Testimony of the Real Estate Board of New York Before the Landmarks Preservation Commission on the Proposed Boerum Hill Extension

The Real Estate Board of New York, Inc. (REBNY) is a broadly based trade association of over 17,000 owners, developers, brokers, managers and real estate professionals active throughout New York City. We would like to submit our comments on the proposed Boerum Hill Historic District Extension.

The Boerum Hill Historic District, designated in 1973, is a primarily residential district comprised of primarily one-to-two family homes built in the mid-to-late 1800s. The proposed extension includes many similar residential buildings in the extensions proposed south of Dean Street. However, the proposed extension that encompasses the north and south of Atlantic Avenue diverges in regard to use, building character and height. This zone encompasses a section of Atlantic Avenue with several mixed-use and institutional buildings and while some of the buildings may be considered attractive, they do not fit in with the Boerum Hill Historic District in the same cohesive manner as the residential buildings in the other two sections.

Along Atlantic Avenue, many of these three to four story buildings include a ground floor retail space with the upper floor dedication to residential space. The storefronts for the retail spaces vary in style in regard to ornamentation, door, and window style and it is questionable how much is in keeping with the original architecture of the building. There are also a handful of buildings along the corridor that appear to have been significantly altered or are built in a later century. These buildings include 382, 384, 388, and 392 Atlantic Avenue.

Additionally, the proposed district includes 42 buildings along Atlantic Avenue that are included in the Special Downtown Brooklyn District. This raises concern that the inclusion of Atlantic Avenue will be found to be in conflict with the purview and plans for development by the City Planning Commission. Furthermore, Atlantic Avenue is a priority corridor for Vision Zero and Department of Transportation improvements, is a major truck route, and this particular portion lies adjacent to a targeted study by the Department of City Planning in 2016 which generally identified Atlantic Avenue as a fast changing and high growth area.

More generally, we would request that the Commission provide a draft designation report prior to the public hearing. The absence of a draft designation report that details the buildings’ built year, architectural style, and significance makes it difficult to determine what criteria the Commission has used to determine the proposed district boundaries, especially when architectural merit is not the primary criteria or the cultural significance is well known.

We urge the Landmarks Preservation Commission to remove the aforementioned non-contributing buildings and redraw the boundaries to capture only buildings that are in keeping with the current Boerum Hill Historic District’s distinct sense of place and cohesive streetscape. Thank you for the opportunity to share our concerns and comments.