Plans to landmark Brooklyn’s first kindergarten and an adjacent apartment building garnered nearly unanimous support at a public hearing held by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, on Tuesday. For nearly two hours, Carroll Gardens residents spoke passionately in favor of landmarking the former Hans S. Christian Memorial Kindergarten at 236 President Street, and the adjacent red brick Italianate-style building at 238 President Street.
The only opposition came from the owners of the now two-story single family home that used to house the kindergarten. A representative for the owners threatened legal action against the Landmarks Commission, if it decided to go forward and designate the 1897 French Renaissance Revival-style building. The representative said the beloved facade of the building had been changed several times since the structure was built, including the addition of a garage, and did not merit designation. (former LPC Commissioner Meenakshi Srinivasan felt the building still warranted landmark status despite the changes).
The owner’s representative further went on to assert that residents in the apartment building at 238 President Street were only trying to get the building at 236 President Street landmarked to protect their own views.
Earlier this year, news emerged that a developer was in contract to purchase the former kindergarten and replace it with a six-story condo. Neighbors banded together and with the help of the Historic Districts Council submitted a petition to the Landmarks Commission to have the two structures designated. Meanwhile, the sale with the developer never closed, and in April the owners listed the house for $4.95 million.
A few speakers at Tuesday’s meeting expressed sympathy for the owners of the kindergarten—landmarking an individual property or living within a historic district can often be a major undertaking for owners. However they also expressed the urgent need to preserve the historic character of the neighborhood and that particular block.
Grace Protos, a resident at 238 President Street, read out a letter on behalf of her teenage daughter, Talia, at Tuesday’s meeting. In the letter, Talia described the great pride she felt in showing her friends the street she lives on and the neighboring building, and the heartbreak she would experience if she were to return 10 years later to see the building completely destroyed.
The landmarking proposal also has the backing of the local community board and several local elected officials. City Council member Brad Lander attended Tuesday’s meeting to voice his support for the designation.
“This is a slam dunk for historical, architectural, and social reasons,” he said.