Rendering of 321 East 96th Street via Perkins Eastman Architect
Located on Second Avenue between East 96th Street and East 97th Street, the Marx Brothers Playground boasts a jungle gym and ball fields spread out over 1.5 acres. The East Harlem green space, which first opened in 1947 on land formerly occupied by the car barn of the Second Avenue Railway, has found itself at the center of a debate between preservationists and developers. As the New York Times reported, park advocates and city officials disagree on whether the parcel is considered a park or a playground. If it’s a park, any plans to modify it require the approval from the State Legislature and the governor; playgrounds do not. While it seems irrelevant, the categorization of the land will determine whether a 68-story mixed-use tower will rise on its site, a project backed by city officials and affordable housing advocates.
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Michael Hiller is a zoning and land-use attorney who has represented community groups in seemingly impossible quests for about 20 years. His high-profile cases have often been against the Landmarks Preservation Commission, notably Tribeca’s iconic Clock Tower Building and new construction along historic Gansevoort Street, both of which are pending appeal by the defendants.
As one legal observer commented, “He has become an expert in the nuances of the Landmarks Law from a legal perspective. In court, he is very talented on his feet before a very hot bench, before judges who ask a lot of tough questions.” His successes have won him designation as a Super Lawyer every year since 2009 as well as the 2017 Grassroots Award from the Historic Districts Council. 6sqft recently visited Michael at his office to learn more about his work.
Ahead, hear from Michael and learn more about his current cases
When Evelyn and Everett Ortner bought their Park Slope brownstone at 272 Berkeley Place in 1963 for $32,000 they probably never imaged it would sell 50 years later for over $3 million. But it was their own historically sensitive and forward-looking vision that helped revitalize the area and make it a much-sought-after Brooklyn neighborhood.
The Ortners moved to Park Slope when brownstones were unfashionable and the rich turned their noses down at the area. They convinced their friends to also buy brownstones in the neighborhood. Evelyn was an interior designer specializing in period interiors, and the couple meticulously restored their home down to every last historic detail. After a 25th anniversary trip to France, where they were inspired by local preservationists working to conserve a crumbling castle in Normandy, Mr. and Mrs. Ortner dedicated themselves to historic preservation efforts in Park Slope until their deaths in 2006 and 2012.
See the results of the couple’s tireless passion