Architects, preservationists come out in force against bill that would change historic preservation in New York City

Architecture Development East News Preservation
Stone-and-Pearl

Manhattan’s Stone Street, one of over 33,000 landmark properties in New York City. (Courtesy Wally Gobetz / Flickr)

New York City Council members Peter A. Koo and David Greenfield introduced a bill in April 2015 that would radically alter the way the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) considers sites for historic preservation. That measure, Intro 775, was debated yesterday in an epic public hearing that lasted more than six hours. 

Intro 775 is a proposed City Council measure to eliminate the LPC’s backlog of sites under consideration by instituting time limits on how long a site can stay up for landmark consideration. The bill would impose one-year time limits on individual sites up for landmark status and two year time limits on proposed historic districts. All items that the LPC fails to reach an agreement on would not be eligible for reconsideration for five years. If the bill is passed, the LPC would have 18 months to review their calendar and decide on the status of the 95 items. If the review is not complete in 18 months, these items would be permanently deleted from the calendar.

Currently, there are 95 sites under consideration by the LPC (map). Of those sites, 85 percent have been on the LPC’s calendar for more than twenty years. The LPC actively solicits public input on how to clear the backlog.

Area preservationists and architects overwhelmingly oppose the measure. New York City’s five AIA chapters issued a joint statement on the bill: “LPC plays an essential role in ensuring the quality and character of our physical city. The bill, as written, will compromise our City’s seminal Landmarks Law that so greatly contributes to the uniqueness of our urban realm, gives definition to communities, and increases the value of real estate.”

Other opponents of the bill claim that putting a time cap on the review process would discourage the nomination of controversial or complicated sites. Meenakshi Srinivasan, the LPC’s chair, also opposes Intro 775, but is open to internal rules (in lieu of a city law) to expedite the review of sites. After six hours of intense discussion, the Committee on Land Use delayed the proposal until its next meeting on September 25th.

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