One brownstone short of a caricature, the vista from this stoop is *chef’s kiss* Brooklyn.

From eight steps above the sidewalk, at the top of a T-intersection, looking northward straight down a one-block-long beautiful street. Ah, the street. Perfectly composed, as if set designers painstakingly crafted the scene for a Hollywood film. So manicured, as if Disney Imagineers created an idyllic Brooklyn for the Epcot World Showcase. Just the most iconic, classic townhouses. With no detail too small, from hand-painted house numbers to impeccable ironwork. Pristine is an understatement.

Also, trees. Ah, the trees. Over forty trees on this one-block-long street. A veritable canopy of lush leaves and stately trunks framing the vista. Picturesque indeed.

Time is frozen here. Frozen in 1969, to be exact. Well, rather 1840-1850 (the style of the block’s resident townhomes) congealed in 1969 (the year the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission designated this area an Historic District) except, actually, 1900 (when about half of the houses were built; the other half were built later). In its Designation Report, Landmarks lauded this particular one-block-street’s “pleasing variety within a certain uniformity.”

Gothic Revival.

Greek Revival.




Go on.

While most of the structures date back to more than one hundred years ago, a handful are newer builds, the most recent from the late 1980s and early 1990s. What was once an open lot, otherwise unmentioned in the 1969 Designation Report, has been filled in seamlessly, its design receiving Landmarks’ prerequisite “Certificate of Appropriateness.”

The seat of the vista, eight steps above the sidewalk at the top of a T-intersection, is not Landmarked. This stoop of an unremarkable brownstone is on the south side of a street that is the boundary of the Historic District. Accordingly, the street sign is brown on the north side and green on the south side.

Here, on the south side, things are less “Appropriate.” At the top of the eight steps, a door. Ah, the door. Perfectly eclectic, as if an individual picked a fun door they liked. And so shabby, as if the owner hastily coated it with leftover paint from an arts and crafts project.

Also, windows. Ah, the windows on this door. No Revival or -ate here. Arranged like a sun’s rays, a happy set of windows look out.

This is the vista on which the one-block-long street peers back. The eclectic and shabby door with the sunny windows is the Landmarked street’s exact vanishing point. Perhaps it is not picturesque. Perhaps it is even pitiful. But at least it is alive.

Neena Verma is a practicing architect, teacher and writer based in New York City. Her work queries the limits of contemporary architectural discourse — culturally, geographically and temporally. She is currently an Architecture Writing Fellow at the Cooper Union, faculty at Parsons School of Design and the New Jersey Institute of Technology, and principal of an eponymous practice that pursues small-scale, forward-thinking architectural works.

The views expressed here are those of the authors only and do not reflect the position of The Architectural League of New York.



We’ve grown used to things being strange. And to things being very familiar. A series of short texts by architect and writer Neena Verma on the ins and outs of our whereabouts.