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Preservationists Protest Removal Of Cobblestones On Brooklyn Streets

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A smoothing over of some cobblestone streets has some preservationists ready to rumble.

As CBS 2's Dave Carlin reported on Tuesday, in DUMBO and Vinegar Hill, stones known as Belgian blocks that have survived for more than a century are being yanked, patched and covered up.

"I think they are wiping out history," said Doreen Gallo, executive director of the DUMBO Neighborhood Alliance.

Gallo took CBS 2 on a walking tour of the neighborhood, showing the stones she said gave the area charm and the replacement bricks that she blasted as too modern.

"The manufactured stuff looks awful it is not historic," Gallo said. "I thought this would be over when we became a historic district, but we're fighting the same battles."

But city Department of Transportation officials said it is too late. They claimed they have no choice but to keep going with the project.

Department press secretary Seth Solomonow said the project "brings an opportunity to improve roadway design to make streets even safer and easier to navigate for all street users, and meet [Americans with Disabilities Act] requirements such as installing smooth, walkable crosswalks."

The ADA requires stones be uniform in height within a quarter of an inch on sidewalks and crosswalks.

And there are plenty of drivers and bicyclists who prefer the new stones.

"I don't have a problem with it at all," said Randy Pollak. "It's easier to drive on. It looks nice. It's OK to move on from history a little bit, I think, for the sake of progress."

"It's a definite improvement for riding over," Lakhena Raingsan added.

The original stones on the streets attracted film crews, and preservationists said if the stones go, so will that revenue.

Gallo said if the stones are allowed to disappear, similar looking streets in elsewhere in DUMBO, and in TriBeCa, SoHo and the Meatpacking District could be next.

She said she is circulating petitions that for every Belgian brick blown out, a truly authentic looking one must replace it.

The project to replace the street stones also calls for expanding a pedestrian plaza beneath the Manhattan Bridge.

Do you think the Belgian block cobblestones should be preserved? Please leave your comments below...

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