Sunset Park residents urge LPC to preserve neighborhood built by immigrants

May 7, 2019

Photo via Flickr

Sunset Park residents on Tuesday urged the city’s Landmarks Preservation Committee to protect the neighborhood’s century-old buildings and designate four historic districts. During a packed public hearing, lifelong residents and new homeowners alike testified in favor of landmark designation for all four areas, citing the neighborhood’s cohesive and intact architecture, as well as its connection to generations of diverse immigrant communities.

Proposed districts map via LPC

The Sunset Park Landmarks Committee, which was started by local residents, first launched their campaign to preserve the neighborhood more than six years ago. After canvassing many blocks, presenting research, and persuading nearly 3,000 Sunset Park residents to sign a petition in support, the Committee submitted its request for evaluation to the LPC in 2014.

The LPC is considering landmarking four noncontiguous districts in Sunset Park, including one block on 50th Street, 47th and 48th Streets between 5th and 6th Avenues, 54th to 59th Streets between 4th and 5th Avenues, and the south side of 44th Street between 5th and 7th Avenues. The agency plans to schedule a vote on the proposed districts in the coming weeks.

sunset park, LPC, landmarks preservation commission, row houses, historic homes
Photo courtesy of the Sunset Park Landmarks Committee

Council Member Carlos Menchaca spoke in favor of the designation during Tuesday’s hearing and applauded the work of the Sunset Park Landmarks Committee. “You did the work, you photographed, you told stories, you did the research, and you presented the data,” Menchaca said.

Because the neighborhood is undergoing changes (thanks to the redevelopment of Industry City and Bush Terminal) Menchaca said it’s important to preserve both the past and present of Sunset Park. “Sunset Park will always be an immigrant neighborhood, where people can come and build families and grow together as a very diverse community,” he said.

Up until the industrial transformation of its waterfront and the addition of a ferry and the 4th Avenue subway line, Sunset Park consisted mainly of farmland. New transit options and the development of the Bush Terminal in the late 1890s spurred new construction for homes occupied by the terminal’s workers, made up mostly of immigrants.

428 to 414 54th Street, via LPC

At the beginning of the 20th century, Sunset Park was home to Irish, German, Norwegian, Swedish, and Finnish immigrants. The latter group is credited with bringing one of the first co-op buildings to New York City.

Many of the homes in the proposed district were constructed as two- and three-family homes, allowing owners to make more money by taking in renters. The neighborhood is now home to the city’s third Chinatown and Brooklyn’s first.

535 to 545 48th Street, via LPC

Built between 1890 and 1919, row homes in the proposed districts include a combination of neo-Grec, Romanesque and Renaissance Revival design, and are clad in a variety of materials, like brick, limestone, and brownstone.

Some supporters asked the LPC on Tuesday to expand the districts even further, to include 43rd Street between 4th and 5th Avenues, which sits one block from Sunset Park’s eponymous park.

“While we’re extraordinarily pleased that you’re moving ahead with this proposal, we do observe that it’s very unfortunate that the commission drew boundary lines to scrupulously avoid many of the multi-family dwellings in the area, especially on 4th Avenue,” Simeon Bankoff, the executive director of the Historic Districts Council, testified.


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