Preservationists Say Landmarks Bill Would Let Building Owners Game the System

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    The clock is ticking for more than one proposed landmark. A bill setting time limits on how long the Landmarks Preservations Commission can take to consider landmarking a proposed site is coming up for a City Council vote Wednesday, September 9.

    The American Institute of Architects, New York Landmarks Conservancy, Municipal Art Society, Historic Districts Council and more than 60 preservation groups recently voiced their opposition to the bill, known as Intro. 775, with memos and letters addressed to the City Council. And today the Times had a story looking at various sides of the issue.

    What the Bill’s Backers Want

    The review period for a proposed individual landmark could not exceed 360 days. A hearing would be required within 180 days. Historic districts — much more complex — would require a hearing within a year and a decision within two years.

    If no LPC action takes place, the proposed landmarks could not be considered again for at least five years.

    What Opponents Want

    Preservationists say the bill is not needed because the LPC is already acting in a timely fashion. Yes, it is true the LPC does have a backlog of 95 sites, including seven in Brooklyn.

    However, the new LPC chair, Meenakshi Srinivasan, has already put a plan into place to clear it. Hearings for the backlog start October 8.

    Bill opponents also say the bill would allow building owners to game the system. Building owners could create delays and “run out the clock,” the Times quoted City Councilman Ben Kallos, whose district is on the Upper East Side, as saying.

    Preservation advocacy group New York Landmarks Conservancy noted on its website many cities have limits, but says the LPC should be allowed to chart its own course.

    It also says the bill could have an unfair impact on low-income areas whose residents are pushing for landmarking, because they would not be in a position to hire costly consultants to do the research within the timeframe imposed by the bill.

    Last, it points out that under the proposed new rules, “We would not have historic districts in Mott Haven, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Hamilton Heights or Jackson Heights under the timelines the Council has proposed.”

    Five Facts

    • The seven sites in Brooklyn on the LPC’s backlog list are the Lady Moody-Van Sicklen House, the Coney Island Pumping Station, Green-Wood Cemetery, St. Augustine’s R.C. Church and Rectory, the Holy Trinity Cathedral/Ukranian Church in Exile, St. Barbara’s Roman Catholic Church, and the Forman Building.
    • The LPC will deal with the backlog in a series of meetings starting with all the Brooklyn sites on October 8.
    • Ninety percent of landmarks approved in the past 17 years were handled within the proposed timeframes, according to the City Council.
    • Bill authors are Queens City Councilman and Landmarks Committee Chair Peter Koo and Brooklyn Council Member David Greenfield, who represents Bensonhurst, Borough Park and Midwood. Altogether 13 members of the City Council support the bill, including Brooklyn City Council Member Jumaane Williams, who represents areas from Flatbush to Canarsie. Other backers of the bill include some business and real estate interests.
    • The review process for a proposed historic district is complex and lengthy. It involves researching the history and condition of every building within the proposed area as well as outreach to building owners in the proposed district.

    What do you think? Is the proposed legislation necessary? Would it weaken or strengthen the Landmarks Preservation Commission?

    Intro. 775 Bill [City Council]
    Preservationists Fight Bill Setting Time Limit on Landmarks Decisions in New York [NYT]
    City Council Legislation Will Set Time Limits on Landmark Designations [NY Landmarks Conservancy]
    LPC Backlog Coverage [Brownstoner]
    Clockwise from top left: photo by PropertyShark, Jim Henderson for Wikipedia, Suzanne Spellen, Green-Wood Cemetery, Wally Gobetz via 

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