On Tuesday, the city's Landmark Preservation Commission approved the creation of a new historic district in Brooklyn's predominantly West Indian-American and Hasidic Jewish neighborhood of Crown Heights: the Crown Heights North II Historic District.
The new district includes 610 row houses, apartment buildings and large Queen Anne-style homes, most of which were built between 1870 and 1920. The area is bound by Bergen St. to the north, Brooklyn Ave. to the east, Eastern Parkway to the south and Nostrand Ave. to the west; and it borders a pre-existing, 472-building historic area that the Landmark Preservation Commission designated as a historic district in 2007.
"The neighborhood is really an exquisite mosaic of remarkably well preserved examples of architectural styles and building types," said the commission's chairman Robert Tierney.
Area resident Deborah Young created the Crown Heights North Association to help generate interest in landmarking in the community and to educate her neighbors on the benefits of a historic district, which she says include increased property values and protection from the kind of over-development happening elsewhere in Brooklyn.
“Look at what’s going on in Downtown Brooklyn with the building of these huge structures,” said Young. “Not that they're not nice in their own right, but they're keeping with the brownstones that you have in many of our neighborhoods. So, for us in Crown Heights, we want to maintain what we have.”
According to the Crown Heights North Association, Crown Heights was one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Brooklyn in the late 19th century. Eastern Parkway was lined with opulent mansions that were eventually torn down and replaced with townhouses. African American and Caribbean families began to buy homes in the area in the 1920s, even as the neighborhood became home to the Orthodox Jewish Chabad-Lubavitch movement and several Yeshiva schools.
Opponents of landmarking argue that protected status makes renovation and development unnecessarily difficult for landlords. Others claim that the resulting increase in property values leads to higher rents, which accelerates gentrification.
Before the Crown Heights North II Historic District becomes official, it must be approved by the City Council. A third historic district in the area is also being considered by the commission.