Everett Ortner, the trail-blazing Park Slope preservationist credited with saving Brownstone Brooklyn’s namesake architecture from the wrecking ball, died last week after health complications caused by a fall. He was 92.
Ortner spearheaded a movement in the late 1960s to restore then-dilapidated brownstone buildings back when it was more popular to tear them down and convert them into brick rooming houses.
“He had no fear of what other people thought,” said Dexter Guerrieri, a longtime friend and colleague. “He knew how to rally the community.”
The strong-willed Park Sloper — who helped found the Brownstone Revival Coalition — was a major force in convincing banks to grant mortgage loans to residents of brownstones, which were then considered slums, Guerrieri said.
In 1968, owners of brownstones could get federal subsidies to help convert their buildings into new brick ones — which made giving out loans in Park Slope unattractive to banks.
“The progressive thinking back then was, ‘Better spend money on new brick houses than these decrepit old buildings,’ ” Guerrieri said.
But Ortner disagreed — and he wasn’t afraid to say so. He organized a community meeting with bank officers to show the growing interest in saving the buildings, and eventually convinced them that Park Slope was a worthwhile investment.
Ortner bought his home on Berkeley Place for roughly $32,500 in 1963 and lived there with his wife Evelyn —who was also an influential brownstone booster —until she died six years ago. The New York Times later ran a piece called “The Couple Who Saved Park Slope” dubbing them “the original gentrifiers.”
Ortner was also a big force behind the creation of Park Slope’s historic district in 1973, which now protects the neighborhood from out-of-character development.
That’s part of why modern-day preservationists call him a visionary of sorts.
“He really was a pioneer,” said Peter Bray, a preservationist of the Park Slope Civic Council.Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at noneill@cn