Bay Ridge

Bay Ridge and Sunset Park historic districts get official approval from council

October 18, 2019 Lore Croghan and Paula Katinas
Welcome to the Bay Ridge Parkway-Doctors’ Row Historic District. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan
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It’s official: Bay Ridge and Sunset Park have landmarked blocks to call their own.

The City Council voted on Thursday to affirm the city Landmarks Preservation Commission’s decisions to designate Doctors’ Row in Bay Ridge and four parts of Sunset Park as historic districts.

These designations protect and preserve the facades of the century-old homes in these areas, advocates said. Historic district designation makes it much harder for developers to demolish the rowhouses and replace them with taller multifamily properties called “finger buildings” because they make the block look like a fist that’s flipping the bird.

The council’s vote on the designation of the famous Bay Ridge street known as Doctors’ Row marked the final piece of a campaign started by residents of the block.

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The commission voted unanimously in June to grant historic district status to Bay Ridge Parkway between Fourth and Fifth avenues. This block has grabbed attention over the years for its handsome, largely intact early-20th century rowhouses.

It earned its nickname because of the doctors who kept their offices there over the years.

Bay Ridge residents fought hard to win historic-district designation for Doctors’ Row. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan
Bay Ridge residents fought hard to win historic-district designation for Doctors’ Row. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan

The block is populated by 54 rowhouses constructed between 1906 and 1913. The houses were constructed in the Renaissance-Revival style with some elements of the Colonial-Revival style, according to the commission. The buildings are all two stories tall with basements and are united by a continuous cornice line, which remarkably has been retained by all of the houses.

Councilmember Justin Brannan, who pushed for the council to back the commission’s decision, said Doctors’ Row deserves the historic status.

“Doctors’ Row has a special and ongoing place in Bay Ridge history. To residents and locals, the block was already a landmark. It was well past time that we as a city officially recognize that status,” he said.

Brannan praised the work of the block’s residents, who formed a block association and led a campaign to convince the city to turn their street into a historic district. The Bay Ridge Parkway 400 Block Association received guidance and assistance from the Historic Districts Council, a nonprofit organization that champions preservation efforts.

Thursday’s council vote was “the culmination of a fight that was truly from the ground up, driven by residents every step of the way,” Brannan said.

Susan Brown, a resident of the block, said in June that the special status for Bay Ridge Parkway “means we now have an army of preservationists to help us protect the integrity and beauty of Doctors’ Row now and for future generations.”

Sunset Park now officially has four historic districts. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan
Sunset Park now officially has four historic districts. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan

The council also voted to affirm the commission’s unanimous June designation of four small historic districts in Sunset Park.

Advocates in that neighborhood worked for 30 years to win this protection for rowhouses constructed between 1885 and 1912 for working-class immigrants.

More than 3,000 Sunset Park residents signed a petition calling for historic district designation. More than 400 property owners sent the commission’s letters of support for the measure.

There are more than 500 buildings in the Sunset Park North, Central Sunset Park, Sunset Park 50th Street and Sunset Park South Historic Districts. These areas are located between Fourth and Seventh avenues and 44th and 59th streets.

Many of the brick, limestone and brownstone rowhouses in these areas were designed in Renaissance-Revival or Romanesque-Revival architectural styles that were popular in rich people’s neighborhoods — but were built on a smaller scale as two-family homes to make them affordable for working-class families, according to the commission.

Follow reporters Lore Croghan and Paula Katinas on Twitter.

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