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05.16.2014
Mystery Pick
Meenakshi Srinivasan selected to lead New York City's Landmarks Preservation Commission.
Meenakshi Srinivasan.
Courtesy New York Law School

In a pick that surprised many onlookers, Mayor Bill de Blasio has nominated Meenakshi Srinivasan—the current chair of the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA)—to lead the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. While her name never appeared on the mayor’s “short-list” for this position, Srinivasan is no stranger to New York City real estate. She has led the BSA for the past decade, and previously worked at the Department of City Planning. She also holds degrees in both architecture and urban design.

“[Srinivasan] has an incomparable grasp of the land use process and the city’s architectural landscape,” said the mayor in a statement. “She has exactly the skills and the values needed to protect our heritage as New York City grows and develops to meet the needs of our people.”

If confirmed by the City Council, Srinivasan will become a central figure in the age-old battle between preservationists and developers. Given the mayor’s pledge to build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing over the next decade, this battle will only grow louder and more intense.

But the role that historic preservation will play in de Blasio’s housing agenda is entirely unclear. In his 115-page housing blueprint, the word “landmark” comes up once. There is perhaps no better sign that the future of landmarking in New York is unclear than that preservationists and developers are both optimistic about the mayor’s surprising pick.

“The Community looks forward to getting to know her,” said Peg Breen, the president of the New York Landmarks Conservancy. “We don’t have a clear sense of where the administration is on preservation, but we certainly hope for the best and will do our best to work with her.”

Meanwhile, Steven Spinola, the president of the Real Estate Board of New York, told the Wall Street Journal that Srinivasan has “demonstrated the ability to professionalize every job that she's had… we believe that is exactly what is needed at the Landmarks Department.”

Henry Melcher