November 2017
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MAS opposes court challenge to Landmarks Law

The Municipal Art Society has represented coalitions of preservation organizations in legal challenges to the New York City Landmarks Law on many significant occasions, ranging from the demolition of Grand Central Terminal to St. Bart’s Church. Our latest action — together with other New York State preservation organizations — is a opposing a court challenge demanding that the State Environmental Quality Review Act apply to the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s decision-making.

Our role in the Citineighbors case again casts the Society as the steward of the City’s Landmarks Law. A neighborhood association has challenged the Landmarks Commission’s certificate of appropriateness permitting the construction of a high-rise apartment building in Carnegie Hill by demanding that the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) apply to the Landmarks Law. The Commission receives some 8,000 applications a year for building construction and alterations, including smaller projects such as painting a building’s facade or installing a new front door. SEQRA is a positive review process for governmental actions like zoning changes, but would tax the already overwhelmed Landmarks Commission staff and force building owners to endure undue bureaucracy for minor projects.

The Litigant’s proposition runs counter to both SEQRA and the Landmarks Law and would require costly and needless environmental reviews on certificates of appropriateness. With the Court of Appeals undecided at this writing, it is unclear how landmarks review would be altered.