Wednesday, October 10, 2012

I live in a landmarked neighborhood

That is good and bad.

It is good because, well, all the houses look nice.  But who is the say what nice looks like? The who is the Landmarks Preservation Commission  However their definition of nice is pretty rigid.  It is what "was", their mission is to"Encourage civic pride in the beauty and accomplishments of the past."

any Park Slope street
Of the Past  That is not the end of the world, It winds up looking like this.  Row houses that look more or less the way they were built.  However, some strange loophole let this house stay pink

It looks nice, but maybe that is not what the owners and residents of those homes want.

About 15 years ago my fellow owners of the coop I live in wanted a change.  We wanted to install a canopy.  Nothing crazy, a canopy just like the ones on our neighbors buildings.

Below is a collage of the canopies in the doorways of the buildings within one block.

So we filled out a giant form and sent it of to the Landmarks Commission.  A few months later we got a letter back.  "No you can't have a canopy, you never had one, you can't have one.  NO."

"Whatta mean we never had one"  belched one of the old ditties that has live in our building since the Truman Administration.  "We had a canopy, it looked just like our neighbor's canopies, but it got stolen  just like the furniture in our lobby back in the '70s"  So she storms up to her apartment and produces a photograph of her Studebaker parked on front of our house in 1960.  It clearly showed that we had a canopy.  It is black and white but it is there.

So we send the photo off to Landmarks.  2 days later we get a registered letter. Stamped on the top is says VIOLATION.  Suddenly we are required to install a canopy.  Not just any canopy, one just like our neighbors  just like the one we proposed six months earlier.  Can you tell which one in the collage above is mine.

I took this picture.
Anyway, this all came to mind because I spend some time in Bedford-Stuyvesant this past weekend.  Architecturally it reminded me a lot of Park Slope  Lots of brownstones, lots of 6 story buildings.  But most of it is not landmarked.

This brownstone looks like Santa's workshop.  The stars are actually carpeted.  The owners must love it and their neighbors have to look at it.

Are there brownstones behind this aluminum  / plastic siding??

I am not saying that one place is better than another.  There is such a sameness to the blocks in Park Slope that you don't even know what street you are on.  Also, it just costs more to maintain a home in a Historic District.  So the people who live here MUST have more money. We also have to have blue sidewalks


  1. 9:09 AM

    Yes, I remember your canopy incident, Mike, and recently referred to it when I met some people visiting the Slope from the Midwest. The trouble with Landmarks is that they are sometimes rigid, yet at other times (the pink house on Garfield for example) ridiculously tolerant.

  2. Followed all of the links CU - very interesting. As you say the Commission is very rigid. I'm guessing your building has the little pink designator on it.(nice canopy) :)
    Really enjoyed this, love these old buildings and their history.


You do not have to be nice!


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