Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Former Hans S. Christian Kindergarten, One Of Carroll Gardens' Sweetest Buildings, May Soon Be Altered Forever

Drawing of the building from The Brooklyn Eagle, November 21, 1897
The Hans S. Christian Kindergarten at 236 President Street today
Carroll Gardens Contextual rezoning map

Screenshot above via Google.

Who has not stopped to admire the small beige brick home at 236 President Street, between Court Street and Clinton Street here in Carroll Gardens? It's ornateness and size make it quite unusual for the neighborhood.

The two-story, stand-alone structure was designed by Hough & Duell and built in 1897 as the Hans S. Christian Memorial Kindergarten in tribute to Hans S. Christian by his widow. A Norwegian immigrant, Christian lived at 231 President Street and owned a lime and brick factory on Second Street in Gowanus.

The building's uniqueness was mentioned in a November 1897 article in the Brooklyn Eagle, which covered the Kindergarten's dedication. "It is the only building of its kind in Brooklyn, so far as known, and one of the very few in existence in the City."

Though built exclusively as a kindergarten, complete with cloak room, teachers' parlor, matron's quarters, pantry, janitor's room and sun-filled classrooms, the building was transformed into a residence decades ago.  

The current owners listed 236 President with Alex Calabretta of Douglas Elliman in June for $5.399 million. The price was eventually lowered to $4,950,000. According to the web site,  a contract has recently been signed.

One can hope that the new owner will love and appreciate the home's uniqueness and history, but the structure may be in real danger of being torn down or altered forever.
Here is why:
When Carroll Gardens was Contextually Rezoned in 2009 by NYC Department of City Planning, most of the neighborhood was given an R6B zoning, with height limits of 50 ft.  However, City Planning rezoned some pockets of Carroll Gardens, notably along Clinton Street and Court Street, as R6A, since the agency felt that many of the buildings on those blocks  already exceeded bulk and height compared to the rest of the other neighborhood. R6A allows for 70ft. height.

Unfortunately, 236 President Street, sandwiched between a row of very large buildings, is now zoned R6A, which means that someone could add 5 stories to the existing 2.
A listing for the house on Trulia makes reference to that fact:
"Live in this truly unique home while developing a project that could fund your retirement. This extremely sturdy, 2 story structure could potentially support an additional 5 floors of living space totaling over 10,000 sq. feet. With possibly up to 16 dwelling units this property could provide a sellout of over $15,000,000 at today's market prices for new condos in the area. Bring your Manhattan developers looking to dip their toes into coveted markets - Carroll Gardens."

Apparently, neighbors on the block are worried about exactly that scenario. Whether the house has been bought by a developer who will turn it into a 70 ft multi-unit luxury condo still remains to be seen. One can only hope that the new buyer appreciates history."

It would be unfortunate to lose another piece of Carroll Gardens history. Too bad the building was not landmarked long ago, together with more of the neighborhood.


Anonymous said...

It's a beautiful building. But what is more valuable to society, a beautiful building for one family, or space for 8 families to live?

Joao said...

I remember when the listing first went up a couple of years ago, it listed it as a teardown. It was all about building an apartment building in its place. I hope the new owners have other plans.

Becky said...

Anon 11:19: That's a bogus argument. More and more people crammed into less and less space, at the expense of all else? What kind of life is that, what kind of goal is that for society? Frankly, I choose the former, a beautiful building.

Joao said...

Anon 11:19: We don't need another Williamsburg.

Anonymous said...

To all the folks claiming we have enough people already...ok, what's your plan? Plague? Jonestown 2.0?

Concetta said...

enough with this BS 'development'! Defeats the purpose of moving to brownstone bklyn. Terrible things happening to our wonderful nabe & beautiful buildings. Oy

Anonymous said...

I want to throw up. I've loved this building for years. Thanks for the historical. That listing about Manhattan developers? That's a total sin. Greedy. Hideous. I'm so so very sad.

Anonymous said...

"Jonestown"??? Bad metaphor. It may be a duplex as it stands. And yes we don't need another Williamsburg.

Anonymous said...

Not much detail inside. Someone with style and love could make it amazing. Or destroy it. I'm worried.

neil said...

I used to live on that block and remember the building fondly. I hate to say it, but this will be redeveloped, and chances are it will be maxed out as far as the number of residences it can legally accommodate. I would suggest instead of hopes and prayers for a guardian angel, that people figure out who the developer is and try and engage them. A larger building could be designed absolutely horribly, or it can be done with sensitivity to the surroundings, with setbacks and materials that are more appropriate. Nothing is going to look or feel like this building, but we can try and persuade the developer to put in something that isn't a cheap glass box either.

Joao said...

Today I learned something new: The only alternative to tearing down older, classic architecture and replacing it with big ugly apartment buildings, is mass casualty events. Who knew?

Anonymous said...

You're right, WE don't need another Williamsburg. Pardon me for thinking about people other than myself?

The people being priced out of East New York and Sheepshead Bay and Bay Ridge sure do need some additional density somewhere to prevent further rent increases there. If new housing stock can't be added to a neighborhood three stops from Manhattan, where can it be?

Joao said...

Anonymous. Do you really believe they would be tearing the place down to develop affordable housing? Just look at all the new buildings in the neighborhood. How affordable are they? Show me one affordable unit in any building built in the past 5 years in Carroll Gardens. Look at what happened in Williamsburg. I had a friend who could afford to live there in the mid-90's on a bicycle mechanic's salary. How affordable is it over there now?

The people being priced out of East New York and Sheepshead Bay and Bay Ridge sure would not be able to afford to live in Carroll Gardensbugh.

Anonymous said...

Affordable is only a function of how much housing is available. NYC's population grows somewhere between 4% and 5% annually (which probably undercounts poor and minority communities). Our housing stock grows at under 1% annually.

Is it any wonder that any new housing is only luxury, high-end housing when that is the case?

Anonymous said...

Now that this is a landmark, they should tear down that hideous garage out front. Anyone with me?