Carroll Gardens

Landmark the Hans S. Christian Memorial Kindergarten, Carroll Gardens residents say at hearing

June 26, 2018 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Here's a look at historic 236 (at right) and 238 President St., which are being considered for designation as city landmarks. Eagle file photos by Lore Croghan

Landmark Brooklyn’s first stand-alone free kindergarten and its companion building too.

That’s the slogan for preservation-minded Carroll Gardens residents who’ve been working for months to win city landmark designation for the former kindergarten at 236 President St. plus neighboring 238 President St.

They mounted their landmarking campaign after they found out Avo Construction was going to buy the Hans S. Christian Memorial Kindergarten, demolish it and construct a six-story condo property.

Avo Construction subsequently decided not to close on its planned purchase of 236 President St.

In April, the city Landmarks Preservation Commission calendered 236 President St. and 238 President St. — which has a shared history with the kindergarten building — for landmarks designation consideration.

On Tuesday, the commission held a public hearing about the two buildings at its Lower Manhattan headquarters. In July, the commission will vote on whether to designate them as city landmarks.

Twenty-two of the 23 people who testified on Tuesday urged the commission to landmark the properties.

The person who spoke against landmarking at the hearing was Susan Mauro, an attorney who represents the owners of 236 President St.

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She said her clients should have the right to do as they please with their property — and were prepared to litigate the landmarking issue.

City Finance Department records identify the owners of 236 President St. as a trust created according to an agreement in the will of Giuseppe Gangemi.  

The property is up for sale once again. The asking price is $4.45 million, says a posting by Corcoran Associate Real Estate Broker Brian Lover, who has the listing.

Kindergarten Is ‘One of a Kind,’ Preservationist Says     

Pro-landmarking speakers at Tuesday’s  hearing included City Councilmember Brad Lander and state Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon. U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez sent a staffer to read her supportive testimony.

Justice Michael Pesce spoke at the hearing about buying 238 President St. in the 1970s when it was an abandoned building and renovating it. He turned it into a co-op building.  

Jim Protos, a co-op owner at 238 President St., testified that some 2,000 people had signed petitions in favor of landmarking the two buildings and “voiced their desire to preserve these structures.”

Historic Districts Council rep Barbara Zay praised the kindergarten’s “exuberant Louis XV” design and said, “This building does not have an equal in New York City, making it truly one of a kind.”

 This is the former Hans S. Christian Memorial Kindergarten, which is under consideration for landmarking.

A Church Headed by Joan Baez’s Grandfather

In 1897, Elmira Christian built the kindergarten at 236 President St. to honor her late husband, who had died on the way home from a prayer meeting. Architecture firm Hough & Deuell designed it.

The Anglo-Italianate mansion at 238 President St., which was constructed in 1853, served for many years as the Brooklyn Deaconess Home of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

Deaconesses were the late 19th-century equivalent of social workers — they helped the poor and the sick.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the kindergarten building was used as a chapel by a Spanish-speaking Methodist congregation whose minister was the Rev. Alberto Baez. He lived in the deaconesses’ former home.

His granddaughter, singer Joan Baez, previously expressed her support for landmarking the two buildings.

 

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