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Preservation Advocacy Alert from MAS & Partners

June 3, 2016

Re: Opposing Amended Intro. 775-A

Scheduled for Land Use Vote June 7, Stated Council Vote June 9

Dear Council Member:

We strongly urge you to vote against Intro. 775-A at the City Council Stated Meeting on Thursday, June 9. As written, the bill would limit the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s (LPC) ability to protect historic buildings and neighborhoods.

At its only public hearing last September, over 100 community groups, individuals and elected officials appeared in opposition to the proposal, expressing deep concerns that the bill would stifle community-driven preservation activity throughout the city and hamper agency decision-making. While the 5-year moratorium has been removed, an important step, the amended bill does not adequately address concerns raised by the public.

Some of these concerns include:

Lack of Flexibility for Historic Districts

  • Intro. 775-A would require the LPC to make decisions on potential individual landmarks within one year and historic districts within two years. But, unless the LPC takes action within those timelines, items would be automatically withdrawn from the calendar and properties would become immediately vulnerable to demolition—essentially a “pocket veto”. We believe that flexibility is necessary in these complex endeavors, when hundreds and even thousands of buildings are being considered for landmark status. As with individual landmarks, the LPC should be able to extend the timeline for historic districts. Further, we support a mechanism compelling the LPC to designate, deny, or extend that initial timeline to establish a more transparent, accountable process while also permitting the LPC to carry out its mission.

Individual Consent over City Action

  • Intro. 775-A inserts a veto into the Landmarks Law by including a provision that requires “written concurrence of the owner” for any extension of the LPC’s consideration for individual landmarks. The Landmarks Law has never required owner consent, for good reason. The authority to landmark is an exercise of the police power, and like any other land use regulation, is guided only by the public good. As a result, individual property owners must not be given control over City actions that are taken to benefit the public good.

Absence of Additional Funding

  • Intro. 775-A imposes an unfunded mandate on the city’s smallest agency by increasing the work load of an already burdened staff without an equivalent investment of resources. Thus timelines will not speed the process of designation; rather they will discourage the LPC from considering extensive, complicated, or controversial designations.

We agree that the LPC’s designation process requires more transparency, more accountability, and more action. In sum, we expect the City Council to commit to legislation that would provide flexibility for historic district consideration, maintain the City’s ultimate decision-making authority, and help protect calendared properties, or those under consideration, by ensuring that the Commission has enough resources to fulfill this new mandate. Anything less must be viewed for what it will be; a new roadblock to the efforts of communities trying to save their neighborhoods.

Sincerely,

Simon
Simeon Bankoff
Executive Director
Historic Districts Council

GIna
Gina Pollara
President
The Municipal Art Society of New York

Andrew
Andrew Berman
Executive Director
Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation

Kate2
Kate Wood
President
Landmark West!

Rachel
Rachel Levy
Executive Director
Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts

Download letter (PDF) >>