New York, N.Y. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and U.S. Representative Yvette D. Clarke today wrote to the National Park Service urging for Crown Heights North Historic District to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Senator Gillibrand and Representative Clarke requested to extend the original boundary in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood currently covered by the National Register after the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission revealed an additional 636 historic buildings, as well as documentation that added significant cultural history to the recognition in the Crown Heights North Historic District. The extension would include several residences of the late Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm when she lived in the neighborhood. The Crown Heights District was previously added to the Register in 2014 which included over 1,019 historic properties.
“Shirley Chisholm is a true inspiration, especially to young women in New York City; her advocacy on behalf of families left an indelible mark on the community,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Shirley Chisholm lived in Crown Heights during the most prominent times of her life and this designation to the National Register would be a fitting tribute to her legacy, service to the nation and the community she fought for everyday of her life.”
“As a visionary, public servant and as a fighter, Shirley Chisolm embodied the spirit of a true pioneer and trailblazer,” stated Representative Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09). “With a career in public service that spanned decades, Shirley Chisolm represented her district with a profound personal understanding of the adversities faced by minority communities by advocating for greater equity, justice and fairness not only in our city, but also in the nation. The historical precedent she set for women and African-Americans cannot be underestimated and I encourage the National Park Service to include the Northern Historic District of Crown Heights on the National Register of Historic Places. This nomination will grant recognition of her achievements as a national advocate for civil rights, as well as protect the historic and architectural significance of this Brooklyn neighborhood.”
Gillibrand and Clarke explained in their letter to the National Park Service that this nomination adds an additional area of architectural and culturally historical significance to the Crown Heights Historic District. An important piece of the area’s history includes the emergence of civil rights leaders, and pioneers of social change. The Northern area of Crown Heights is most famously associated with Shirley Chisholm, the nation’s first African-American woman elected to Congress.
Shirley Chisholm served fourteen years in Congress, sponsoring over fifty pieces of legislation; and was a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Women’s Caucus. During her career, Chisholm lived in four locations in the historic district including homes on Prospect Place, Sterling Place and St. John’s Place.
In addition, the district is home to a collection of architectural buildings including the “Kinko” houses, the Colonial and Gothic inspired century-old townhouses, and the Shaari Zedek Synagogue. This designation would also recognize another important figure and well-known African-American author, Richard Wright.
The full text of Senator Gillibrand and Representative Clarke’s letter to the National Park Service Director included below.
Mr. Jonathan B. Jarvis
National Park Service
1849 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20240
Dear Director Jarvis,
We write in support of the nomination of the Crown Heights North Historic District for a boundary increase of its current listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The first phase of the Crown Heights Historic District was listed on the Register in 2014, and included 1,019 historic properties. A local designation completed by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) has revealed an additional 636 intact buildings, as well as documentation that added significant cultural history to the recognition of this distinctive Brooklyn neighborhood, all of which has led to the request for a boundary increase for the existing Register designation.
This nomination adds an additional area of architectural and culturally historical significance to the Crown Heights North Historic District. An important piece of the area’s history includes the emergence of civil rights leaders and pioneers of social change. In particular, the area is associated with our nation’s first African-American Congresswoman, Shirley Chisholm, who lived in four locations within the historic district. The neighborhood was her home during the most prominent years of her career, which included her time in Congress and during her candidacy for the United States Presidency. Her career working on issues of social and political change was recognized in 2015 when she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The expanded Crown Heights North Historic District would be one of the most important resources associated with her life and work.
Another important figure and well-known African-American author, Richard Wright, also once resided in the Crown Heights Northern Historic District. Wright published multiple seminal works that are widely-considered to be among the greatest contributions to African-American literature, including Native Son, Black Boy and Uncle Tom’s Children.
Architecturally, the historic district is composed primarily of row houses from the turn of the 20th century, and includes New York City’s most extensive and stylistically diverse collection of “Kinko” houses. These two-family duplex houses enjoyed a brief period of popularity in Brooklyn from 1905 to about 1913. Other styles that flourished during this time include Queen Anne, Romanesque Revival, Arts and Crafts, and Art Deco. The district also includes one of Brooklyn’s great houses of worship, the former Shaari Zedek Synagogue. The nominated area of Crown Heights covers dozens of architectural gems from this era, also featuring Colonial and Gothic inspired century-old townhouses and residential apartment buildings which remain remarkably intact and well-preserved.
After the major architectural development of the Crown Heights North Historic District ended in the early 1930s the area subsequently underwent significant demographic changes; namely, its evolution into one of the city’s major African-American and Caribbean-American neighborhoods Following a period of decline, and a revival which began in the 1970s, the character and composition of the area has grown to be highly diverse as many young professional seeking affordable housing moved into the many beautiful and distinct residential buildings which Crown Heights had to offer. We believe that the approval of this nomination of the Crown Heights Historic District (Phase III) will help to preserve the integrity of this culturally significant and architecturally unique district.
Thank you for your consideration of this request.
United States Senator
Yvette D. Clarke
United States Representative