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Sunset Park Leading Grassroots Effort to Preserve Its History

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A waterfront neighborhood in Brooklyn is leading a grassroots effort to preserve some of its history from the bulldozers. NY1's Jeanine Ramirez filed the following report.

A trolley recently took residents and community board members for a tour of Sunset Park. Organized by the Sunset Park Landmarks Committee, it's part of a campaign seeking city landmarks designation.

The effort is to preserve the character of more than a dozen blocks made up of row houses dating back to the early 1900s.

"Landmarking is very special to homeowners in the area because we are seeing the changes, rapid changes, that are going on, and it seems to be uncontrollable," said homeowner Pura Albino.

Changes like ones where brownstones are torn down to make way for out-of-scale buildings and storefronts.

"It's actually one of the largest national-registered historic districts in New York City, but it is not protected by New York City landmark designation, and because of that, there have been, unfortunately, over the last couple of decades, some insensitive re-facings of houses, some unfortunate buildouts that really ruin the character of the streets," said Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council.

In the past year, committee members canvassed the neighborhood to identify blocks architecturally worthy of landmarking, created a website with their findings and started a petition drive.

"We've got letters from all those homeowners saying that they are in support," said one person.

On Wednesday, the community board voted unanimously in favor. It will now write a resolution to the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Board members emphasized that the effort is not to make the working-class community more expensive, but to maintain its architectural significance.

"That character is one of affordability, said Daniel Murphy, the chair of Community Board 7. "We were never a bourgeois neighborhood. We want to preserve as much as that as we can."

"One of the nicest things that came out of this process was the sense of community, hearing people speak about the neighborhood and how they much they love the neighborhood and how much they value what the neighborhood looks like," said board member Ceasar Zuniga.

The next step is to provide all the documentation to the Landmarks Preservation Commission by the end of the month.

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