By Brian J. Pape, AIA,
The loss of the original NYC Penn Station caused citizens here to focus on the importance of our monumental buildings and special historic homes being lost. But the movement to preserve special places grew. Economic and population pressures continued to threaten our historic fabric, from Plymouth Rock to Civil War cemeteries, and from civic buildings to “house museums.” As the struggle evolved, federal and state tax credits were awarded to buildings and projects that would preserve community and national treasures, often for completely new uses, extending their practical lives by generations. Along the way, court decisions upheld the constitutionality of placing certain restrictions on special places.
NYC has been a pioneer in historic preservation! The Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) is the largest municipal preservation agency in the nation; it was created in 1965 to promote the preservation and use of historic districts, landmarks, and interior and scenic landmarks, for the education, pleasure, and welfare of the people of the city, and to strengthen the economy of the city.
LPC is responsible for protecting places that represent New York City’s cultural, social, economic, political, and architectural history by granting landmark or historic district status, and regulating them after designation. There are currently more than 36,000 protected sites in New York City, most of which are located in 144 historic districts and historic district extensions in all five boroughs. The total number of protected sites includes 1,415 individual landmarks, 120 interior landmarks, and 11 scenic landmarks. Anyone can search for districts or landmarks by visiting http://www.nyc.gov/landmarks.
The New York Landmarks Preservation Foundation, a not-for-profit organization, was established in 1980 to support the LPC and foster public awareness of preservation through educational outreach. The foundation sponsors the Bronze Plaque Program, Historic District Markers Program, and Street Sign Program, denoting historic districts in the five boroughs of the city. For more information, their website is www.nylpf.org.
Proposed rule changes approved and adopted: the commission approved amendments to some of its existing rules, effective as of January 22, 2019, and also adopted new rules to increase transparency and efficiency for members of the public who file for permits with LPC, and to community boards and preservation groups who weigh in on these projects. The robust year-long public process, including two public hearings, public briefings, and four months of comment periods, helped inform the final revisions. The rule changes streamline LPC’s process for approving everyday work on designated properties and encourage support for landmark designations by making the commission’s policies and practices clearer. Calendaring is the first formal step in the designation process; once calendared, LPC will hold a public hearing on the proposed designations at a future date, followed by a public meeting during which the commission will vote on the designation. Read more about it at https://www1.nyc.gov/site/lpc/
In response to WVN’s inquiries, we received this message:
Greetings from the Chair Sarah Carroll: We have been active identifying opportunities to designate the most significant representations of the historic development of our great city and to recognize the people and places that have contributed to that history. We also continue to refine how we regulate to further improve the efficiency and transparency of our regulatory process, and are out in communities educating and promoting preservation as a vital part of what makes this city so special.
Preservation works best when we have a productive relationship with all stakeholders involved. I look forward to working in partnership with property owners, preservation groups, community boards and elected officials to promote preservation as a norm and ensure that the buildings and places that make this city so special and reflect its history are preserved and remain a vital part of New York’s future.
Wishing you all the best,
To get news or questions answered, email requests to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, http://www.nyc.gov/landmarks.
Brian J. Pape, AIA, LEED-AP, is an architectural consultant in private practice, serves on Community Board 2 in Manhattan, and is co-chair of the American Institute of Architects NY Design for Aging Committee.