Adding More History To Ridgewood
Seeking An Expanded Place On Registers
Thirty years after thousands of homes scattered across Ridgewood were placed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places, local civic activists are working to add even more buildings in the neighborhood to the lists recognizing historical significance.
The Times Newsweekly was informed by the Greater Ridgewood Restoration Corporation (GRRC) of its recent appeal to the New York State Office of Historic Preservation to add 300 residential and mixed use buildings around Ridgewood to the 2,982 structures which were listed on the historic registers back in 1983.
Many of the buildings which the GRRC is seeking to add to the registers are located on Myrtle Avenue and Fresh Pond Road, Ridgewood’s two primary commercial strips. According to GRRC President Paul Kerzner, storefronts and buildings on both roadways were omitted from the historic registers 30 years ago after the state office declared the stores had too many alterations.
“However, there are new people in charge now,” Kerzner told the Times Newsweekly in a phone interview on Monday, Jan. 13, explaining that he and the GRRC were encouraged to apply to have the Myrtle Avenue and Fresh Pond Road locations added to the registers since requirements are now more relaxed.
Certain residential buildings in Ridgewood—including those in the vicinity of Seneca and DeKalb avenues— were also omitted from the registry in 1983 since many of the structures were less than 50 years old. Kerzner said that the GRRC is now seeking historic designation for these structures—many of which were erected just after World War II— since they have now surpassed that 50-year requirement.
Angela Mirabile, the GRRC’s executive director, explained that many of these buildings are apartment houses as well as two- and three-family homes. Many of these buildings are located on the following blocks:
• 64th Street between Catalpa and Shaler avenues;
• Cypress Avenue between Troutman Street and Willoughby Avenue;
• Forest Avenue between Grove and Woodbine streets;
• Grove Street between Forest Avenue and Fresh Pond Road;
• Madison Street between Fresh Pond Road and the dead end east of 64th Street;
• Onderdonk Avenue between Willoughby Avenue and Stockholm Street;
• St. Nicholas Avenue between Gates Avenue and Stockholm Street;
• Seneca Avenue between Troutman Street and Willoughby Avenue;
• Stockholm Street between Wyckoff and Onderdonk avenues;
• Willoughby Avenue between Wyckoff and Woodward avenues; and
• Woodbine Street between Forest Avenue and Traffic Avenue.
The application seeking to amend the historic registers for Ridgewood was sent last spring, and Mirabile noted that “we haven’t heard anything negative or positive since.” She added that it is very likely members of the Office of Historic Preservation would need to visit the area personally as part of the review process, but that could take some time, since the agency—like many other bureaus in state government—has experienced staff reductions.
Theodore Renz, executive director of the Myrtle Avenue Business Improvement District, also informed the Times Newsweekly that the business organization is supporting the effort to add storefronts on Myrtle Avenue between Wyckoff Avenue and Fresh Pond on the national and state registers.
“It’s always been a long range strategy of the BID to take advantage of the historic architecture of the district, and see how it could benefit us economically as a whole,” he said.
The 2,982 buildings in Ridgewood currently on the state and national registers are located in 18 different clusters (districts) around the neighborhood. The register recognizes the buildings as having historically significant features.
Many of the buildings were developed during the early 20th century and led to a population boom in the neighborhood. They include the Mathews flats, large brick apartment houses constructed by Gustav Mathews as an alternative to the tenements of Manhattan, and one- and two-family rowhouses designed by architect Louis Berger and constructed by August Bauer and Paul Stier.
Still not city landmarks
There are no building or maintenance requirements attached to buildings which are listed on the state and federal registries. Scores of structures in Ridgewood which are on the list, however, have received landmark status in three landmark districts by the Landmarks Preservation Commission
Only buildings which have received official landmark status from the city fall under the LPC’s regulations. Owners of these buildings are required to maintain the exterior features of their buildings as close to their original construction as possible. Any changes made prior to the implementation of landmark status are grandfathered in.
Kerzner has stated in previous interviews with the Times Newsweekly that it is the long-term goal of the Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association (of which he serves as president) to have all 2,982 buildings on the registers receive landmark status.
Created in the late 1990s, the first Ridgewood landmark district encompasses a block of Stockholm Street between Woodward and Onderdonk avenues. Among the significant features of this district is the street itself, which is paved in Belgian blocks.
In 2009, the city officially enacted the Ridgewood North Historic District, instituting landmark status on 90 Mathews flats buildings located in an area generally bounded by Forest and Fairview avenues between Gates Avenue and Woodbine Street. About a year later, the LPC approved the creation of the Ridgewood South Historic District, which protects 212 Mathews flats apartment houses in an area generally bounded by Catalpa Avenue, Woodbine Street and Woodward and Onderdonk avenues.
The LPC is currently examining plans for a Ridgewood Central Historic District, which—if enacted— would preserve 940 brick rowhouses in a 40-block area of Ridgewood generally bounded by Madison Street, 71st Avenue, Fresh Pond Road and Forest Avenue.
The Times Newsweekly contacted the LPC for an update regarding the status of the Ridgewood Central Historic District. An LPC spokesperson has yet to respond.