Historic preservation — or gentrification? — on Conover Street?

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A row of worn Red Hook cottages is on the road to restoration — but their path to architectural salvation might encounter a speed bump or two: the tenants currently occupying the homes.

Sea air mixed with neglect has stripped much of the luster from the homes, located on Conover Street between Coffey and Van Dyke streets, a quaint block that calls to mind that Red Hook was once a fishing village.

Developer Gino Vitale ultimately aims to sell the three cottages, two of which are occupied. But tenants fear that they will be kicked to the curb in favor of deeper-pocketed newcomers.

“Gentrifica­tion is picking up steam,” lamented a resident who wished not to be identified because of the tenuous nature of the living conditions there. “The suburbs are retaking the cities — white flight has reversed itself.”

But Vitale said that his tenants knew fully well what they were getting into. They have been paying below-market rent and received only one year-leases for the four years that they have lived in the cottages.

“They should be ecstatic that they’ve been there for four years paying close to nothing in rent,” Vitale said, adding that the tenants are “not starving artists.”

The landlord said tenants are on month-to-month leases, and have at least another year to live in the cottages.

“I’m a human being,” Vitale said. “It wouldn’t be fair to them to tell them they have two weeks to move.”

The debate over what should happen to the cottages is a microcosm of the larger, and seemingly endless, battle that is waged for the souls of many neighborhoods. Indeed, a real-estate company that is working with Vitale said that its goal is to see the cottages preserved, not lost.

Tina Fallon, a broker with Realty Collective, a Red Hook-based real estate company, said she came up with the idea for a design competition to restore the cottages in hopes of saving them so that they won’t be torn down to make room for a massive, out-of-scale development that would violate the neighborhood’s low-rise aesthetic.

“We are the people who want to save the neighborhood from an architectural monstrosity,” she said.

Updated 5:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Jon from South Brooklyn says:
I live on Conover St two blocks from the cottages. As the owner, Gino is allowed to do what he likes with property and, quite frankly, the current residents are hardly the downtrodden types. However, the plans to redevelop the properties should have been handled discreetly rather than under the guise of a design competition. Clearly, as a realtor, Ms Fallon has much skin in the deal in terms of RH property values. Pretending to make this scheme about historic preservation just comes across as disingenious and a cheap attempt to pander to the neighborhood's ridiculous and self-involved Bo-Bo elites.
April 13, 2010, 10:34 am
Mister M from Red Hook says:
Hey Gino,

Can you please speak to your tenants which are using the side yard on Coffey Street as an illegal driveway? It really sucks that they're doing that.
April 13, 2010, 1:29 pm
Lee Martin says:
I'm currently working on the design, and this is a very fun but challenging job.
May 6, 2010, 9:34 pm
Tommy N from BROOKLYN says:
keep doing what you do! your making brooklyn a even more beautiful boro then it is.. just newer... all the negative feedback is from people that dont have the balls, the brains or the money to pull off what you do!
Dec. 20, 2010, 9:52 pm
Leesa from Red Hook says:
My family lived in one of these three cottages (before they were torn down) and this article made a lot of assumptions about how we all felt, non of which were true (and by all I mean the other tenants).
We all knew the deal going into these cottages and Gino was always fair!
March 20, 2013, 11:16 am

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