Photo courtesy Concerned Citizens of Laurelton
By Rich Bockmann

Built as a planned community in the earlier part of the 20th century, Laurelton was notable for its variety of Colonial Revival-style homes and landscaped center malls that stretch up and down several streets crisscrossing the neighborhood.

Also notable is the fact that — for the most part — these features have remained intact.

“Laurelton has a high degree of integrity,” said Paul Graziano, a consultant working to have the neighborhood listed on the national and state historic registers.

Developed by state Sen. William Reynolds beginning in the 1910s, Laurelton is a mix of row- and single-family detached homes in a variety of styles. During the warmer months when trees are in bloom, the landscaped malls lend the neighborhood a quiet, leafy feel.

“It’s quite unique to have these malls and there’s a competition among homeowners to see who has the best malls,” said resident David Lucas. “Everyone practically takes care of the malls in the community.”

In 2008, the city rezoned Laurelton to limit high-density development in the neighborhood. Around that time, Concerned Citizens of Laurelton President Kim Francis and Graziano, both members of the citywide Historic Districts Council advocacy group, worked to get the neighborhood initial eligibility for historic registry.

Roughly a third of the neighborhood, or about 1,200 homes, is being considered for the district.

“The consensus is the majority of people in the Laurelton community are on board with this,” Francis said.

Once an in-depth study of the neighborhood is complete, homeowners will have an opportunity to vote on whether or not to have the area listed on the state registry, and Graziano said that will almost certainly lead to a national designation.

Unlike designation by the city Landmarks Preservation Commission, listing on the registries places fewer restrictions on buildings as well as fewer protections.

The tools the LPC uses to preserve the integrity and character of a neighborhood can be burdensome to homeowners, such as requiring historically accurate materials to be used during repairs.

Listing on the registries is more of an honorific designation. It does not provide protections to residential or commercial buildings, though simply being considered eligible for registration requires a state review if the city decides to demolish one of its buildings, such as Laurelton’s PS 156.

Being listed would make Laurelton eligible to receive federal and state monies to restore parts of the neighborhood, such as the malls city planner Robert Moses removed along four blocks of Francis Lewis Boulevard in order to increase traffic flow.

“On those four blocks, we’d love to have those back,” Lucas said.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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