Attention East Hamptonites! Join us in advocating for James Brooks and Charlotte Park Home and Studios, located in the Springs community of East Hampton, NY.

If you live in the Town of East Hampton, please contact your local elected officials to let them know you support comprehensive preservation planning and enhanced support for nonprofit stewardship partners at Brooks-Park and other historic sites protected by the East Hampton Town’s Community Preservation Fund (CPF) program.

James Brooks vernacular-modernist studio (built 1959), pictured above ca. 2018. Photo by Gordon M. Grant, courtesy of Newsday.

Why is Brooks-Park Home and Studios historically significant?

Jackson Pollock and James Brooks on the path to Brooks and Park’s Montauk studio in 1950. Photograph by Hans Namuth, courtesy of Brook Park Heritage Project.

James Brooks (1906–1992) and Charlotte Park (1918–2010) were pioneers of the Abstract Expressionism movement. They settled in the Springs community of East Hampton to be near friends and fellow artists who also lived and worked in the area, including Jackson Pollock (1912–1956) and Lee Krasner (1908–1984).

The site features: James Brooks’s Studio, a vernacular modernist-style structure built in 1959; Charlotte Park’s Studio, also known as the former Wainscott Post Office, relocated from Main Street ca. 1970/1; and the artists’ residence, a 19th-century timber-frame cottage relocated from Montauk in 1957. The buildings are designated as town historic landmarks and eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

Charlotte Park and James Brooks, ca. 1950s, courtesy of Brooks Park Heritage Project.

Why is Brooks-Park Home and Studios endangered?

This site is threatened by vacancy, vandalism, disrepair, and possibly town-funded demolition. Despite widespread public interest, preservation efforts suffer from a lack of comprehensive community-based planning between town decision-makers, local stakeholders, and potential nonprofit partners. Years of delayed maintenance and ongoing deterioration at Brooks-Park demonstrate an urgent need for qualified consultants, staff, and/or advisors with expertise in historic preservation to better protect historic sites managed by the East Hampton Town CPF.

Although the official plan for Brooks-Park is “Historic Preservation and Open Space” (approved by Town Board Resolution #2014-1023), the latest 2021 CPF Management and Stewardship Plan (page 11) proposes demolition of the site’s landmarked buildings: “At the recommendation of the Property Management Committee, we are in the process of removing Brooks and Park property from the current historic designation in favor of Open Space. This will include the removal of structures and the restoration of the land back to green space. We have received approval from the ARB [Architectural Review Board] and therefore we intend to proceed with the solicitation of bids for demolition.” The 2021 plan was approved by the East Hampton Town Board on March 25, 2021 (Town Board Resolution #2021-325).

James Brooks working in his studio, courtesy of Brooks Park Heritage Project.
Vandalism and disrepair at James Brooks Studio, ca. November 2019, photo by Michael Wright for Southampton Press.

How can Brooks-Park Home and Studios be preserved?

Preservation Long Island joins local Springs resident Marietta Gavaris and other community members in advocating East Hampton Town officials to pursue the following actions for preserving this site:

• Fully stabilize, secure, and mothball all structures as soon as possible.

• Develop a comprehensive town plan for the sustainable, long-term preservation of the site in collaboration with local stakeholders and potential nonprofit partners.

• Accommodate a diversity of mixed uses and public programming supported by partnerships with multiple nonprofit partners. Historic preservation need not preclude or prevent a variety of complementary mixed uses, for example: historic interpretation and art history programs, studio space for local artists, outdoor activities and events, as well as nature and hiking trails. Such uses would complement the area’s renowned art museums, e.g., the Pollack-Krasner House and Study Center and the Parrish Art Museum.

•Hire an expert preservation planner and other qualified professionals to support the sustainable long-term stewardship of Brooks-Park and other CPF historic sites. Up to 10% of the CPF may be spent on Management and Stewardship expenses (see section 112-1-35C of the town code). However, according to the town’s official 2021 CPF Plan, only $477,848 is currently budgeted for Management and Stewardship expenses at all CPF properties this year; $477,848 represents approximately 2% of the $25 million total CPF tax revenues expected for 2021.

• Appoint community members with expertise in historic preservation, preservation planning, historic resources management, and/or public history to serve on the town’s CPF Advisory Board and the Property Management Committee.

• Open all meetings of the town CPF Advisory Board and the Property Management Committee to public observation, even when no public hearings are scheduled.

• Encourage greater investment from potential nonprofit partners and private donors by removing problematic language from page 11 of the 2021 CPF Plan (quoted above). This language is inconsistent with section 112-1-50A(4)​ of the town code, which states: ​”With regard to historic properties, historic and cultural resources shall be managed and maintained in a manner which is consistent with accepted standards for historic preservation.” Demolition of designated landmarks is categorically inconsistent with accepted standards for historic preservation.

• Leverage pledges of CPF tax revenue to raise dollar-for-dollar matching contributions from private donors and foundations. Private matching funds could help support rehabilitation work, as well as public programming provided by nonprofit stewardship partners.

• Seek additional guidance for preservation planning and decision-making from experts at New York State Historic Preservation Office’s Technical Preservation Services Bureau.

Former residence of artists James Brooks and Charlotte Park, ca. December 2019. The property has stood vacant and deteriorating for nearly a decade. Image courtesy of Dan’s Papers.

Preservation Long Island’s Endangered Historic Places Program is made possible in part by a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.