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Prospect Heights: The Making of a Historic District

Last week, the Landmarks Preservation Commission approved the 850-building Prospect Heights Historic District, the largest district designated in two decades. MAS made a video about the process of creating the historic district, featuring Councilmember Letitia James, Chair of the Landmarks Preservation Commission Robert B. Tierney, historian Francis Morrone, and Gib Veconi of Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council (PHNDC), and showing how we worked with PHNDC to survey the historic buildings and promote the area for designation. The result was not just the designation, the act of engaging residents in the process brought the community together and provided a new sense of neighborhood identity.

In 2006, the Municipal Art Society began working with communities surrounding the proposed Atlantic Yards development as part of our advocacy efforts. Residents of Prospect Heights made it clear that they wanted their neighborhood landmarked. In order to engage residents in the process, MAS provided a basic training program for neighborhood residents on historic building survey techniques. Over 20 local volunteers took to the streets to catalog and photograph roughly 1,100 buildings. MAS staff converted this information into a map using its in-house Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology. In early 2007, the two groups submitted a comprehensive report to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, including the database, photographs and a proposal for a historic district.

The City Council will hold a hearing on the designation later this summer.