Ada Louise Huxtable once wrote in a New York Times editorial on the destruction of New York City's original Penn Station:
"We will probably be judged not by the monuments we build but by those we have destroyed."
And perhaps no words articulated the essence of historic preservation better.
"At its core, the preservation of Fort Greene was about more than just saving a few monuments. It was about preserving the racial and cultural mix of the area for people that lived here," said Paul Palazzo, president of the Fort Greene Association.
Though Palazzo points out that in the beginning, the focus was mainly on preserving those remaining homes that epitomize the uniqueness of Brooklyn architecture.
"The Founding members of the Fort Greene Association wanted to create economic viability in the area with an understanding that the buildings themselves were our most critical asset," Palazzo said.
An asset that was in grave danger of extinction around the mid-twentieth century, according to Julie Golia, public historian at the Brooklyn Historical Society.
"Robert Moses had envisioned creating a utopian city of uber-efficient neighborhood that took the focus off of the street and put it on the buildings," Golia said.
In the late 1960s the city began acquiring these beloved Brooklyn brownstones for the back taxes owed on them; faced with the reality of Fort Greene's annexation into this super city, the neighborhood banded together to save their homes.
"That's the real story actually, that a group of citizens could love the character of their neighborhood so much they'd fight to save it," Palazzo said.
Taking a page from the playbook of Otis Pearsall, one of the founders of Brooklyn's preservation movement who successfully preserved Brooklyn Heights years earlier, the Fort Greene Association was formed and set out to prove that the lifeblood of their neighborhood were the historic Brownstones that lined the streets.
A lengthy process, stressed Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council.
"Using the 'district model' for historic preservation they [the Fort Greene Association] began flagging buildings they felt had historical value, and then petitioned for parlance of special district," Bankoff said.
It would take three years for the Landmarks Preservation Committee to cipher through the report put forth by the Fort Greene Association, which called for the architectural salvage and rejuvenation of the area.
Then in 1978, after a great deal of sweat equity, the commission designated Fort a historical landmark.
"Ultimately, the Fort Greene association would also get the city to enact down zone the neighborhood, which in the 1960s had no height restrictions on building," Palazzo said.
Today, while most of the focus for preservationists in Fort Green is on quality of life issues, it all began with a grassroots movement that created a national landmark.
"People clamor to come to Fort Greene because of its uniqueness and its history," Palazzo said. "It looks like Brooklyn, feels like Brooklyn and what's even more important is that it feels like a real place," he said.