Monday, July 30, 2007

We don't want your color in our neighborhood

The New York Daily News's Michael Daly reports that certain Brooklynites went ballistic last week when it appeared that a brownstone was being painted white:

The photo was sent in response to an urgent posting by Brownstoner.com late Friday morning, a message right out of a Brooklyn yuppie's nightmare.

"We just got a tip that someone just started painting one of the brownstones on Grand Avenue between Gates and Putnam white this morning. ... If any readers are nearby, we'd appreciate a photo asap."

The photo was posted minutes later, and sure enough the portal of the building was being painted white. As in not brown.

"ILLEGAL PAINT JOB ON LANDMARKED BLOCK OF CLINTON HILL," the headline read.

It was all a false alarm, as the white paint was only a primer for an acceptably dark color, but the hullabaloo made me wonder what's so bad about a white, or yellow, brownstone. I understand why historic neighborhoods have height restrictions, and why they prevent homeowners from altering windows, roofs, front stairs, etc. in ways that clash with the rest of a block. But paint is a temporary design element (easily reversed by a future owner), and it does nothing to change, say, sight lines or sunlight patterns on a street. I grew up near a Victorian house painted pink that was a scandal in my neighborhood, but I never knew what harm it did; indeed, it seemed to offend all the right people.

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1 Comments:

Anonymous american fez said...

Good question. Many people do not know that medieval castles were actually white-washed and painted, not just forbidding citadels of grey stone. Rome was a city of variegated marble, not bleak, grey columns. If the ancients appreciated colored buildings, why can't the modern urban sophisticate?

7/30/2007 12:45:00 PM  

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