Sunday, December 14, 2008

What makes a landmark?

First, an announcement: The Crow Hill Community Association will be hosting its monthly meeting this Tuesday, December 16th, at 7:30 PM. The meeting is taking place at the Haitian-American Day Care Center at 1491 Bedford, and the CHCA ask attendees to bring a non-perishable food item for their holiday drive. The CHCA serves a large chunk of North Crown Heights, including the stretch of Franklin between Eastern and Atlantic that inspired the goofy title of this blog.

On tap at the meeting: landmarking Crow Hill. The CHCA is leading the initiative, and the preceding link takes you to the pages you need in order to get involved (everything from informational stuff to requesting an evaluation for your home--you need not own it--or place of business). There's also a link to a news report on the home page about it.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission, recently the subject of a critical op-ed in the NYTimes, is permanently linked in the minds of most New Yorkers to the destruction of Penn Station. However, it was first used to protect a neighborhood (as opposed to a specific building) on our side of the East River, when the residents of Brooklyn Heights successfly outmanuevered Robert Moses to protect their nabe from being eviscerated by the BQE. The resulting promenade is one of the best examples of modern need meeting preservation halfway and making almost everyone happy.

As to the general question of landmarking, there is a legitimate reason to question the opaque process that currently decides which streets win brown signs. Building a better mousetrap, however, is harder. Should the council decide? Maybe that'd be just as behind-the-scenes and corrupt, if more familiar. Should neighborhood residents hold plebicites? But who would vote and how would boundaries be decided? Is every neighborhood and every building a potential landmark, and if so, is it fair to defend only some? Where does development fit in? I'm going to run this one by everyone I know for the next week or so and see what I come up with.

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