Fight to keep Ridgewood historic

In 1931, there was a push to widen the very narrow Forest Avenue in Ridgewood. This would have called for knocking down the buildings on one side of the street. Wanting to preserve their neighborhood, the outraged residents fought back against the proposal.

Now, 80 years after winning that fight, the neighborhood is once again looking to be preserved from changes.

Almost 1,000 buildings in central Ridgewood are part of a proposed Landmark District, which would protect the edifices from being altered. This area in Ridgewood already has historical designations both federally and on the state level, but a historic designation from the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission allows for greater protections against changes to the building’s façade and overall outer appearance.

“The most important issue is to maintain the historical character for the neighborhood,” said Charles Ober, vice president of the Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association, which was organized to protect the neighborhood from the 1931 avenue expansion.

Most of the proposed historic district lies between Fresh Pond Road and Forest Avenue east to west and 71st Avenue and Woodbine Street north to south.

These building were built after 1905 when fire codes in the area began requiring masonry construction for attached row houses. Many of the stoops, wood doors, iron railings and gates have stood the test of time and still stand as they did when first constructed.

“The neighborhood as you see it now is the same as it was when these homes were built,” said Ober, who lives off Fresh Pond Road in one of the houses that will receive the Landmark Designation. “There is a quality and beauty to the architecture that should be preserved.”

Though a date for the vote on the district has not been set, the process is expected to be finished before the end of the year. Ober credits Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who personally attended a civic association meeting and said he would get the designation done.

“Anyone that comes here is impressed,” said Ober, adding that landmark status would not only maintain the appearance and value of the neighborhood, but enhance them.

The goal for Ridgewood is to have every property that is designated historic federally to receive the same designation on the city level. This area would be the largest historic district in a neighborhood with three city designated landmarks already.

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