02 December 2009


Yes, Virginia, there are people who don't want Carroll Gardens to be landmarked.

Saw this sad, selfish, short-sighted little sign all over Sal's Pizzeria on Court Street today. "Wake up. A rally at Mamam [sic] Maria's, 307 Court Street [which is owned by Sal's] over landmarking this neighborhood (already in progress). This will affect you in your pocket. Come to learn all about it.

This sort of unthinking, solipsistic myopia is, I believe, exactly the reason why beautiful, historic Carroll Gardens has has such a two-block-sliver of a Landmark District for so many years, while Cobble Hill and Boerum Hill have much larger districts—because some lunkheads don't want anyone telling them they can't uglify or mutate or tear down their classic, 150-year-old brownstone homes if it might fatten their wallet a little. It's all about the "pocket." If it's it gonna hit you in the pocket, it can't be good. There will always be a group out there willing to oppose any cause with unblinking fervor—universal health care, proper schooling, environmental preservation, architectural beauty, cultural heritage—is there's any chance that they might lose money on the deal. Their bank account outweighs any concern posterity might have. Screw Penn Station! Daddy needs a lucrative new parking lot!

You can tell how thoughtful and well-considered this meeting will be from the sign. Lone parentheses; commas where periods should be; calling what is really a meeting a "rally"; they couldn't even spell "Mama" right. That sign is just so depressing. I can imagine the inspired arguments that will be made tomorrow night. Stuff along the lines of "No bunch of bleeding heart Yuppies are going to tell me what I can or can't do with my building! This ain't Russian. No Obama Socialism!"

Wake up, indeed.


Tara Hope said...

i love your blog, and i know its your blog so you can write about whatever you want, but i just want you to know not all conservatives are "yuppies" who want to destroy historic landmarks. my husband and i are VERY conservative, and we do think Obama is a socialist, but i love and read your blog because i love the history of NYC and it makes me sad when people dont appreciate it. i am not trying to argue polotics or pick a fight, but just know you have at least one reader who is conservative, AND a lover of landmarks.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

No, Tara, I think you misunderstand. I was imagining the people at the meeting railing AGAINST Yuppies, whom I imagine they think people like me and other preservationists are. I don't mean the people at the meeting were Yuppies.

Anyway, everyone's different, and I'm glad you love landmarks and NYC history. I don't understand why anyone wouldn't love landmarks and NYC history. How could you not look around Carroll Gardens and not think "Let's protect this. It's so wonderful"?

And thanks for reading the blog, Tara.

Jeff said...

your sentiment is spot on but i think your comments on the grammar are unnecessary.

i suspect the tone of the meeting will be about newcomers coming into the neighborhood and imposing restrictions on oldtimers.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

What comes around, goes around. What have the oldtimer homeowners, in blocking landmarking, done for the past 30 years but impose their will on the rest of us?

William said...

Your calling the poster of this sign "myopic" is hilarious. Why? Because your blog routinely betrays the fact that you suffer from the very affliction on a grand scale. Indeed, if that were not clear from this and some other posts, your follow-up statement that you "don't understand why anyone wouldn't love landmarks . . . " removes all doubt (despite your "everyone's different"). If you only understand one point of view (your own), THAT IS MYOPIA!
Further, there are valid reasons to oppose the current method of land-marking private property and, most certainly, better methods of preserving culturally or historically significant buildings. Why the need for ad hominen arguments in support of your POV. Ridiculing people who hold a different point of view (and whose interests may be affected by the actions of a government) simply because they want to "assemble and [] redress grievances" denigrates the democratic process and contributes to the continued deterioration of political discourse. I read and (frequently) enjoy your blog. But. please, people with whom you disagree are not necessarily flawed individuals nor are they only interested in money.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

OK, William, please explain to me a good reason for not protected a historic neighborhood. I understand there are reasons, but are there good reasons?

William said...

I did not state that there are good reasons not to protect a historic neighborhood. My statement was "there are valid reasons to oppose the current method of land-marking private property." If you have ever dealt with the LPC from the point of view of a property owner, you will come to see that agency's methods as almost entirely arbitrary and capricious, informed more by a fairy-tale version of history than an actual one, and disdainful of anyone's need or desire to live in and maintain their property within their means. Dominated by people who have never missed a meal or ever worked someplace that might result in dirt under their nails, LPC places unfunded burdens on property owners who just want to take care of their homes. I have lived in Landmarked neighborhoods and have worked with neighbors to maintain them as beautiful places to live or for New Yorkers to just pass through. But, on one I worked on project, LPC actually forced us to modify certain aspects project so as to render it no longer historically accurate, but rather, more "aesthetically pleasing" - in their opinion. On another, very tightly budgeted (a middle-class co-op) restoration project I managed, LPC actually ordered us to use mortar colored to match the dirty mortar rather than the actual mortar color. We offered to "dirty-up" the new mortar to make it match, but they said "no." Now, if the building one day has the funds to clean their facade, the repairs will show. LPC also halted work on an historic restoration of a 19th Centruy townhouse to which had been added an Art Deco entryway sometime in the 1930s. The owner wanted to remove the addition since it was architecturally improper for the property. LPC opposed. Interestingly, they required another neighbor to remove a door-treatment that was only 10 years more contemporary. Finally, their "context" arguments, which would have blocked such buildings as the Empire State Building, One Columbus Circle, and the Seagrams Building had LPC existed at the time, have lead to the creation of some buildings whose only proper place would the "EPCOT Center - Old New York" section of Disney World. They have also denied the creation of tomorrow's landmark-worthy buildings (whose identity will only be revealed to us over time). I very much enjoy living in a city steeped in history. But, if this city is to thrive into the future, the historic buildings must be allowed to "live" and remain useful to the people who will populate them. Further, historic neighborhoods cannot be allowed to turn into time warps that do not serve the needs of a 21st Century population.
Unfortunately, I need to get back to work . . .

MissMamaDay said...

Living in a landmarked neighborhood and trying hard to fix up my old brownstone within the guidelines but with limited means, I must agree with William. The LPC is arbitrary at best and ornery always. Their "rules" are subjective and only sometimes based on historical accuracy and much more often on what they think "looks good." It's a joke really and if they want more support they need to earn it by being competent and coherent professionals.

JaneDoe said...

The NYC Independent Budget Office did an exhaustive study of historic districts in all five boroughs, and compared to property directly across the street but outside the landmark district, property values in landmarked districts increased at 3% per annum.

Landmarking is GOOD for Property Values. Look at how SoHo, Tribeca, DUMBO, even the Village also became so expensive after landmarking.

Luke DePalma said...

I would love to see a much more expansive landmark district, as well as an end to all the ugly and selfish use of curbcuts and front courtyards for parking lots.
That being said:

Proofread your own posts before mocking others. Example:

"... exactly the reason why beautiful, historic Carroll Gardens has has..."


"...please explain to me a good reason for not protected a historic neighborhood..."

And exactly what excessive "will" have the oldtimers imposed on you and other newcomers over the past 30 years? Were it not for oldtimers caring about their homes these past decades, CG could easily have collapsed into disarray and become crime-ridden like many other Brooklyn neighborhoods. Part of the reason newcomers outside of the formerly prevalent immigrant Irish and Italian groups have moved into the area since the early 80s is that the homeowner community remained fairly stable throughout the white-flight decades of the 60s and 70s. For the most part, these oldtimers are the reason CG's historic buildings remain intact.