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 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.


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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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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