November 16th, 2012
The Landmarks Preservation Commission granted landmark status to the Dumbo Historic District on December 18, 2007. Almost five years after the Dumbo Historic District designation, the terra-cotta colored Historic District street signs have arrived for some streets within the district. (We wondered last year about them.) The New York City Department of Transportation in August 2012 has introduced the new mixed case street signs (in a typeface called Clearview, for the typography enthusiasts), and the new Dumbo signs reflect that.
According to the Historic Districts Council, the brown signs, designed by Massimo Vignelli “are the first indication to visitors and New Yorkers alike that they are in a designated New York City historic district and serve an important public awareness role for preservation.”
“The initial signs for the then-80-plus historic district were funded by an anonymous donor with the intention that the City would provide appropriate signage as new districts were designated. This was agreed-upon but failed to be kept in practice, and unfortunately now, communities are responsible for providing funds for their own street signs, often through discretionary city council or private funding.”
According to last year’s NY Times story about these signs, the LPC “routinely tells community groups that make the request that they must raise most of the money for the signs themselves. The foundation grants each historic district $400 for the signs, which cost $55 each to manufacture, according to the commission.”
Why does this matter? The area’s industrial buildings are already recognized by inclusion on the State and National Registers of Historic Places since September of 2000. For some, it could make an economic impact of their real estate value (perceived or actual), while others say it attracts tourists. Some residents see the designation (and its new signs), as an indication that Dumbo has fully gentrified, and thus not the raw and “untouched” neighborhood it once was. Or that the new signs just tell people that they’re, well, in Dumbo, a Historic District.