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Preservation Community Celebrates 45th Anniversary of Landmarks Law


Photo: Prospect Park boathouse, Brooklyn. Just one of the many historic buildings protected under the New York landmarks law. Photo: Al Rabowitz

Last week, MAS President Vin Cipolla joined a host of committed New York City preservationists, including Paul Goldberger, Anthony C. Wood, and Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel in the landmark interior of the Four Seasons Restaurant to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the New York Landmarks Preservation Law. Enacted in 1965, with support from MAS, the law ensured that the historic character of New York City’s built environment would be protected with the creation of the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

The New Yorker architectural critic and Pulitzer Prize winning writer Paul Goldberger reflected on the immense beneficial impact the Landmarks Preservation Law has had on the built environment of New York City, comparing the respective ages of the landmark Four Seasons Hotel (52 years) to that of the original Penn Station (also 52), when it was torn down immediately prior to the creation of the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Mr. Goldberger said, “Preservation assures us that the city will have the resonance, the layers of time always being visible, that we need it to to be a civilized place.” But, he said, New York should not become “some grotesque version of Williamsburg on the Hudson.”

Following Mr. Goldberger, chairman of New York Preservation Archive Project Anthony C. Wood, suggested that the 45th anniversary was an appropriate time for a critical appraisal of the city’s preservation movement in order to prepare for the future. Asking whether the Landmarks Preservation Law was still as innovative and forward-thinking as it had been when it was first drafted, he said the preservation movement should aim at 2015 and the law’s 50th anniversary, and spend the interim focusing on making itself “as effective as it must be to address the challenges of today and tomorrow.”

To watch a video of the whole 45th anniversary celebration, click here.