Landmark alteration violations — prior to purchase

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Topic: Landmark alteration violations — prior to purchase

Roofers March 28, 2014 at 10:42 am

Landmark alteration violations — prior to purchase


Hi Brownstoners –
My family purchased a landmarked commercial property close to 20 years ago. At the time of purchase, there were no outstanding landmark violations but the property had been altered prior to when it was designated a landmarked property in the 1940s. No major changes to the external facade have been made to the building since the time of purchase.

Now that we need approval from the DOB to open a new business, we’ve learned that the Landmark Commission wants us to restore the property to match the 1940s facade. The current facade is not an eye-sore or a deviation from the cosmetic character of the neighborhood or block. (i.e. this is not a glass and metal building on a block of brownstones). Is there anything we can do here?

Thanks in advance for any feedback or advice this community can provide.

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Assuming you are not doing any work to the buidling facade to open the business, this is the sort of overstepping that needs to stop with LPC.

The Landmarks commission should have photographs of your façade in their files at the time it was landmarked. Schedule an appointment with them to inspect those photographs and if as you say nothing has changed, they should not have given you a violation.
I had this situation with a Brownstone in Ft Greene, they suddenly; in 2001 issued a violation for bars on the Parlor floor windows, the prior owner had put them on in the late 1970’s before it was landmarked. They grudgingly took the violation off……. two years later I applied to take the bars off and they still gave me a hard time. They are way to arbitrary.


Thanks, Dave and resident2.

Resident2: just to clarify, the fascade was altered since it was landmarked. But this occurred before our family purchased the building in the 1990s. So, I guess my question is whether we are required to restore the 1940s fascade to wood even though we bought the building after it was converted to brick/stone.

You might want to talk to your Community Board if Landmarks gives you a hard time. Landmarks does take CB input under advisement & CB might be more sympathetic to you.

What do you mean, “converted to wood”? That seems like a reasonable concern to me, not a superficial matter like window bars on or off. I have no dog in this fight.

Nothing could have been landmarked in the ’40s in NYC; the Landmarks Law was passed [IIRC] in 1966. Any changes made to your building prior to it’s designation, whenever that was, is grandfathered in and may be left UNLESS you do a major renovation to the facade, in which case you’d have to restore it to the original state. Perhaps you can scale back any alterations enough that the necessity of that restoration isn’t triggered. The LPC staff MIGHT be able to help you determine that.


Thanks all. I will follow up with our Community Board rep — thanks for the suggestion, Arkady.

Green Mountain and Bob Marvin – I think the photo the Landmark Commission has on file is dated 1940 (that’s where I got that date) and the photo shows the building with what looks to be wood shingles.

Bob Marvin, as ever, is on the money. As he indicates, you CAN work with LPC — they may not offer you all the flexibility you’re looking for, but they are more helpful when you communicate with them directly than most property owners would imagine. Another thought: I don’t know what your line of business is or where the building is located, but yuppie consumers these days are hugely design-conscious and love “authentic” looking spaces. What might look now like an unnecessary expense, could wind up being your best marketing investment ever. Check out all the trendy Williamsburg bars, restaurants and boutiques with their faux 1910 exteriors and interiors!

Usually there are two options: You can leave it as it was before the landmarking or you can restore to the original but you cannot alter it in some other way.

The City has 1940 tax photographs of most properties; LPC should also have photographs taken at the time of landmark designation.

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