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Efforts to landmark Walt Whitman’s Brooklyn home renewed

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Preservationists are hoping for the home to be landmarked before what would have been Whitman’s 200th birthday

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Preservationists are once again trying to landmark the onetime home of Walt Whitman, in Brooklyn, the New York Times has learned. The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission rejected a previous proposal in December 2017, but preservationists are giving it another go now that the former chair of the LPC, Meenakshi Srinivasan, has resigned from her post (June 1 was her last day).

Last year, the LPC’s director of research said that the house at 99 Ryerson Street did not merit individual landmark status because of the changes that had already been made on the property—a third story addition and aluminum siding are among them—and because Whitman reportedly lived there for a very short time. The LPC’s investigation revealed that Whitman’s mother purchased the house on May 24, 1855, and sold it six months later in November.

Proponents of landmark status contend that he lived there until May 1856, according to the NYT. But more than that they say that the landmark status would represent his work more than the physical qualities of the house. Proponents say he continued to work on “Leaves of Grass,” while he lived here, but the LPC says the first edition had already been written and submitted to the copyright office before the purchase of the house.

Other preservationists like Simeon Bankoff of the Historic Districts Council also contend that this is the last standing property of Walt Whitman—he moved around considerably in Brooklyn—and it must be protected for that reason too. Groups like the Coalition to Save Walt Whitman’s House and the NYC LGBT Historic Sites project are hoping for the property to be landmarked by May 31, 2019, to coincide with Whitman’s 200th birthday, according to the NYT. A change.org petition has already generated 3,200 signatures, but the LPC says it has it yet to receive another request to evaluate the property.