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Brooklyn residents divided over new historic district in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Here are the arguments.

Demolition of mansion prompted Brooklyn residents' push to landmark rest of the neighborhood
Demolition of mansion prompted Brooklyn residents' push to landmark rest of the neighborhood 02:18

NEW YORK -- There's a new Historic District in Brooklyn, located in the two-block radius of Willoughby Avenue and Hart Street, between Nostrand and Marcy avenues in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

By unanimous vote, the Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the rows of 19th-century brownstones on Tuesday, calling them an "architectural highlight."

The new district includes more than 130 buildings that were erected between 1871 and the 1890s.  

"Today was an overwhelming success. It was. I didn't think I'd be so emotional. However, I do realize that so many people worked to make this happen," said Joanne Joyner-Wells, a lifelong Bed-Stuy resident and strong supporter of the designation. "Our work was to do something for the community and for those homeowners, especially our senior homeowners of which I am now, who have worked very hard to preserve their homes."

CBS New York's Hannah Kliger reported on the group's push to landmark last spring, an effort launched from heartbreak over the hasty demolition of the Jacob Dangler mansion in 2022 as the community center was being considered for landmarking.

"Unfortunately, due to a paperwork error, the developer was able to demolish it in a day. And as a result, we first were concerned about what would happen to the rest of the blocks," recalled Molly Salas, who has taken the lead in the effort with research and outreach.

Orthodox Jewish community sounds off on decision

Tuesday's decision is controversial among other residents, many of whom are members of the Orthodox Jewish community.

Adam Leitman Bailey, an attorney representing some homeowners, declined an interview, but sent a letter he shared with the Landmarks Preservation Commission earlier this month, which reads, in part, "The Orthodox Jewish Community, decades-long residents of the area, merely wish to live in their homes, and where necessary, expand them consistent with the applicable zoning to fit the needs of their families. The proposed districting will all but guarantee that the permits required to undertake such work will be, if not outright rejected, made subject to undue scrutiny, delay and unnecessary expense."

In response to this claim, Salas pointed to a response from an LPC commissioner who addressed the concerns during Tuesday's meeting.

"Not only do other city agencies do the regulation on things like rear extensions and modification, but Landmarks also allows those things. And so, I think it's kind of a moot argument," she said.

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