Why City Council’s Proposed Bill Intro 775 is Detrimental to Landmarks

Update:

Mayor de Blasio singed Intro 775-A into law on Tuesday, June 28, 2016.

Click here for more information on Intro 775-A


Below is a memo in opposition to Intro 775, the bill which aims to halt landmarks designations.  There will be a hearing on Wednesday, September 9th at  11am in the City Council Chambers at City Hall. We urge you to attend and testify on this bill as it has the potential to affect all future designation activities of the LPC.

In the memo is the latest list of those groups who have signed on in opposition – including our colleagues at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. If you have responded and do not see your organization named, my apologies – please respond to this email and I will correct the list.  If you want to add your organization’s name to the list, please respond to this email and tell me  – we are listing only organizations only at this time.

BE SURE TO SCROLL DOWN OR CLICK HERE TO LEARN WHICH HISTORIC DISTRICTS MIGHT NOT EXIST IF THIS BILL WERE ALREADY LAW. 

 

August 26, 2015

Re: Intro. 775

Dear Council Member,

We write to express our serious concerns about Intro. 775. We share the desire for a swift, predictable and transparent landmark designation process and have given much consideration to how the current process could be improved to accomplish those goals. However, the bill as currently written would achieve the exact opposite. It would discourage the consideration of complicated or controversial sites and encourage obstruction rather than designation. In fact, if the provisions of Intro. 775 had been part of the Landmarks Law, some of our city’s most cherished and valued landmarks and historic districts would not have been designated (see below). Furthermore, the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) would have been prohibited from considering them again for a period of five years, during which time they would likely have been compromised or destroyed.

Intro. 775 is unnecessary.

The impetus for this bill appears to be the 95 sites currently on the LPC’s backlog which were calendared more than five years ago without a final decision yet rendered by the Commission. The LPC has committed to a plan to hear and make final decisions on all of these sites by the end of 2016, thus making this bill superfluous.

Our research shows that the LPC has a solid track record of timely designation, if not within the strict limits described by Intro. 775, then nonetheless within a reasonable period of time.

Intro. 775 makes an existing problem worse.

In the instances where LPC has failed to act within the proposed limits, this failure has been in part a result of the Commission’s limited resources. Designations require heavy investment of staff time towards extensive research, in-depth examination of boundaries, a full airing of all information and viewpoints on a subject, and the production of highly-detailed reports.

Intro. 775 would do nothing to expand the resources of the Commission, New York City’s smallest agency charged with regulating more than 33,000 structures. Nor would it make complicated designation proposals easier or less time-consuming to vet. Instead, it would force LPC to make decisions about boundaries before they have fully considered all issues. It would prevent LPC from dedicating adequate time to complete the highly-detailed designation reports requested by property owners. At minimum, it would force LPC to make decisions before all information has been contemplated and all discussions have taken place. Far worse, LPC may simply avoid considering sites with complicating factors that might not allow a final decision within the prescribed timeframes.

Intro. 775 creates a new problem.

Intro. 775 would also encourage an owner who is strongly opposed to designation to seek delays in the process in the hopes of “running out the clock” and avoiding landmark designation. The owners of some of our city’s most prized landmarks , from Grand Central Terminal to the interior of Radio City Music Hall, opposed designation and likely would have exploited this “do or die” timeframe.

In summary, Intro. 775 as currently written should not be approved because:

  • The bill imposes an unnecessary, unrealistic, and retroactive 18-month timeframe in which to consider every property on its docket.
  • The proposed timeframes for hearings and final votes are not reasonable for all cases, especially those which are complicated and controversial.
  • It provides no additional resources to ensure that LPC can consider calendared sites or districts within the proposed timeframe.
  • It does not allow LPC the option of continuing to consider a landmark or historic district after the deadline has been reached, regardless of the stage of consideration, negotiation, or discussion, or if new information has been introduced.
  • The five year moratorium on the reconsideration of landmarks and historic districts would unduly hamper LPC and is not reflected in the regulatory frameworks of other city agencies.

 

Sincerely, (signed) LIST IN FORMATION

FRIENDS of the Upper East Side Historic Districts

Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation

Historic Districts Council

LANDMARK WEST!

  1. 29th Street Neighborhood Association
  2. Bay Improvement Group
  3. Beachside Bungalows Preservation Association
  4. Bowery Alliance of Neighbors
  5. Brooklyn Heights Association
  6. Carnegie Hill Neighbors
  7. Citizens Emergency Committee to Preserve Preservation
  8. Coalition for a Livable West Side
  9. Defenders of the Historic Upper East Side
  10. East Harlem Preservation, Inc.
  11. East Village Community Coalition
  12. Fiske Terrace-Midwood Park Historic District
  13. Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance
  14. Friends of Brook Park
  15. Friends of Petrosino Square
  16. Friends of Steinway Mansion
  17. Friends of Terra Cotta
  18. Friends of the Lower East Side
  19. Greater Astoria Historical Society
  20. Greenwich Village Community Task Force
  21. Historic Park Avenue
  22. Jackson Heights Garden City Society
  23. Kew Gardens Civic Association
  24. Lower East Side Preservation Initiative
  25. Morningside Heights Historic District Committee
  26. National Trust for Historic Preservation
  27. New York Preservation Alliance
  28. Park Slope Civic Council
  29. Preservation Greenpoint
  30. Queens Preservation Council
  31. Save Chelsea
  32. Save Harlem Now!
  33. Senator Street Historic District
  34. Society for the Architecture of the City
  35. Sunnyside Gardens Preservation Alliance
  36. Tribeca Trust
  37. Victorian Society of New York
  38. West End Preservation Society

———————————————————————————————————

Analysis of the Effects of

Intro. 775 on Landmark Designation 

As proposed, Intro. 775 mandates for the consideration of historic districts the LPC has:

• 12 months from a vote to calendar to hold a public hearing

• 12 months from the public hearing to vote to designate or the district cannot be acted upon for five years.

While the City Council’s own dataset shows that only 20% of historic districts have exceeded the thresholds proposed by Intro. 775 since 1998, a look back to the creation of the Landmarks Law 50 years ago demonstrates that more than one third (38%) of all districts would not have made it through the proposed timeline. Particularly troubling is the breadth and diversity of the historic districts which would have been rejected – or, at best, deferred for five years.

Under Intro. 775, the following historic districts could not have been designated when originally proposed:

  1. Bedford-Stuyvesant /Expanded Stuyvesant Heights
  2. Bertine Block
  3. Boerum Hill
  4. Carnegie Hill
  5. Carnegie Hill Expansion
  6. Carroll Gardens
  7. Central Park West – 76th Street
  8. Central Ridgewood
  9. Chelsea
  10. Clay Avenue
  11. Clinton Hill
  12. Cobble Hill Extension
  13. Crown Heights North Phase III
  14. Fieldston
  15. Fiske Terrace/Midwood Park
  16. Gramercy Park
  17. Gramercy Park Extension
  18. Grand Concourse
  19. Greenpoint
  20. Greenwich Village
  21. Hamilton Heights
  22. Henderson Place
  23. Hunters Point
  24. Jackson Heights
  25. Ladies’ Mile
  26. MacDougal-Sullivan Gardens
  27. Morris Avenue
  28. Morris High School
  29. Mott Haven
  30. Mott Haven East
  31. Mount Morris Park
  32. Park Slope
  33. Ridgewood South
  34. Riverdale
  35. Riverside Drive-West 80th- 81st Street
  36. Riverside Drive-West 105th Street
  37. Riverside Drive-West End
  38. Riverside Drive-West End Extension I
  39. Riverside Drive-West End II
  40. SoHo-Cast Iron
  41. South Street Seaport Extension
  42. St. Mark’s
  43. St. Mark’s Extension
  44. Stuyvesant Heights
  45. Tribeca East
  46. Tribeca North
  47. Tribeca South
  48. Tribeca South Extension
  49. Tribeca West
  50. Tudor City
  51. Upper East Side
  52. Upper West Side/Central Park West West 71st Street
  53. West End – Collegiate Extension

Further analysis suggests that larger, more expansive historic districts take the longest for the LPC to consider for designation as they require more community education, architectural research and consensus-building. These 53 historic districts encompass more than 17,900 buildings, approximately 54% of the total number of buildings currently protected by the Landmarks Law.

If Intro. 775 had been in effect since 1965, half of New York City’s landmark properties would not be protected and New York City would be infinitely poorer for it.

CONTACT YOUR COUNCIL MEMBER ABOUT INTRO. 775:  http://council.nyc.gov/html/members/members.shtml

TESTIFY ON WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 9th AT 11:00 A.M.

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  1. […] preservation groups have banded together to oppose this measure, and more info can be found here: http://hdc.org/blog/intro-775. If you are a Park Slope resident, please let Council Member Brad Lander know that you oppose this […]



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