By Jeremy Walsh
By a 45-0 margin, the City Council approved the landmarking of the Ridgewood North Historic District Monday, adding additional protections to a group of rowhouses nearly a century old.
Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) called the vote a “long-awaited victory” for preservationists in her district. Property owners who try to significantly change the appearance of the buildings will now be subject to fines from the city.
“The longer we wait, the more the houses change,” she said in a statement.
The protection of the 96 buildings spread across eight acres caps an effort that dates back to 1983, when the Greater Ridgewood Restoration Corp. helped obtain state and federal landmark status for 2,982 buildings in the neighborhood.
GRRC President Paul Kerzner said the group has been working ever since to get these buildings landmarked by the city.
“I always speak in terms of the ‘carrot and the stick’ approach,” Kerzner said. “The federal and state designation fall in terms of ‘carrot:’ If you do this, you’ll get these tax credits. The city designation is the stick approach. If you do something wrong, they’ll hit you with the stick.”
Those nearly 3,000 buildings on the state and federal registries are divided into 18 districts. So far, the Ridgewood group has helped secure city landmark status for three of these, amounting to about 15 percent of the total historic building stock.
“It’s a good start, but it’s nowhere near even the halfway mark,” Kerzner said, noting he hopes the city can approve the remainder of the districts during Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s third term in office.
The buildings in Ridgewood North are chiefly three-story brick tenements known as Mathews Model Flats after their most prolific builder, the G.X. Mathews Co. They were distinguished from their 19th-century counterparts by larger rooms, private bathrooms and a limit of two families per floor. The Ridgewood buildings were constructed between 1908 and 1914 and feature carved-stone details, pressed metal cornices and wrought iron appointments to the stoops.
“A cohesive collection of speculative urban architecture, the tenements in the Ridgewood North Historic District retain extremely high levels of architectural integrity and represent an important part of the development of housing in New York City,” the Landmarks Preservation Commission wrote in a September report.
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.