Thursday, June 7, 2007

'I'm not giving up my family's house'

Facing the threat of eminent-domain-driven evictions, Brooklyn residents aren't going quietly, Julia Vitullo-Martin reports for The New York Sun:

If New York City had such a thing as the Most-Endearing-House-in-the-Five-Boroughs Award, the tiny four-story frame house at 493 Dean St. in Brooklyn, built sometime in the 1830s, would be a contender. Fronted by a fenced herb garden, casement windows above and a small Alice-through-the-looking-glass door below, the house seems to beckon visitors in from the street. At Sunday's Garden Walk 2007, held by the Brownstone Brooklyn Garden District Association, the owner, Jerry Campbell, said his grandfather bought the house 50 years ago, moving to Brooklyn from Sugar Hill in Harlem. He wanted a house he could afford on his own, not share, Mr. Campbell said. Sugar Hill had gotten expensive.

Mr. Campbell's house and his neighbor's at 491 Dean were chosen for the walk in part because their backyard gardens grow at the edge of the neighborhood's first known garden, Parmentier's Horticultural and Botanic Gardens, established in 1825 on 25 acres by a Belgian nurseryman, AndrĂ© Parmentier. The remaining "petits Parmentiers" are imperiled, the tour organizer, Patti Hagan, said, because they occupy the western edge of Bruce Ratner's proposed Atlantic Yards development, which the association's brochure calls a "24-acre House & Garden Grab." Arguing that the area's heritage is important, Ms. Hagan said it was known as Rose Hill a century ago, when it was Irish. Indeed, roses still bloom in nearly every garden on the tour. Of the 16 listed gardens, only two are in the Atlantic Yards footprint, though nearly everyone — owners and visitors alike — expressed dismay at the looming threat of eminent domain.

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