Everything You Wanted to Know About Landmarking

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On this blog, we are always debating the effects of landmarking: Will the Landmarks Preservation Commission compel owners in landmarked districts to restore their houses to their original appearance? Will owners have to pay more for repairs? Does landmarking cause property prices to rise? Does it cause gentrification? The answers to the first three questions are: No, yes, and a qualified yes, according to a story in the Times today. (It didn’t address the gentrification question.) The story follows the renovation of Park Slope row house, whose owner was compelled to correct improper alterations made by the previous owner because he embarked on a major renovation that required permits. His architect estimated that Landmarks-approved wooden replacement windows cost about 30 percent more than “conventional” ones. Expensive custom ironwork was also required to restore items the previous owner had removed without permission since the area was landmarked. Nonetheless, he and another homeowner and architects who deal frequently with the LPC spoke approvingly of the process. “It can make a project better,” said Morris Adjmi of Morris Adjmi Architects. The story also found that house prices in landmarked districts “rose slightly more” than elsewhere in the city between 1975 and 2002, although cause and effect is unclear. “The nicer homes tend to be in historic districts,” said an executive with Douglas Elliman. What’s your take?
High-Mileage Alterations [NY Times]

15 Comment

  • “The story follows the renovation of Park Slope row house, whose owner
    was compelled to correct improper alterations made by the previous owner
    because he embarked on a major renovation that required permits.”

    I think that is a crime what the landmark people do to the owners.

    • USGrant

      I feel the same way, but I wonder if the buyer – as with all other violations on the books (HPD, DOB, &c.) that occurred during the reign of the previous owner – should be apprised of the these violations by their lawyer before buying and agree to fix them. Doesn’t it become the new owner’s responsibility to make repairs after they buy the house (or to have them addressed by the previous owner before they buy)?

  • return_of_benson

    An architect praising the LPC is disingenuous. Of course he or she is going to tout a regulation that will throw more work their way.
    Equally “compelling” is a real estate broker praising a law that freezes supply.

  • actually the crime was committed by the previous owner. yes landmarks can be annoying. but these are quality houses that demand quality repairs. if the changes were made before landmarking they are grandfathered.

  • stuyheightsarch

    In 1971 Stuyvesant Heights was the 3rd Landmarked district in Brooklyn. We did not have gentrification here in the 70s, 80s and 90s. 2013 now is a different story for the neighborhood. So no landmarking dose not cause gentrification.

  • Landmarking loses sight of its purpose when they force compliance on small areas, like door colors, lights, railings and forcing inefficient wooden windows. Its purpose should be to prevent tear-downs and significant changes to the facade, not whether or not you replace the roof with period-appropriate slate tiles shipped from the Cotswolds.
    .
    Personally, I intend to make my changes before my area comes under landmarking (soon.) You may not like my changes, including efficient windows with colored cladding, painted railings (not that awful black) and door, but they are well within the boundaries of taste, except perhaps to the LM bureaucrats.
    .
    And no, I don’t much care about the incremental price differential that LM may or may not give me. This is my house, not an investment.

    • Deciding to get rid of a slate tile roof (not many left in Brownstone Brooklyn) would be a significant exterior change. (Pretty sure you can get the materials closer by than the Cotswolds!)

      Repairing and maintaining wood windows can get them to be as efficient as new materials. The inefficiency is from bad fit, not the material itself. Many contractors of course would like to steer you to replacements, because they have relationships with the suppliers, not the repairers. The match of the windows to a facade is a pretty significant element in preserving it.

    • totally agree with you.

      the part of landmarking should also not mean frozen in time. if the original owners of the brownsotone were alive they too might have chosen different windows or whatever, but they are dead, and it seems that even a slight change as a door color gets veteoed down, but who is to say someone from the era way back when couldnt have of changed a door color.

      I agree with preserving a neoghborhood, but wether the windows are boonze vinyl or brown painted they are basically in the same color family and should not matter.

  • catboot

    I think landmarking is a good thing. It might be a pain to get things done, and it won’t always be all unicorns and rainbows But in the long run, I think landmarking is essential in preserving the brownstone neighborhoods of Brooklyn. There are two Fedders buildings on my block, plus an empty lot where another one more could be built. Landmarking? Yes, please!

    • USGrant

      agreed. and agreed with Mr. Hill. gentrification is certainly not caused by landmarking – otherwise people like catboot and myself (and countless others) would have waited years to buy in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Personally, I had no inkling what landmarking was when I bought. I liked the house, the price, the neighbors, and the neighborhood, I had the down-payment, and needed a place to live (sorta in that order).

      • catboot

        This is probably crazy, but in a sense I feel that landmarking is a way to protect the neighborhood from the the by-product of gentrification: the flippers, the people looking to make a buck. It’s a way to preserve the neighboorhood. Zoning does that, to an extent. But landmarking can go where zoning cannot. The pressure of development is huge, and there are a lot of construction projects big and small that seem to pop up overnight, with no consideration for its neighbors.

    • yes, i do understand. you are right.

  • I only wish my block was landmarked especially in light of the travesty that has just occurred. The church on my block has just removed and trashed the beautiful slate tile roof. There was only one small area that needed repairs and they in their misguided wisdom decided to remove the whole slate roof. It is very painful to look at the change.

  • minard

    without the protection of the Landmarks Law you can kiss brownstone Brooklyn goodbye.

    It would be: – goodbye history, hello fedders -

    I’m paraphrasing the late Ada Louise Huxtable’s book
    “Goodbye History, Hello Hamburger”

  • our neighborhood was being considered for Landmarking and one horrible renovation which happened during that time was enough to convince everyone it was worthwhile, despite some drawbacks.