August 2017
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MAS Calls on Council for More Funding for Landmarks Commission

Armed with data dating back to the 1960s, the Municipal Art Society asked the City Council to increase funding to the Landmarks Preservation Commission by 16 percent over the mayor’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year. In testimony before the City Council’s Land Use Committee, the MAS argued that “the single thing that would bring about the most fundamental change to historic preservation practice in New York City today would be to increase the commission’s budget enough so they have adequate staff to fulfill their mandate.” Such an increase would cause the commission’s share of the city’s overall budget to grow from 0.007 to 0.008 percent — still less than one-one-hundredth of one percent. Over the last 15 years, the commission has seen its regulatory workload more than double, while the number of full-time staff there has been cut nearly in half. As a result, the commission’s staff has been unable to keep up with a rising demand for neighborhood preservation. “The citizens of this city are clamoring for help to save their neighborhoods—and the most effective tool we have is the commission’s authority to designate buildings and districts. As neighborhoods are redeveloped, we need the Commission to ensure that our historic resources are preserved. Yet the commission just doesn’t have the staff to act on all the requests for designation, leading to not only frustration, but to a loss to the sense of place, the history and the culture that makes New York a great city,” the MAS said. The Municipal Art Society has a long-standing interest in ensuring a strong and viable Landmarks Preservation Commission. During the 1950s and 1960s, the MAS and its board helped lead the effort that created the New York City Landmarks Law and the first Landmarks Preservation Commission.