Responding to Real Estate Board Disinformation
“Almost anywhere in the City could be exploited to make more money in the short-term. Central Park would make someone a fortune as a parking lot, Lincoln Center would have a much better bottom line as market-rate residences, and property owners in Greenwich Village would be able to print money if they could all just build high-rise apartment buildings. Fortunately, even though New York is a real estate town in a capitalist society, “highest and best use” is not confined to these short-sighted, micro-economic terms.
New York benefits from the existence of Central Park, New York benefits from Lincoln Center and New York benefits from the existence of its historic districts. These are all things which give the city its spirit and which inspire people to come here and stay. The historic districts of New York are the living foundation of the blossoming vibrant city in which we live and they are the fuel which feeds our character.
That is the crux of the Real Estate Board’s complaint, that landmark designation gets in the way of what it wants out of the city. The thing is, while the development community’s desires might not be fully satisfied, its needs are being more than met. As of the time of this writing, the new residential development on the site of St. Vincent’s Hospital in the Greenwich Village Historic District is selling at a record price per square foot before the buildings are even constructed. Recently, a sliver of land in the SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District formerly occupied by a fruit stand sold for nearly $26 million. Townhouses in Brooklyn Heights regularly sell for several million dollars and newly-renovated apartments in the Crown Heights North Historic District are going for more than $700,000. The real estate industry is not suffering because of landmark designation, even if one accepts their outsized claims of the preponderance of landmark properties littering the market, the owners, sellers and operators of those properties are doing quite well by all accounts. They’re just not getting EVERYTHING they want. So, like any hungry beast, from the Minotaur to a house cat, they are complaining loudly that they are not getting fed RIGHT NOW with WHAT THEY WANT. That doesn’t mean the rules governing the city are bad, broken or even need reform. It just means they’re hungry.”