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The public hearing Tuesday on a proposed historic district in Ridgewood drew support from high-profile organizations but created confusion for many of the residents who would be affected by the possible landmark designation.
The plan, set forth by the city Landmarks Preservation Commission, is to designate more than 900 residential buildings surrounding the intersection of Catalpa Avenue and 60th Lane as historical landmarks.
Representatives from the Historic Districts Council and the New York Landmarks Conservancy both testified in favor of the landmark district, according to Paul Kerzner, president of the Greater Ridgewood Restoration Corp.
“It’s good to get these major citywide organizations behind this,” Kerzner said. “If you take a look at the number of historic buildings in each of the boroughs, Queens has been woefully lacking in designations.”
But do not blame Kerzner. He has spearheaded the creation of several landmark districts in the area like the three landmarked sections already in Ridgewood, along with the current proposal.
Community Board 5 and City Councilwomen Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) and Diana Reyna (D-Brooklyn) have all approved of the proposal, but a group of Ridgewood residents who attended the hearing were unclear about what was even being debated.
Many of the residents were part of the neighborhood’s large Eastern European population, according to Kerzner. One woman spoke through a translator to ask what the landmark status meant.
To ensure the entire neighborhood understands the process and the responsibilities of living in landmarked homes, like maintaining the outward appearance of a building, Kerzner proposed another information session to address the community’s questions.
“We have a lot of new homeowners whose first language is not English,” Kerzner said. “I think we need to figure out a way to reach them all and let them ask all the questions and give them a sense of security. This is not something that is going to hurt them.”
But it will be something they will need to know about since a landmark status comes with rules and regulations about what can be done to preserved buildings.
“We don’t want people taking their cornices off or replacing their stoops or taking off their front gate,” Kerzner said. “It’s good for the neighborhood and good for everybody else. I remember Ridgewood 60 years ago. It really hasn’t changed too much and I want to preserve it for the next generation.”
Opposition to landmark status usually comes from residents who want to do renovations that fall outside of the rules, or from those who say upkeep is too expensive.
But Kerzner said that most of those complaints would not apply to this particular area.
“There are not really problems in Ridgewood. All the houses that are landmarked are brick,” he said. “If you maintain them, as most property owners have done for the last 100 years, you won’t have to change anything.”
This particular district is the fourth of 18 that Kerzner hopes to landmark in Ridgewood before Mayor Michael Bloomberg leaves office. The 18 districts, encompassing nearly 3,000 buildings, already enjoy state and federal landmark status, but are more carefully regulated when landmarked by the city.
“Today’s Landmarks Commission hearing on the Central Ridgewood Historic District is an important step towards protecting the rich history of our neighborhoods,” Crowley said. “Preserving our community’s history is key to building a sense of pride and belonging for our future generations.”
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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