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April 11, 2007

Brooklyn Heights and the beginning of historic preservation

Atlantic Yards Report

BHHD.jpgNorman Oder visits an exhibit at the Brooklyn Historical Society and reflects on the history and role of the preservation movement in NYC and how it hangs in the balance with the forces of "progress."

A new exhibit at the Brooklyn Historical Society, Landmark and Legacy: Brooklyn Heights and the Preservation Movement in America, traces the important story of the first historic district: Brooklyn Heights. (Charleston, SC, New Orleans, Washington, DC, Santa Fe, Boston, and others had previously established such districts, requiring landowners to maintain the external appearance of their buildings. Later, federal and state tax credits were established to ease the potential burden on owners.)

As co-curator Francis Morrone writes in the exhibit text:

...
The Brooklyn Heights Historic District changed New York forever. To say that is not an exaggeration. During decades in which the press said there was an "urban crisis," when ideas like "planned shrinkage" were discussed in high places, when pundits said the American city was an anachronism, when crime and housing abandonment dominated people's perceptions of New York, the preservation movement gave New Yorkers a new sense of their city's virtues -- something in which to take pride, and with which to make us fall in love with the city all over again.

That's meaningful, because, as I've noted, the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Atlantic Yards downplays the role of historic preservation in the Brooklyn neighborhoods surrounding the proposed site, even though a 1974 city study acknowledged “reviving brownstone residential neighborhoods” nearby a possible arena site at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues. (Morrone has joined the Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn advisory board.)

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Posted by lumi at April 11, 2007 7:36 AM