Greenpoint was honored as one of “Six to Celebrate” neighborhoods by the Historic Districts Council (HDC) this month. Since 2011, HDC, an organization dedicated to community preservation, has chosen six deserving neighborhoods every year, working alongside community groups in each.
As a “Six to Celebrate” neighborhood, Greenpoint will receive a $500 stipend and year-long assistance from HDC to protect its iconic architecture. “We’re the only citywide organization that lets active community groups nominate themselves [into the program],” said HDC Executive Director Simeon Bankoff. “So it’s not a top-down decision on how the neighborhoods are chosen.”
On January 29th, the chosen neighborhoods will also take part in a launch party, where selected community groups will plan their preservation initiatives for 2013. Representing the Garden Spot will be the newly-formed Preservation Greenpoint, which seeks to engage neighbors in order to recognize and protect the community’s past. The group was created by Matthew Coody and Jennifer Schork, two graduates of Columbia University’s Historic Preservation program.
“We’re very excited to be nurturing [Preservation Greenpoint],” Bankoff stated. “Greenpoint is a unique neighborhood that deserves to be recognized.” HDC will support Preservation Greenpoint in a myriad of ways throughout the rest of the year. “We’ll guide community development by organizing groups, helping with fundraising and educational events, and coordinating walking or biking tours,” Bankoff explained.
According to Schork, Preservation Greenpoint “plans to educate residents and the general public on the history of the neighborhood, the significance of its architecture, and the importance of preserving the area’s character.” She added that, “Being part of the Six to Celebrate program will give us a large boost towards engaging with the Greenpoint community through architectural walking tours and events.”
Greenpoint and Sunset Park were the only Brooklyn neighborhoods to join HDC’s prestigious program this year. Other areas chosen included the Bronx Parks System, the East Village/Lower East Side, Harrison Street in Staten Island, and Tribeca.
“We try to have geographic diversity, and choose as many different neighborhoods as we can. We don’t want to focus just on Manhattan,” Bankoff explained. “Many of the neighborhoods we’ve worked with become recognized as historic districts, and some make the National Register of Historic Places.”
Greenpoint’s own historic district boasts over 300 buildings. Right now, residents and visitors can still view ancient warehouses along the East River, or brownstones lining residential streets, both a testament to Greenpoint’s working class, maritime heritage. As HDC’s website states, “Greenpoint’s historic factory buildings and modest workers’ housing are strong reminders of Brooklyn’s role as a powerful industrial center.” But as development sweeps through the neighborhood, many worry that its historic character will be overshadowed.
Thankfully, organizations such as the Historic Districts Council and Preservation Greenpoint seek to strike a balance between progress and preservation. “Preservation Greenpoint supports development that’s appropriate to the neighborhood in scale and character,” Schork. “We seek to ensure that future development has a low impact on the historic landmarks of Greenpoint.”
Although change is inevitable, Greenpoint’s most poignant areas can still be protected. Edifices such the Greenpoint Terminal Warehouse and Kent Street’s stately brownstones serve as a reminder of what the neighborhood once was, no matter what the future holds.