission has obviously recognized the threat posed to the character of one of Brooklyn’s most well-preserved brownstone neighborhoods,” said Gib Veconi, chair of the Prospect Heights Development Corporation. “The pressure from the Atlantic Yards project and other recent developments are of grave concern to the hundreds of local residents who have written in support of historic designation for Prospect Heights. We’re all grateful for LPC’s swift action in moving the process forward.”

This announcement marks a significant milestone for an innovative civic partnership between the Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) and the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Corporation (PHNDC). The two groups teamed up in 2006 advocate for historic district designation. The proposed district’s boundaries, which contain more than 750 buildings, closely match those that were recommended by the two organizations.

Beginning in 2006, MAS provided a basic training program for neighborhood residents on historic building survey techniques. Over 20 local volunteers took to the streets to catalogue and photograph roughly 1,100 buildings. MAS staff converted this information into a map using its in-house Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology. In early 2007 the two groups submitted to the Landmarks Preservation Commission a comprehensive report including the database, photographs and a proposal for a historic district of more than 800 buildings was submitted to the commission.

“Enabling the Prospect Heights residents to build on the initial research with their own local knowledge and expertise was invaluable,” said Juan Camilo Osorio, senior GIS analyst/planner at MAS. “They outlined the bones and tissue of the district and we used our technology to create a map for the Landmarks Commission.”

The next step in the process of designation will be a public hearing in Fall 2008.