Prospect Heights residents, along with elected officials and local community groups, testified before the Landmarks Preservation Commission on Tuesday afternoon to support designating the neighborhood a historic district.
Advocates of landmark designation included Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Council Member Letitia James, Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, as well as representatives from Community Board 8, the Prospect Heights Neighborhood District Council, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn and others.
"The better Prospect Heights does, the better it is for all of Brooklyn," said Mr. Markowitz, adding that it is "imperative we retain the character of this historic neighborhood."
Ms. James called the designation "long overdue," adding that Prospect Heights has faced development pressures for the last 10 years. "It has already suffered from the demolition of historic buildings," she said.
Those buildings include 330 Park Place, 272 St. Marks Avenue, and 528 Bergen Street, all of which have been torn down since 2005. Residents hope to forestall further demolition in the area, particularly as the Atlantic Yards development on the district’s northern end brings increased attention to Prospect Heights.
Many of the neighborhood’s properties are "underbuilt," meaning that, since the lots are relatively large, owners can erect additions above and behind existing structures. Historic designation proponents expressed concern over construction that would spoil the uniformity of the heights, windows and sculptural details of the area’s brownstones.
Described as "one of Brooklyn’s most architecturally distinct areas" by the LPC, Prospect Heights includes row houses that exemplify Italianate, Neo-Grec, and Romanesque Revival architectural styles, many dating back to the late 19th century.
The historic district would cover a puzzle piece-shaped tract of land northeast of Flatbush Avenue and Sterling Place, preserving 870 lots, including residential, institutional and mixed-use properties. Prospect Heights would join neighboring Park Slope and Crown Heights in securing designation status.
"We tried to find people who oppose this – I haven’t found one person," said Raul Rothblatt of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn and also the executive director of the Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance, a non-profit organization that advises groups on development issues. "My neighbors all support each other and know each other, and I think that’s partly because of the architecture."
Opponents were in the minority, although one local business owner worried that landmark designation would "cripple an owner’s effort to lease their storefront," adding that "entry-level tenants" find it difficult to face the conditions imposed by historic district status.
No date has been set for the LPC’s final vote, although chairman Robert B. Tierney assured it would take place "without undue delay."