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Hundreds sign petition supporting new P’Heights historic district

Don’t let it wither: Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council chairman Robert Witherwax showed off the hundreds of signatures his civic group collected in support of its push to landmark buildings within the proposed Prospect Heights Apartment House Historic District.
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More than 1,000 preservationists joined a grass-roots effort to name a new historic district in Prospect Heights by endorsing a petition local civic gurus created to muster support for their proposed enclave, according to a man behind the landmarking initiative.

“Exceeding 1,000 supporters after just a few months demonstrates the breadth and depth of support for this idea,” said Robert Witherwax, chairman of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council.

The successful campaign for signatures is an important milestone in the push to create the so-called Prospect Heights Apartment House Historic District because it will show massive public approval for the effort when it comes time to convince local community board members, pols, and city preservationists on the Landmarks Preservation Commission to sign off on the plan, another development council member said.

“Before we go to LPC, we basically want to come in with overwhelming public and political support,” said Gib Veconi.

If established, the historic district would grant landmark status to 82 apartment buildings erected between 1909 and 1929 in an area roughly bounded by Eastern Parkway to the south, Sterling and St. John’s places to the north, Washington Avenue to the east, and Plaza Street East to the west.

The locals argue the structures represent an important phase in the development of Kings County, when residential living shifted from single-family row houses to multi-family complexes such as those within the proposed district, which rise between four and 15 stories per the area’s current zoning.

But many of the 82 buildings fall far below the 15-story height cap, making them ripe for redevelopment, according to the development council members, who hope their push will spare the structures from the wrecking ball for good.

The petition drive comes months after private preservationists with the Historic Districts Council named the initiative to create the Prospect Heights Apartment House Historic District as one of its “Six to Celebrate” this year, an honor that comes with the influential group’s assistance in navigating the city’s landmarking process.

And this isn’t the development council’s first rodeo.

In 2009, its members successfully persuaded the landmarks commission to designate the Prospect Heights Historic District, fearing a wave of new construction spurred by the controversial Atlantic Yards project would spell the end for many of the neighborhood’s stately row houses.

Back then, a similar petition in support of that proposed enclave netted only about 500 signatures, Veconi said, less than half the amount already collected for the newly suggested historic district nearby.

Volunteers will keep canvassing the area for John Hancocks in the weeks ahead as they continue to build their case, which they expect to present to the landmarks commission before the end of the year, according to Veconi.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Updated 6:27 pm, August 15, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Mike from Williamsburg says:
"The locals argue the structures represent an important phase in the development of Kings County, when residential living shifted from single-family row houses to multi-family complexes"

The reason that phase was important is that it accommodated the growth of Brooklyn. These people would reject Brooklyn's history to make sure they don't have more neighbors.
Aug. 10, 10:44 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
"But many of the 82 buildings fall far below the 15-story height cap"

We have a phrase to describe that situation. It is called "out of context with the character of the neighborhood."
Aug. 10, 10:55 am
Moshe Aron Kestenbaum ODA from Williamsburg says:
The petition signers are dumb ignorants . All that landmark does is create another layer of paper pushers and added cost to operate in this city. We have enough landmarks already I wish we would preserve what we have already and not create more. Who are these petition creators anyways ? Mr Witherwax is this your only avenue of making a living ?
Aug. 10, 5:22 pm
Beverly from Prospect Heights says:
This is long overdue. The beautiful character of the neighborhood would be torn down by greedy developers in a heartbeat if we don’t work to preserve it. There is huge support for this historic district.
Aug. 12, 2:46 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
No one is as greedy as the wealthy homeowners hoarding transit and convenient park access to themselves. I am appalled by the selfishness of these people.
Aug. 12, 3:04 pm
ProspectHeightsResident from Prospect Heights says:
I oppose this plan. Enough of PH is land-marked already.
Aug. 13, 12:18 am
Elizabeth from Prospect Heights says:
I am so excited about this! The Prospect Heights apartment buildings are indeed historically, culturally, and aesthetically significant, no question. Keep up this excellent work!
Aug. 13, 8:21 pm
Alan from Prospect Heights says:
I am a resident of the proposed HD and an active supporter of the effort. The area is not already landmarked. Resident supporters are not selfish and oppose new housing. We just don't want existing residents to be driven out to be replaced by much richer folks and to see this area choked by overcrowding of the public spaces.
Aug. 15, 1:55 pm
Alan from Prospect Heights says:
I am an active supporter of the HD. The area is not currently in an HD. Supporters are not being selfish at the expense of would be residents. We just don't want to see existing residents pushed out to make room for much richer people or to see beautiful buildings replaced by stripped-down high rises.
Aug. 15, 1:59 pm
Philip from Boerum Hill says:
They don't build them like they use to. Masonry has more sensible thermal properties than most new materials.
Yesterday, 6:18 pm

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