The Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council

Prospect Heights Apartment House District: Frequently Asked Questions
Posted: January 24, 2018 - 11:33am
If your building is in the proposed Prospect Heights Apartment House District and you're curious how historic designation would affect it, we've provided some answers to basic questions below. For more information, visit the Landmarks Preservation Commission web site, or contact us.
What makes the Prospect Heights Apartment House District special?
The southeast area of Prospect Heights is a unique enclave of early twentieth-century apartment houses in what is otherwise a predominantly brownstone neighborhood. An initial plan to make the area part of Prospect Park, followed by disputes over the fate of the land once the plan was abandoned, kept the district undeveloped during the time when nearby rowhouses were being built. By the time titles were cleared for development, the residential market in the neighborhood had shifted toward apartment houses. The well-preserved buildings in the district provide an example of a cohesive early apartment house neighborhood in Brooklyn.
Why designate the Prospect Heights Apartment House District as a New York City historic district?
Most of the lots in the Prospect Heights Apartment House District are underbuilt relative to what is allowed under zoning, in some cases by more than 50%. Combined with a strong real estate market, the excess buildable density encourages owners and developers to add on to existing buildings, perhaps in uncharacteristic ways, or to demolish them and redevelop properties to take advantage of all available floor area. Real estate brokers are now marketing buildings in the district by calling attention to that potential--a situation that could become even worse in the future. Designation as a New York City historic district will ensure the buildings are preserved for current and future residents and visitors to enjoy.

Why isn’t the area already part of the Prospect Heights Historic District?
In New York City, historic districts must have thematic continuity. The Prospect Heights Historic District consists primarily of three-, four- and five-story row houses built between 1860 and 1900. The Apartment House consists of larger multifamily apartment buildings built between 1909 and 1929.
Would historic designation have saved the former Green Point Savings Bank building at 856 Washington Avenue?
The City generally does not permit buildings in a historic district to be demolished. The Landmarks Law also makes it illegal for owners to let a designated building decay to the point it must be condemned and demolished.

Will my rent go up if the Prospect Heights Apartment House designated as a landmark district?
Studies have shown that rental prices have not increased significantly more in historic districts than in other New York City neighborhoods. Further, including an apartment building in a historic district may make it more likely that its rent stabilized tenants will remain, since historic designation would make it more difficult for landlords to undertake disruptive construction projects (like adding more floors to a building), and make it almost impossible for a landlord to demolish an existing building to redevelop the property..

Will historic designation raise our property taxes?

No. There is no evidence that buildings in a historic district are assessed higher property taxes than those that are not.

If the district is designated, will all work in my building have to be approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC)?

LPC approval is required for all work in a landmark district that requires a building permit, and for any work that would modify the exterior of a building in a landmark district. LPC reviews approximately 13,000 such applications every year, the vast majority of which are approved by LPC staff.
Would work on the interior of my building be regulated by LPC?
No. The interiors of buildings in the Apartment House District are not being proposed for landmark designation.
Can LPC force us to restore our building to the way it looked when it was first built?
LPC cannot make you do work on your building and only reviews work when changes are proposed. For example, if prior to designation the stoop was removed and a ground-level entrance installed, LPC cannot make you replace the stoop. However if your building has modern windows or doors and you want to replace them, LPC would apply its standards in reviewing these changes. Similarly, if a highly visible and inappropriate rooftop addition had been added prior to designation, LPC cannot make you remove the addition; but, if you desire to change the design of the addition, LPC would review those changes in accordance with its standards of appropriateness.
What happens when changes are proposed for the exterior of a building in a landmark district?
LPC staff determine if proposed exterior changes require approval by the LPC commissioners. If so, the application is placed on the agenda of a hearing with the commissioners. Prior to the hearing, the application is also presented to the Community Board in a public meeting. Members of the public are allowed to provide testimony at the Community Board meeting and the LPC hearing.