Voices heard: LPC kicks off landmarking process for old school adored by Joan Baez

Savior stepped in: The Landmarks Preservation Commission on Tuesday voted to set a public hearing on this historic President Street building's possible designation as a city landmark after locals and Joan Baez demanded its protection.
Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

Their concerted effort paid off!

Preservationists cheered city officials on Tuesday after they took the first step towards saving a pair of ancient Carroll Gardens buildings that neighbors, pols, and activist-musician Joan Baez demanded not face the wrecking ball due to their shared history of serving educators and ministers.

Members of the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to “calendar” a to-be-determined public hearing on the protection of an old schoolhouse-turned-church and its neighboring residential complex at 236 and 238 President Streets, where Baez’s grandfather once preached and lived, kicking off the sites’ formal landmarking process to the delight of locals who called on the agency to step in ahead of a developer’s suspected destruction of the former classrooms.

“These two beautiful buildings represent part of the rich cultural fabric of our beloved neighborho­od,” said Jim Protos, who owns and lives in 238 President Street. “We are thrilled that the Landmarks Preservation Commission has heard the many supporters who have voiced their desire to preserve them.”

A commission rep said its decision to calendar the sites means the agency now can review all applications that Manhattan-based builder Avo Construction files for its makeover of the 1867 schoolhouse, known centuries ago as the Hans S. Christian Memorial Kindergarten, before making any final decision to designate it or its neighbor as a landmark — including a request to bulldoze the structure, which Avo bigwigs have yet to file with the Department of Buildings.

The developer, whose rep did not respond to requests for comment, has not submitted any construction permits, city records show.

The commission’s vote followed a March rally where activists — equipped with a Baez-penned letter demanding the structures’ protection — called on the city to save the old kindergarten that later became Brooklyn’s first Spanish-language house of worship, the First Methodist Episcopal congregation, and its neighbor built in 1853, both of which sit blocks outside the protected Carroll Gardens Historic District established in 1973. The iconic folk singer’s impassioned plea to save the buildings went on to inspire others, including former Brooklyn Paper editor Gersh Kuntzman, who shared a ballad he wrote about the saga in the performer’s style on Brooklyn Paper Radio.

And the city preservationists ultimately agreed that the structures’ design and purpose warranted their closer consideration, according to a rep.

“Their interconnected history as an ensemble associated with education and social welfare also made them culturally significant to Carroll Gardens, and Brooklyn,” said a Landmarks Preservation Commission spokeswoman.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Updated 5:46 pm, July 9, 2018
Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

Reasonable discourse

NN from Boerum Hill says:
This is great news
April 11, 2018, 1:03 pm

Comments closed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.

Keep it local!

Stay in touch with your community. Subscribe to our free newsletter: