Chances are without Heights Heroes like Malcolm Chesney, Brooklyn Heights would be one giant highway today. Mr. Chesney, a Brooklyn Heights resident and champion of Brownstone Brooklyn preservation, died Thursday at 87. The group Chesney founded in 1958 with fellow Heights Heroes Otis Pearsall and Martin Schneider, Community Conservation and Improvement Council (KICK) eventually merged with the Brooklyn Heights Association and continued its fight to preserve our historic area and to achieve its landmark status.
Brooklyn Eagle: Malcolm Chesney Dies: “Chesney was a finance guy [at the time, he was an economist for Brooklyn Union Gas], Otis was an attorney and I was in broadcasting,” recalls Schneider. “So we had three legs to stand on.”
Within five months or so, Schneider said, the Brooklyn Heights Association joined forces with the group in its preservation effort. The Brooklyn Heights Press was also active in the cause, which ultimately resulted in the neighborhood becoming the city’s first landmark district. “Remember,” said Schneider, “at that time, there were only three districts in the country that were protected by landmark laws – the old part of Charlestown, S.C.; the French Quarter in New Orleans; and Beacon Hill in Boston.”
The group was successful, said Schneider, in saving the Willowtown section of Brooklyn Heights, which Robert Moses wanted to destroy in a “slum clearance” project.