November 2017
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Significant Historic Resources in the Greenpoint / Williamsburg Rezoning Area

greenpoint williamsburg

Greenpoint and Williamsburg have a long and venerable past, and there remains a wealth of buildings related to their history. Williamsburg, which in the 1850s was the third-largest city in the region, is filled with 19th-century rowhouses and manufacturing buildings interspersed with historic banks, schools, churches and synagogues. In Greenpoint, 90 percent of the existing housing stock was built before World War II, much of it constructed by the 19th-century shipbuilders who worked on the nearby docks. Amid this rich housing stock are some of Brooklyn’s oldest churches — and significant collections of manufacturing buildings that are reminders of the neighborhood’s industrial past. These buildings, which bear witness to the neighborhoods’ rich history, also play a significant role in shaping the character and sense of place of these communities. When the city brought forward a proposal to rezone large sections of Greenpoint and Williamsburg, we became concerned that the historic buildings would be negatively impacted if steps were not taken to protect them.

The Municipal Art Society’s Preservation Committee undertook this study because the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the rezoning area failed to adequately address the historic fabric of the neighborhoods. Given the rich history of the area, we knew there were more buildings in the neighborhoods than were identified in that document. Beginning in December 2004, members of the Preservation Committee and of the community began a survey of the 184 blocks that the city proposed to rezone. Surveyors spent weekends walking the streets, taking photos. They later convened for discussions, guided by architectural historians, to determine the significance of the buildings.

We identified 264 significant buildings (including individual buildings and historic districts) that appear to be eligible for listing on the State and National Register and ought to have been included in the EIS. For each building and district we make a recommendation on how to protect it, largely through New York City landmark designation. Although we have confidence in the buildings on our list, we are quite certain that it is not complete. We encourage community members, historians and preservationists to add to this list. Working together, we can ensure that as these neighborhoods are revitalized, their heritage and character will be preserved.