Threat to history
by Emily Gallagher
Mar 28, 2018 | 5758 views | 0 0 comments | 80 80 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I don't want to bury the lede this week, so I'll just write up front that drastic changes are afoot with respect to two historic properties in the heart of Greenpoint, and I'm very concerned.

Papers were recently filed with the city that could eventually pave the way for gut rehabilitation or potential demolition at 109 Franklin Street and 78 Greenpoint Avenue, the small building next door.

The fact that this includes two separate corner buildings alarms me. This is a historic corner of Greenpoint, and the heart of one of our most charming districts, the Franklin street commercial district. I am referring to the southwest corner of Franklin and Greenpoint avenues, conveniently just out of the protected historic district.

We've certainly seen enough "creative" updates on our historic housing stock to know that any significant alteration to our beautiful late-19th century buildings is never a community benefit.

To add to my dire concern, this is a rent-stabilized building full of long-term tenants. It was just sold in 2016 for $7.1 million, and the buyer is likely not turning a profit with stabilized and rent-controlled tenants.

Likewise, this particular building has personal meaning to me. The Franklin Street building is home to the store I used to work in, and whose tenants I have known and cared for. At 78 Greenpoint Avenue, the beloved Brouwerij Lane stands in a very unique, historic and low-rise building.

Given what's happened further down Greenpoint Avenue, with out-of-context, Miami-style glass Lego towers replacing our historic waterfront, I think I have cause for concern.

Over the past year, I wake up every morning to sounds of gut renovation, as building after building on my block is ripped and flipped. The neighbors I greeted daily for a decade have vanished overnight, from the man who grew up in the neighborhood and would drink his coffee in his wheelchair to the pizza shop manager, they are all gone.

There are not modern alterations, it is community annihilation and I won't stand for it. If I can slow it, or somehow restrain it, I will absolutely do my best.

I do not sound the alarm with no solutions for you. Through community effort we can slow or stop this process.

Thanks to our activist predecessors during the 2005 rezoning, this area has been declared an “anti-harassment zone.” That means that from October 2004 to present, any evidence or testimony of tenant harassment would stop any demolition permit from being granted.

Tenant harassment ranges from subtle to extreme methods a landlord takes to convince a tenant to leave, from delaying repairs to aggressive visits or cajoling about the rent, all of it counts. If you know any resident or commercial tenant on Franklin Avenue, Greenpoint Avenue, or anywhere else who has experienced discomfort with landlords, even past landlords, please contact me.

As I mentioned above, 109 Franklin Avenue is historic. My friend Ward Dennis researched it for me, and found out the building is from 1888, part of a set of five buildings, three at Milton Avenue and two at Greenpoint, designed by architect John Schnackenborg.  The other buildings on the block are even older, most likely from the 1860s.

Because of the historic nature of these buildings, we could potentially petition the Landmarks Preservation Commission to have the Greenpoint Historic District extended further to include them.

So dear readers, let's prevent one of our historic blocks full of community character from falling into the jaws of the condo beast. Please stay tuned for an upcoming historic district petition, and contact me here at the paper if you know a current or former resident. This is a rare case that we can actually prevent, but only if we work together.

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