By Martica Sawin

Two recent lawsuits filed against the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) raise questions as to whether the LPC is doing its job as spelled out by the Landmarks Law. On August 23, 2017, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York (First Department) granted Save Gansevoort’s motion for a stay which prohibits the developer from doing any exterior work on 60-68 Gansevoort Street and 70-74 Gansevoort Street. Replacement of these one-to-three-story market buildings by bulky 65-foot and 95-foot new structures was approved last year by the LPC. This violation of the LPC’s own designation of the Gansevoort Market Historic District in 2003 led to the filing of a suit by Save Gansevoort and its ally the Historic Districts Council, questioning the legality of allowing this inappropriate construction.

The granting of this stay may be significant since the court rejects the vast majority of the requests for stays which it receives. The Appellate Court’s decision bodes well for the fight to preserve the historic Gansevoort Market. If the subsequent appeal is upheld, it would set an important precedent and strengthen legal protections for historic districts throughout the City.

In August 2016, the Tribeca Trust filed suit against the LPC, contending that the LPC’s decision not to calendar a hearing for an extension of the Tribeca Historic District is “irrational, arbitrary and capricious.” The suit requests that the case be heard in a public hearing and that the LPC develop clear guidelines and procedures in its decision-making process.

As anyone attending or following online the LPC hearings will be aware, the lack of consistent guidelines has been all too apparent in the comments offered by various commissioners. These are often based on personal taste rather than considerations spelled out in the Landmarks Law.

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