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Community Conservation & Improvement Council

Community Conservation & Improvement Council

Also known as CCIC and the Unitarian Group

The Community Conservation and Improvement Council stepped up in 1958 to address threats to Brooklyn Heights, and made lasting contributions to preservation efforts in the area.

Neighborhood: Brooklyn Heights
People: William Fisher, Clay Lancaster, Otis Pratt Pearsall, Martin Schneider, Robert Moses 
Public Policy: Bard Act
Above: Brooklyn Heights, 1975; Courtesy of the National Park Service

The Community Conservation and Improvement Council stepped up in 1958 to address threats to Brooklyn Heights, and made lasting contributions to preservation efforts in the area.

December 1958: CCIC goes public in an open meeting during which it presented its agenda to the Brooklyn Heights community

February 26, 1959: The Brooklyn Heights Press announced CCIC's proposal for a historic preservation ordinance under the Bard Act of 1956

April 13, 1959: At a New York City Planning Commission public hearing, CCIC, in conjunction with the Brooklyn Heights Association (BHA), proposed a citywide zoning ordinance

April 21, 1959: At a town meeting, Otis Pratt Pearsall presented CCIC's preservation plan

1960: CCIC’s leadership is practically absorbed into the BHA, where its efforts were refocused toward historic preservation issues

The Community Conservation and Improvement Council (pronounced "kick,”) was formed in 1958 by a group of young newcomers to Brooklyn Heights.1 CCIC's founders responded to development in the Heights that failed to address the "overall needs and interests of the Brooklyn Heights Community."2 Despite the efforts of the Brooklyn Heights Association (BHA), Brooklyn Heights continued to fall under attack by developers, and the newcomers decided to take action. The group's informal conversations quickly turned into formal meetings.3

CCIC went public in an open meeting in December of 1958, during which it presented its agenda to the community.4 CCIC selected three co-chairmen to lead its efforts: founders Martin Schneider and Otis Pratt Pearsall, and a member of the Brooklyn Heights Association, William Fisher, who was instrumental in bridging the gap between the two organizations.5

The BHA soon recruited CCIC members to its board of governors. By 1960, CCIC had been absorbed into the BHA. CCIC's lifespan might have been short, but the organization had a permanent impact on the BHA. Thanks to the emergence of CCIC, the BHA refocused its efforts and became more interested in preservation related issues.6

CCIC began to weigh in on issues of development that threatened the historical, aesthetic, and residential character of Brooklyn Heights.7 On December 24, 1958, the Brooklyn Heights Press published its first story on the formation of CCIC. The story publicized the group’s mission:

"Our houses, historic structures and the architectural character of the Heights must be vigilantly preserved and safeguards must be developed to this end.”8

On February 26, 1959 the Brooklyn Heights Press announced CCIC's proposal for a historic preservation ordinance under the Bard Act of 1956, the piece of legislation that authorized cities to adopt regulations to protect places, buildings, structures, works of art, and other objects having a special character, historically or aesthetically.9

On April 21, 1959, The New York Times covered CCIC's efforts to implement the Bard Act in Brooklyn Heights. The story revealed that, "A new generation of Brooklyn Heights residents is trying to get the city to act under a never invoked state law to preserve the architectural charm and family life advantages of the community."10 Then, CCIC set up a committee to study how the Bard Act could be incorporated into new zoning to protect the Heights. CCIC enlisted the support of notable city-wide groups, such as the Municipal Art Society, whose assistance was solicited by Otis Pratt Pearsall. The Municipal Art Society then appointed a special subcommittee to examine the issue further.11

CCIC also recruited architectural historian Clay Lancaster to conduct a survey of houses in Brooklyn Heights. In 1961, this survey led to the publication of Lancaster’s book, Old Brooklyn Heights: New York’s First Suburb, which provided the intellectual capital necessary to convince the City to pass the zoning resolution to protect the character of the neighborhood.12

On April 13, 1959, at a City Planning Commission public hearing, CCIC, in conjunction with the BHA, proposed a citywide zoning ordinance. The seven-point ordinance would have created a five-member advisory design board appointed by the mayor. The ordinance would also have granted the board the authority to protect both districts and individual buildings.13

On April 21, 1959, at a town meeting, Otis Pratt Pearsall presented CCIC's preservation plan. CCIC also declared its intention to oppose Robert Moses' Slum Clearance Cadman Plaza Title One Project.14 Finally, in 1960, CCIC's leadership was absorbed into the BHA, which then refocused its efforts to preservation-related issues.15

  • Otis Pratt Pearsall Papers
    New York Preservation Archive Project
    174 East 80th Street
    New York, NY 10075
    Tel: (212) 988-8379
    Email: [email protected]

  • Brooklyn Heights Association Archive
    Brooklyn Heights Association
    55 Pierrepont Street
    Brooklyn, NY 11201
    Tel: (718) 858-9193
    Email: [email protected]

  • New York Public Library:
    Brooklyn Heights Press for Apr. 28 - May 5, 19, 1939 - Oct. 9, 1942, Aug. 27, 1943 - Jan. 7 1944 on microfilm.
    Brooklyn Heights Press and Cobble Hill News February 4, 1965 – to present in print.

    Brooklyn Public Library:
    Brooklyn Heights Press, November 17, 1939 - December 31, 1959 on microfilm.
    Brooklyn Heights Press and Cobble Hill News, February 4, 1965 - to present in print.

  • Oral History with Otis Pratt Pearsall
  • New York Preservation Archive Project
  • 174 East 80th Street
  • New York, NY 10075
  • Tel: (212) 988-8379
  • Email: [email protected]
  1. 
 “Remarks of Otis Pratt Pearsall,” 27 February 1990.
  2. 
 “New Group Charts Plan for Housing,” Brooklyn Heights Press, 24 December 1958.
  3. 
 Anthony C. Wood, Preserving New York: Winning the Right to Protect A City’s Landmarks (New York: Routledge, 2008), page 210.
  4. 
 “New Group Charts Plan for Housing,” Brooklyn Heights Press, 24 December 1958.
  5. 
 “CCIC and Association Talk Merger,” Brooklyn Heights Press, 8 January 1959.
  6. 
 Pearsall to Lancaster, 7 September 1976, Otis Pratt Pearsall Papers.
  7. 
 “New Group Charts Plan for Housing,” Brooklyn Heights Press, 24 December 1958.
  8. 
 Ibid.
  9. Brooklyn Heights Press, 26 February 1959.
  10. 
Charles Grutzner, “Brooklynites Set Action on Heights,” The New York Times, 21 April 1959.
  11. 
 Anthony C. Wood, Preserving New York: Winning the Right to Protect A City’s Landmarks (New York: Routledge, 2008), page 217.
  12. 
 Clay Lancaster, Old Brooklyn Heights: New York’s First Suburb (New York: Dover, 1961).
  13. 
 “Arden Rathkopf’s Historic Zoning Proposal of 1959,” Village Views Vol. 7, No. 2 (1995).
  14. 
 “Record Crowd Hears CCIC’s Housing Proposal,” Brooklyn Heights Press, 23 April 1959.
  15. Pearsall to Lancaster, 7 September 1976, Otis Pratt Pearsall Papers.