Release #053-2016

Council Recommendations Will Make Preservation Process More Transparent and Will Better Support Landmarked Buildings

City Hall — New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Land Use Committee Chair David Greenfield, Land Use Subcommittee Chair on Landmarks Peter Koo and the New York City Council today released “Landmarks for The Future: Learning from 50 Years of Preservation” a comprehensive report outlining recommendations to ensure the future of historic preservation in New York City.

51 years after the enactment of the New York City Landmarks Law, the Council’s report examines the history of preservation in New York City and includes recommendations to make the practice of preservation more transparent and predictable.

“Our landmarking system plays a vital role in protecting New York’s most historically important places, but the City’s Landmarks Law is in need of updates and reforms,” said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “The recommendations outlined in Landmarks for The Future will allow the City to continue to protect New York’s rich history and architecture while also streamlining the process to make it more transparent and accessible to all New Yorkers. I thank Land Use Subcommittee Chair on Landmarks Peter Koo and Land Use Chair David Greenfield for their leadership and look forward to our continued collaboration as we work to make the landmarking process more responsive to the needs of local communities, landmark owners and the City as a whole. We look forward to working closely with the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the broader preservation community, and other stakeholders to advance these recommendations.”

“Landmarking in New York City is an arduous process that has kept many properties in a state of perpetual limbo, unable to reap the benefits of an actual landmark designation,” said Council Member Peter Koo. “Clearly, the landmarks law needs to be updated to provide reasonable expectations for both community advocates and property owners. This report recommends key reforms to the process that focus on transparency, predictability and efficiency, and will help usher in a new age of historic preservation.”

“New York City’s Landmarks Law is a vital tool for preserving the history and character of our great city,” said Council Member David Greenfield. “With streamlined landmarking process, we can protect New York’s iconic sites while also offering predictability and transparency for advocates, property owners and the public. I’m very pleased that the recommendation that Chair Peter Koo and I have advanced for having a clear timeline on the landmarks process is moving forward. I’m especially grateful to Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito for her leadership and LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan for her outstanding stewardship of LPC.”

The Council’s recommendations include:

• Creating a Reasonable Mandatory Timeline For Designating Landmarks:
The landmarks law should be amended to implement reasonable mandatory timelines for the process for desig¬nating landmarks, interior landmarks, scenic landmarks, and historic districts. This reform would help to inform landowners, neighborhood residents, and advocates about the prospects and timelines for potential LPC actions, and address the current issue with items remaining on the calendar for years. Introduction 775, a bill sponsored by Council Members Peter Koo and David Greenfield, would implement a total one-year timeline for individual landmarks and two years for historic districts. After hearing from many stakeholders the bill we modified to remove the moratorium entirely.

• Public Disclosure of the Status of Items Under Consideration for Historic Designation:
The designation process begins with an initial study or survey of a building or neighborhood by LPC staff. In some cases, this investigation is conducted in response to a Request for Evaluation (RFE), which can be submitted by members of the public. Public disclosure of the status of items in the designation consideration process would help inform the expectations of the public and owners of property under consideration.

• Requiring the Landmarks Preservation Commission to Consult with Affected Communities on Landmark Applications:
The existing community board referral process should be formalized and made part of the Landmarks Law to require consultation with affected communities on larger and more significant applications. Certificates of appropriateness are the highest-level, most involved review for the significant changes to design of designated properties. While LPC currently asks applicants for certificates of appropriateness to present to the affected community board, the Landmarks Law should require this consultation in order to formalize the public participation in the process.

• Updating the Landmarks and Building Code to Require An Official Hold on Building Permit Applications:
The Landmarks Law and the building code should be updated to require a regulatory hold on building permit appli¬cations for calendared properties. The hold should provide enough time for LPC to review and make a decision on pending designations, and give the Department of Buildings the authority to withhold approval during this time. This change would increase the uncertainty and burden faced by owners of calendared properties and provide more clarity and certainty to the public.

• Commissioning Study to Explore How to Best Support Landmark Owners with the Upkeep and Repair of Historic Buildings:
A broader study is needed to investigate ways to make funding available to assist landmark owners with the upkeep and repair of designated buildings. Such assistance could take many different forms. Proposals for grants, subsidies, tax benefits, and reforms to development rights transfers should all be considered as potential ave¬nues to provide assistance for the upkeep and repair of designated properties.

• Bringing the Landmarks Preservation Commission Criteria In Line with Preservation at the State and National Levels:
LPC should continue to bring its criteria for designation more in line with preservation at the State and National levels to consider places valuable to the heritage of his¬torically marginalized communities, not just architecturally significant buildings and look to the use of preservation easements and other tools to protect buildings.

• Increasing Interagency Coordination on Preservation Goals:
LPC should continue to increase emphasis on coordination of preservation goals and other city priorities. This coordination would ensure that decisions about development and preservation are not treated as sep¬arate and apart, but rather as a part of a comprehensive neighborhood planning strategy. This will give both the com¬munity and the City Council an opportunity to consider these decisions within a broader context.

Download the full report