Annual Conference: Open to the Public – Making Our Story Heard!

Attendees will set the agenda at our first-ever participant-driven conference on

Saturday, March 4th, 2017

9:00AM to 4:00PM

New York Law School – 185 West Broadway, New York, NY 10013

Join the Historic Districts Council for our first-ever Participant-Driven Preservation Conference:

 Open to the Public – Making Our Story Heard!

Featuring a Keynote Address by Gina Pollara

Conference Tours throughout April 

Conference Program 


New York City is home to the country’s first municipal plan, strongest landmarks law and largest preservation community… so why does real estate development drive municipal government?


This day-long Conference will dive deep into current campaigns to preserve communities throughout the city, with sessions led by the participants themselves.


Host a public discussion about a preservation issue or campaign you care about, and attend open sessions to learn what other grassroots activists are doing to take back our city! Attendees wishing to lead a session with visuals should bring materials on a flash drive, and all leaders must sign up by 9:30 am. 

Curious About The Format? Watch Our Explanatory Video:

What’s a “Participant-Driven Conference”?

Unlike traditional conferences in which attendees listen to panel discussions or lectures from experts, topics in a participant-driven conference are suggested and led by the attendees themselves. While some may choose to come prepared with a topic for discussion, all attendees should be prepared to be active participants, meeting new people, sharing ideas and helping to shape the discussions they’re in. This way, the event will truly reflect the interests and ideas of all attendees, not just a few pre-determined speakers.


How does it work?

All attendees are invited to lead 45-minute sessions on any topic of their choice related to historic preservation in New York City. Those who sign up to lead sessions may do so in any format of their choice: Power Point presentation, round-table discussion, game, you name it! Leaders are also invited to bring a buddy to co-lead a session or assemble a panel of a few people willing to speak on a given topic.


On the morning of the Conference, leaders will sign up for their proposed session – including their name, session title and format – on a large board in the main event space. You must post your session by 9:30AM for it to be included in the roster. After brief opening remarks and a keynote address, attendees will then vote for the sessions they find most interesting. The sessions with the most votes will be arranged on a grid, which will form the schedule for the day’s events.


There will be 12 possible sessions: 4 timeslots in 3 classroom spaces. Each attendee will be able to attend 4 sessions – one in each timeslot. However, if you’re not happy with the discussion or wish to move around from room to room, you’re welcome to do so. There are no rules!


Will I have a chance to mingle with other attendees?

During registration, coffee and pastries will be offered as attendees get settled, sign up to lead sessions and/or find their seat for the opening remarks and keynote. The event will also feature an hour-long buffet lunch in the middle of the day, during which attendees can mingle, socialize and keep the conversations going.


During breaks from the sessions, civic groups from across the five boroughs will participate in the annual Preservation Fair – a fun way to meet people and learn more about preservation campaigns in specific neighborhoods across the city.


Are there other associated events with the Conference?

HDC hosts a series of walking tours offered throughout April highlighting Conference themes. This will be a fun way to reconnect with other Conference attendees and to learn more about preservation efforts in our historic city!


Got other questions?  We’ve got answers.

Feel free to reach out to us for feedback about your proposed session topic.  While we can’t guarantee that your session will be picked on the morning of the Conference, we’re happy to help you brainstorm!

Call us at 212-614-9107 or email us at



Support is provided in part by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and by the New York State Council on the Arts and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. Additional support is provided by City Council Members Ben Kallos, Rosie Mendez, Mark Levine, Inez Dickens, Vincent Gentile, Corey Johnson, Stephen Levin, Margaret Chin, Daniel Garodnick and Rafael Salamanca, and by New York State Assembly Members Deborah Glick, Richard Gottfried and Daniel O’Donnell.

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Open to the Public – Making Our Story Heard! Conference Tours

HDC will host five walking tours of a diverse range of neighborhoods and sites on weekends in April

Conference Program

More Information about the 2017 Conference

Sunday, April 2, 3:00PM                Behind-the-Scenes Tour of King Manor

Join us for a tour of the home of Rufus King, signer of the United States Constitution and early voice in the anti-slavery movement. Originally constructed in the 1750s, King lived here from 1805 until his death in 1827. Located in Jamaica, the Colonial-era structure now functions as a house museum, and is the only such museum in southeastern Queens. Executive Director of the King Manor Museum (and former HDC staff member!) Nadezhda Williams will give us a behind-the-scenes peak on this extended tour, which will encompass the entire house from the basement to the attic and from the servants’ quarters to the King family’s parlor. Explore how the house, a designated New York City Individual and Interior Landmark, tells its history of three major phases of construction (c1750, c1790 and 1810) and still holds a few mysteries.


Saturday, April 8 at 10:30AM      Sunset Park: History and Advocacy

Join tour guide Joe Svehlak on this tour of Sunset Park, whose built environment has shaped what is today a quintessential Brooklyn neighborhood: from the massive Bush Terminal and its associated workers’ housing to the construction of the 4th Avenue Subway, and from the establishment of the country’s first cooperative apartment buildings in the early 1900s to the Section 8 housing of the 1970s, which helped the neighborhood transition out of blight. For the past four years, advocates and residents have led a grassroots effort to push for the designation of a historic district in Sunset Park to pay homage to these developments and allow the neighborhood’s storied past to inform its future. While the effort stalls at the City level, many lessons can be learned in this case study about the power of community organizing and public participation?

Sunday, April 23 at 11:00AM       In Search of the Tenderloin and Tin Pan Alley

From the 1870s to about 1910, the Tenderloin was Manhattan’s most famous red-light district, a cradle of elegant vice that developed north of 23rd Street west of Fifth Avenue, in the shadow of luxurious hotels such as Gilsey House. High-stakes gambling parlors, brothels, saloons, dance halls: the Tenderloin reveled in its own illegality, until pressure from civic authorities and corporate development led to its demise. Since the 1990s, zoning changes have altered the landscape of the old Tenderloin’s main stem – Sixth Avenue – and have led to the destruction of many buildings. But a few reminders survive. On this tour, author and historian David Freeland will guide visitors to sites associated with still-visible Tenderloin businesses, including the block of 28th Street once known as Tin Pan Alley, birthplace of the pop music industry.


Sunday, April 30 at 1:00PM          Greenwich Village’s Legacy of Activism

From class warfare in Astor Place to garment workers and beatnik musicians in and around Washington Square to anarchists on the Gold Coast to gay men outside a bar, Greenwich Village has witnessed and been host to some of America’s most important and impactful activism. The impressive roster of protests on all manner of issues that have taken place on its streets throughout its history has changed the world for the better. Join us for a tour led by Philip Desiere of Walk About New York, as he highlights some of Greenwich Village’s seminal protest locations that mark how New Yorkers and, more broadly, United States citizens have made their voices heard to help make America a more just place to live.

Support is provided in part by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and by the New York State Council on the Arts and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. Additional support is provided by City Council Members Ben Kallos, Rosie Mendez, Mark Levine, Inez Dickens, Vincent Gentile, Corey Johnson, Stephen Levin, Margaret Chin, Daniel Garodnick and Rafael Salamanca, and by New York State Assembly Members Deborah Glick, Richard Gottfried and Daniel O’Donnell.

Preservation in the News

How a Mott Haven Man Tries to Preserve His Neighborhood

Brooks said some of his neighbors, who have lived in their homes since the 1950s and 1960s, paid $16,000 to $18,000 for their property, and have no mortgage. And Brooks wants these people to stay. “I noticed there was always an interest in what’s new, about developers coming into the area,” said Brooks. “And I was saying wait a minute, we are stepping over something that has been here since 1639.”

This is part of the reason why Brooks started the Mott Haven Historic Districts Association, an organization seeking to preserve the culture and history of the community—and to ensure that long-time residents continue to have a stake in it. “There are homeowners that have owned their homes since the ‘50s, early ‘60s. And they’re not affluent, they have no mortgage on their property. The exterior is protected by a landmark, but the interior requires some work,” said Brooks.

Click here to read the whole article

Save Chelsea Chosen as One of ‘Six to Celebrate’

HDC noted that the Six to Celebrate program opens their “strategic resources” to local groups, thereby helping them “learn to use tools such as documentation, research, zoning, landmarking, publicity, and public outreach to advance local preservation campaigns.”

HDC Executive Director Simeon Bankoff said his organization chose to help Save Chelsea because of the group’s tireless work in the area and a need to boost the preservation conversation in a rapidly changing neighborhood.

Click here to read the whole article

We must protect historic preservation

Developer still has a chance to save beloved church

New York Post By Steve Cuozzo

Preservationists are appalled.

Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the nonprofit Historic Districts Council, said, “It’s a crying shame when the developer and the community are trying to work together on a mutually advantageous solution and the city is what’s standing in the way.”

He added, “The street wall regulation is a good rule, but this is a situation where an exception should be made.”

Click here to read the whole article

31 floors of the Waldorf-Astoria are being turned into apartments

Time Out New York By David Goldberg

As one well-known NYC landmark becomes the target of protests, another is getting turned into condos. Anbang, the Chinese investment group that purchased the Waldorf Astoria in 2014, has officially filed plans to convert most of the iconic hotel into residential spaces. The billion-dollar effort will turn over 31 floors of 500 guest rooms into “exclusive” apartment units. The remaining 300–500 units will remain hotel rooms, though they’ll likely get some souped-up features. The base of the Waldorf will feature a fitness room, shopping center and restaurants.

Click here to read the whole article

American Museum of Natural History’s Studio Gang expansion gets the green light

Curbed  by 

The American Museum of Natural History’s ambitious $325 million expansion plan gained unanimous approval from New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission on Tuesday, greenlighting the 142-year-old institution to realize the Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education and Innovation.

Click here to read the whole article


New Research on How Historic Districts Affect Affordable Housing

There’s new evidence in the long-running debate over whether historic landmarks promote or paralyze the development and preservation of affordable housing in New York City.

The take-away from studies released in May by the Landmarks Conservancy and the Historic Districts Council is that historic districts don’t matter very much when it comes to housing affordability, a finding that would refute landmarking opponents who say the designations harm affordability.

Click here to read the whole article

A new study from the Historic Districts Council shows that historic districts are not the enemy of affordable housing

Celebrate East New York’s Historic Architecture on a Walking Tour This Weekend

East New York’s historic architecture — little of which has been landmarked — is being recognized as part of the Historic Districts Council’s Six to Celebrateprogram this weekend with a Six to Celebrate Tour.

Longtime neighborhood resident Farrah Lafontant will lead the tour, sharing the history of area gems like the Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church, a Magistrates Court, the former East New York Savings Bank site, Maxwell’s Bakery, and the Empire State Dairy Company factory complex.

Click here to read the whole article

History in the taking! Landmarks OKs Park Slope Historic District expansion, but preservationists want more

Brownstoner by Hannah Frishberg

“It took a long time but we’re pleased its finally happened,” said Simon Bankoff of preservation advocacy group the Historic Districts Council, which championed the plan primarily driven by the Park Slope Civic Council. “We look forward to the rest of Park Slope being protected.”

Click here to read the whole article

Pepsi-Cola Sign in Queens Gains Landmark Status

Brooklyn Daily Eagle By:Lore Croghan

The renowned preservationist told the city Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) at a hearing Thursday that officials at the celebrated 19th-Century cemetery do an outstanding job of caring for the historic 478-acre graveyard.

He questioned whether it would be a wise use of  the agency’s limited resources to monitor the preservationist efforts of this institution with its history of impeccable behavior.

Click here to read the whole article


New owner shells out $20M for Williamsburgh Savings Bank retail with plan to attract major brand to iconic Brooklyn tower



“The interior of the space is truly fantastic,” said Simeon Bankoff of the Historic Districts Council. “It’s this glorious cathedral to thrift. A lot of very successful retail spaces operate out of landmarked buildings — like Grand Central Terminal. I’m excited that people will actually be using this space again.”

Click here to read the whole article


Frick Museum Abandons Contested Renovation Plan

NY Times By 

The Frick Collection has yielded.

Facing a groundswell of opposition to a proposed renovation that would have eliminated a gated garden to make way for a six-story addition, the museum — long admired for its intimate scale — has decided to abandon those plans and start over from scratch.

“It just became clear to us that it wasn’t going to work,” said a museum official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the board had not yet made the decision final with a vote.

Click here to read the whole article


Revisiting Brooklyn’s Abandoned Admiral’s Row Before It’s Gone

Curbed by Nathan Kensinger

Many abandoned landmarks around the city have been swept up in the current development boom, and Admiral’s Row, while never declared an official New York landmark, is part of this wave of projects. The Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation announced in May that almost all of the 11 structures along the row would be replaced with a 74,000-square-foot Wegmans grocery store, the first in New York City. For community activists, it is the end of a long battle, with no reprieve in sight.

Click here to read the whole article


What’s Next for New York City’s Many Abandoned Landmarks?

Curbed by Nathan Kensinger

The landmarking process, however, does not guarantee a permanent safe harbor for buildings, and over the years many designees have been lost to decay, demolition, and legal maneuvering. Today, a surprising number of official New York City landmarks are abandoned, having been left to rot for decades, and are in danger of becoming victims of demolition by neglect.

Click here to read the whole article


Despite cries of foul, Seaport building appears headed for the wrecking ball

Downtown Express

Because of the Tin’s precarious state, Hughes had proposed carefully dismantling it and restoring it close to its original state, so the latest news presumably should not change those plans, although not everyone is sure.

“It seems clear to me that the reason the Landmarks application for the Tin Building is not proceeding is because E.D.C. is intending to demolish both it and the New Market building,” Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council, wrote in an email to Downtown Express. “The people making decisions are acting in bad faith with regard to the public process and the historic buildings of the Seaport.”

His group, Community Board 1’s Seaport Committee, Save Our Seaport, and others have recently signed onto a draft letter to Mayor de Blasio criticizing the overall Seaport process for ”an egregious absence of transparency.”

Click here to read the whole article


Howard Hughes: Here Comes The Tower

The fight that preservationists and Seaport residents have undertaken to stop the Howard Hughes Corporation’s plan to build a 494-foot hotel/condo tower has just suffered what appears to be a major setback, as the city has declared that two buildings that were part ofthe old Fulton Fish Market, the New Market Building and the landmarked Tin Building, are in danger of collapsing and must be demolished. Efforts to stop the development have, up until this point, focused on the preservation of those two buildings, but now that the Economic Development Corp. has issued a statement saying that they “are supported by piles that have deteriorated to the point that they cannot hold the structures above it,” they could be razed next month.

Click here to read the whole article


Julian Niccolini on the Future of the Four Seasons Restaurant

Forbes by Karla Alindahao

One of New York’s legendary restaurants—the Four Seasons—is in its last season at the Seagram Building. This spring, real estate mogul Aby Rosen, who owns the iconic Mies van der Rohe tower (which has been home to the restaurant since it opened in 1959) filed plans to renovate the Philip Johnson-designed space with the local Landmarks Committee—without informing Four Seasons owners Julian Niccolini and Alex von Bidder.

Click here to read the whole article


Council bill would give landmarks agency something new: deadlines

Legislation aims to prevent commission from keeping properties in limbo for decades

Crain’s New York By 

Should the bill pass, it would require the commission to hold a hearing on a structure or property within 180 days of receiving a request to consider it for historic status. The commission would then have another 180 days to vote. If an entire district is being considered, the commission would have a total of two years to make a call. In each case, if no action were taken, the property or district would be removed from the list and could not be resubmitted for five years.

Click here to read the whole article


 Simeon Bankoff: Taking the Context out of Contextual Zoning

City Land

Since their introduction almost 25 years ago, many communities across New York City have looked to contextual zoning to help protect the character of their neighborhoods and encourage appropriate new development which enhances where they call home. These are not fly-by-night efforts; frequently volunteers spend years in meetings with community stakeholders and decision-makers, carefully crafting zoning regulations which correspond with the existing built neighborhood.  More often than not, professional planners and consultants are hired to guide the process, facilitate collaboration with all stakeholders and work with the Department of City Planning to determine if local plans can align with the agency’s citywide mandate.

Click here to read the whole article


‘Citywide Rezoning Plan Would Benefit Developers, Hurt Neighborhoods’


Gotham Gazette by Andrew Berman

The mayor’s ‘Zoning for Quality and Affordability’ plan is not without good points, and its stated goals are worthy of support. But substantial modifications are needed to protect neighborhood character and benefit average New Yorkers before it can live up to its lofty premise, and before it should be considered for adoption.

Click here to read the whole article



‘Zoning Changes Made in Haste Makes For Bad Government’


Sixteen years ago, the Chelsea Plan became a reality. It took years of grinding effort to accomplish. The idea began with Rowena Doyel, founder of the Council of Chelsea Block Associations, and Ed Kirkland, Chair of Community Board 4’s Chelsea Planning and Preservation Committee (now called the Chelsea Land Use Committee), and the originator of the (now-disbanded) Landmarks Committee. Tom Duane, then a CB4 member and Co-chair with Kirkland, was tireless in his efforts to guide the Plan to success.

Click here to read the whole article



‘Zoning Process Too Fast For CB4’


“This is a citywide initiative that is being rammed through with not enough time to make even the most basic consideration of what [the department] should be studying,” Compton said.

Click here to read the whole article


Record $71.9 million spent on lobbying New York City officials in 2014: report

Power players are spending more cash than ever to influence city government officials through lobbying, a new city report shows.

Lobbyists brought in $71.9 million to target city government in 2014, a record high, according to the report by the city clerk’s office covering the first year since Mayor de Blasio and the new City Council took office.

Click here to read the whole article


Woodlawn group fights for historical district status

News 12 Bronx

One Bronx neighborhood has made the Historic District Council’s “Six to Celebrate” list.

Woodlawn, which sits in the north central part of the borough, is full of history that many don’t know about. It’s an old neighborhood that started as a community as a direct result of Woodlawn Cemetery.

The group Women of Woodlawn is behind getting Woodlawn chosen for the “Six to Celebrate” program as it strives toward getting the neighborhood recognized for its rich history.

Click here to read the whole article and watch the video of the Women of Woodlawn being interviewed


Op-Ed: No Tower on the Seaport


The mayor said: “We are not embarking on a mission to build towering skyscrapers where they don’t belong. We have a duty to protect and preserve the culture and character of our neighborhoods, and we will do so.”

That’s exactly the point we’ve made in our forceful opposition to the inappropriate 494-foot residential tower that the Howard Hughes Corporation has proposed to build in the heart of the South Street Seaport, one of the city’s most uniquely historic areas. While we’re committed to revitalizing the neighborhood, it’s true that we have a duty to protect the historic fabric of the Seaport—a low-rise area ever since it became active three centuries ago—from this kind of irresponsible development proposal.

Chin is the City Council member representing District 1 in Lower Manhattan; Brewer is the Manhattan borough president.

Click here to read the whole article


Next TREASURES OF NEW YORK to Mark 50th Anniversary of NYC Landmarks Law, 2/3

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Landmarks Law, the hour-long documentary Treasures of New York: The Landmarks Preservation Movement, premiering on Tuesday, February 3 at 7 p.m. on WLIW21 and Sunday, February 8 at 8 p.m. on THIRTEEN, will explore the history and the future of the wide-scale preservation efforts of New York City’s Landmark Commission to protect thousands of culturally and historically significant sites.

Click here to read the whole article


Park Avenue Is About to Get Something It Hasn’t Seen in 40 Years

After decades in deep freeze, New York’s sacred avenue is about to get a new skyscraper

Bloomberg Business By 

he 893-foot (272-meter) tower will rise amid Manhattan’s biggest rush of skyscraper construction since the 1980s, with millions of square feet of offices in such projects as Hudson Yards on the far west side and the World Trade Center downtown. Levinson is building “on spec,” meaning without any tenants signed up. It’s a gamble on the staying power of today’s accelerating demand for space, and a practice that’s had a checkered history in the city, said Lawrence Longua, a retired real estate professor at New York University.

Click here to read the whole article


Down the Block, Deep in the Stacks Nearly 30 Years of Documenting New York

New York Times By 

Michael Sterne, then the Real Estate editor of The New York Times, conceived of the Streetscapes column in 1986, and paid me the compliment of hiring me to write it. Now, with my final column, it may be appropriate to present an apologia for what I hoped to do, and what I have done.

Click here to read the whole article


New York City Landmarks Panel’s Move Upsets Supporters—and Critics

Behind Commission Decision Are Almost 100 Tales of Potential Landmarks

Groups of school children gather a few times a week in front of Catherine and Alfredo De Vido’s 19th-century house on East 85th Street to start a tour about the history of immigrants in the Yorkville neighborhood.

The De Vidos were surprised to learn the city Landmarks Preservation Commission was planning to drop their rare Manhattan wood house from the list of potential landmarks, where it has been lingering since 1966.

Click here to read the whole article


16 Stories o’ Condos Will Replace ‘Plain’ Little Flatiron Building

Curbed by Hana R. Alberts

Even the Historic Districts Council, which veers strongly to the preservation side of preservation vs. development, approved of the demolition, because the existing structure “appeared in pallor compared to the examples provided of the fanciful Ladies Mile-quality buildings in the district.”

Click here to read the whole article


For a Student of the City, It’s Always New

Andrew S. Dolkart: A Chronicler of New York Old and New

New York Times By MATT A.V. CHABAN

If you’re curious about a particular building in New York, odds are that Andrew S. Dolkart knows something about it. Mr. Dolkart, the 62-year-old director of Columbia University’s Historic Preservation program, spends many Sundays wandering the city with his husband, Paris R. Baldacci, 70, a law professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. Mr. Dolkart, in recognition of his tireless study of New York old and new — he has written dozens of books and essays, and is working on a book about the garment district — will receive the Historic Districts Council’s Landmarks Lion award on Nov. 19.

Click here to read the whole report


Glass Dome Could Rise Over Union Square’s Landmarked Tammany Hall

By Heather Holland

A major renovation is coming to the former Tammany Hall headquarters in Union Square where owners want to put a new glass dome over the landmarked building and demolish a theater to make way for retail and office space, the project’s architects said.

The historic structure at 44 Union Square East, built in 1929 to house the Democratic Party machine, will undergo a major overhaul that will restore the facade, gut the existing theater and add windows and glassier storefronts, according to BKSK Architects which is designing the project.

The most striking change will be a new 30-foot glass dome on top of the building, which will add about 27,000 square feet to the structure and will house office space, according to Harry Kendall, a partner at BKSK.

Click here to read the whole report


Independent Engineer Report Supports Dismantling the Harlem Watchtower

An independent report on the structural integrity of the watchtower atop Marcus Garvey Park supports the Parks Department’s claim that the tower needs to be taken down as soon as possible.

Preservationists called for the report after finding out that an emergency contract to take down the tower did not mention anything about the restoration process.

Both the Parks Department and the Department of Buildings cited a 2009 report by Thornton Tomasetti when saying the tower needed to come down immediately.

Click here to read the whole article


Community plan to unlock south Bronx waterfront recognized by state

The state Department of Environmental Conservation named the Mott Haven-Port Morris Waterfront Plan, which turns six waterfront patches into boat hubs, flood protectors and parks, to a draft of its ‘Open Space Plan.’


South Bronx residents have been demanding access to the waterfront — and it seems that state leaders have heard.

A plan to transform six parcels in Mott Haven and Port Morris into waterfront parks has been nominated for addition to a statewide list of land conservation projects.

The plan — cooked up by South Bronx Unite — would build boat hubs, restore a historic gantry and pier and install a waterfront trail that spans the Harlem River, the Bronx Kill and the East River.

Click here to read the whole report


Frick Opponents Get Organized

“[The local community] regards this as the museum down the block,” said Simeon Bankoff, executive director of HDC, whose organization issued a statement in October opposing the plan. “They regard this as a wonderful amenity to their home. The feel very strongly about it.”

HDC cited the destruction of the Russell Page garden and the size of the addition as its major concerns with the proposal, which, its statement said, would “transform The Frick into an institutional environment.”

The fate of the garden is one of the most visible concerns among critics of the expansion, and its salvation is one of Unite to Save the Frick’s top priorities.

Click here to read the whole article


Historic Districts Council Opposes Frick Expansion

New York Times, By 

The Historic Districts Council, which can influence the city’s decisions but has no official role, has come out in opposition to the Frick Collection’s planned expansion, the council announced on Wednesday.

The council’s public review committee — which examines proposals for work on landmark buildings that are to come before the Landmarks Preservation Commission — said in a statement that the proposed expansion “will destroy the design intent of Thomas Hastings’ residential composition and John Russell Pope’s graceful museum transformation.”

Click here to read the whole article


Redevelopment of Former Indigent Farm Community Proposed

Plan for former Farm Colony would entail the demolition five out of eleven historic structures in the district, create senior housing. On September 30, 2014, the Landmarks Preservation Commission considered an application for the redevelopment of theNew York City Farm Colony-Seaview Hospital Historic Districtlocated in Staten Island in the Castleton area. The 45-acre property, which housed indigent and disabled New Yorkers in exchange for labor, operated roughly from 1898 to 1975, and was developed from 1874 to the 1930s. In addition to being a landmarked historic district, the Farm Colony is also zoned in a special natural area district, which mandates the preservation of any unique natural features. The colony’s buildings have been little maintained since its abandonment.

Click here to read the whole article


How to Turn Your Block Into an Historic District

By Nikhita Venugopal

The surge of future development in Brooklyn has made a group of Sunset Parkers think about its past.

When local residents realized the neighborhood’s notable brownstones could be lost to redevelopment, they banded together to save the buildings through a historic district status.

“Sunset Park is in danger of losing its sense of place,” according to the Sunset Park Landmarks Committee’s website.

Click here to read the whole article


City Planning appoints inaugural COO

Crain’s New York, BY 

After the Department of City Planning pledged earlier this year to streamline operations at the agency, it has created and filled a position specifically for that purpose.

Jon Kaufman, a former partner at consulting firm Bain & Co., was appointed the agency’s first chief operating officer Wednesday. While Mr. Kaufman comes from the private sector, he had already volunteered his time earlier this year at City Planning to help analyze the department’s organizational structure—which the de Blasio administration and City Planning Commission Chairman Carl Weisbrod have pledged to dramatically alter.

“Jon’s appointment underscores the de Blasio administration’s commitment to make our review and approval processes more transparent, more efficient and overall more expeditious,” Mr. Weisbrod said in an email to colleagues announcing the appointment.

Click here to read the whole article


That ‘Temporary’ Frick Garden — It Was Created to Be Permanent

Huffington Post By Charles Birnbaum

This “temporary” idea is an important talking point in the Frick’s justification; the garden’s supposed planned obsolescence is foundational to their argument. There’s only one problem — the Frick created this verdant oasis as “a permanent garden” — at least that’s what the museum’s own February 4, 1977 press release about it states. An anonymous source recently sent me the seven page release (with a note saying “This document is on file at the Frick Art Reference Library”) and directed me to the fourth paragraph on page six — there it is, plain as day: “a permanent garden.”

Click here to read the whole article


Scientists recreate old beer they dug up in Chinatown

New York Post By Natalie O’Neill

A beer bottle from the 1800s was unearthed by archaeologists in Chinatown — inspiring them to revive the rare old brew.

The scientists discovered the glass “California Pop Beer” bottle on Bowery Street near Canal Street, where a popular beer hall, Atlantic Garden, bustled in the 1850s, scientists said.

“It’s a light summer drink, slightly minty and refreshing” said Alyssa Loorya, 44, president of Chrysalis Archaeology, which headed the project.

Click here to read the whole article



Decoding New York: Unearthing Treasures Beneath New York’s Streets


During the dig an old glass bottle was unearthed and the bottle’s label said it had contained ‘California Pop Beer’. Alyssa Loorya followed through and tracked down the original beer patent and then reproduced the beer using a home brewing kit. It’s a beer infused with ginger root, sarsparilla and wintergreen oil and reportedly has quite a kick, see Scientists Recreate Old Beer. You can try it yourself if you do the Historic Districts council ‘Historic Pub Crawl’ to be held Sept 6 at 1.00 pm for just $10. Go here for tickets, Historic Pub Crawl. it’s not everyone who can say they have drunk apart of New York’s past.

Click here to read the whole article


The War on New York’s Waterfront


What we don’t need, in a place whose uniqueness attracts the world, is another sterile development that further reduces Manhattan to an overstuffed version of every other city in the country. It will take time, thought, private investment and, dare we say it, significant public funds. But New Yorkers have done these kinds of bold things before. If you don’t believe us, next time you’re downtown on the East River waterfront, look up. There you’ll see a bridge that somebody managed to sell us.

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As New York City property values surge, historic sites reduced to memories

Reuters By Laila Kearney

As wealthy prospective buyers search for dwindling space to transform into high-end retail or apartment sites, city historians and sentimentalists fear that the shops and restaurants from some of Manhattan’s most notable eras have been marked for extinction.

“New Yorkers are seeing buildings and institutions they thought were going to be there forever disappearing,” said Simeon Bankoff, director of the city’s Historic Districts Council. “It seems to have reached a bit of a fever pitch.”

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Midtown East Steering Committee to Make Everyone Happy

New York Observer by: Tobias Salinger  

Representatives from a mishmash of 11 organizations, including Community Boards 5 and 6, preservation groups like the Historic Districts Council, business organizations like the Grand Central Partnership, urban planning research groups like the Regional Plan Association and the industry’s advocacy group, the Real Estate Board of New York, will figure out a way to jumpstart the 73-block rezoning proposal that died in the City Council last winter.

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Buildings With a Past

Creating New York Apartments From Unlikely Buildings


Land is extremely scarce, they say, and historic districts, which are numerous, make new construction tough. Besides, some old-time structures are far bigger than what zoning would allow on their lots today. Adaptive reuse can also be speedier.

But curb appeal may also have something to do with it. “There’s a general movement now that goes beyond real estate, a reaction to a world that’s become increasingly electronic,” said Toby Moskovits, president of Heritage Equity Partners, which is transforming a church-and-school complex into apartments in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. “People are more comfortable,” she added, “with something that feels authentic.”

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 Readers sound off on landmarks

Daily News By: Arthur Levin, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation

What the Real Estate Board of New York study cited in this article fails to address is that, according to experts, the single largest factor contributing to the increasing unaffordability of our city is the disappearance of existing affordable housing — a fact acknowledged in Mayor de Blasio’s affordable housing plan. Historic districts in fact help preserve and protect thousands of units of affordable housing that might otherwise be lost to demolition.

An objective examination of potential solutions to our city’s housing affordability challenge is not really the agenda of REBNY, a trade association representing developers, which has long lobbied for reducing and eliminating affordable housing protections. The REBNY agenda is to maximize the freedom of its developer members to tear down and build whatever they want, wherever they want.

Click here to read the whole article


Last Night’s Heavy Rainfall Turns Gowanus Canal Into One Big  Toilet Once Again

Pardon Me For Asking

Last night’s heavy rain caused another Combined Sewer Overflow event last night and by 11 PM, much of the waterway was covered with raw sewage.  The smell was unbelievable.  It was too dark to take photos, but I took a walk over both the Union Street and Carroll Street bridges at 6 am this morning, and took some pictures. It was still rather awful and smelly and the bacteria count in the water must have been off the charts.

It is unfathomable to thing that the new residents of the 700 unit Lightstone Group Project at the shores of the canal will have to deal with this every time it rains heavily.

Click here to read the whole article





Save Rizzoli

In the days preceding the ceiling extraction, we had been in communication with Vornado Realty Trust to acquire their permission and insurance requirements for our highly experienced crew to enter the site and remove large portions of the ceiling. By all accounts, they initially supported the endeavor, and everyone appeared to be on board. Our team only awaited the approval of Vornado CEO Steven Roth.

But then on Thursday, as our preservationists prepared to conduct a probe of the ceiling’s material condition, we learned our access to the site had been denied. At the last minute, Steven Roth intervened and thwarted our attempt to preserve the building’s architectural details for posterity.

Click here to read the whole article


Library’s Rose Main Reading Room Closed for Six Months

Plaster Fell From the 52-Foot-Tall Ceiling in May

Wall Street Journal By Jennifer Maloney

The New York Public Library’s Rose Main Reading Room will remain closed for the next six months for inspection and repairs after a plaster rosette fell from its ceiling in May, library officials said Monday.

The reading room is the jewel of the library’s flagship Fifth Avenue building, which draws 2.3 million visits a year. The room’s 52-foot-tall ceilings are adorned with painted clouds and other decorations molded in plaster.

The library Monday didn’t have a cost estimate for the inspection or repairs.

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Mysterious Railroad Relic Unearthed on Governors Island

DNAInfo By Irene Plagianos

A recent dig on Governors Island unearthed a rusty relic of its military history — and island officials aren’t sure what it is.

While working on the island’s sewer systems, excavators found what appears to be part of a railway train car or hand cart once used on the island’s early 20th century railroad system, said Elizabeth Rapuano, a spokeswoman for the Trust for Governors Island.

“It’s a fun surprise — we’ve never found anything like it before,” Rapuano said. “We’re still trying to figure out exactly what it is…we’d love to get responses from the public about [it].”

Click here to read the whole article


Closer look at two significant neighborhoods

This tour was made possible by the Historic Districts Council. It is part of the nonprofit’s “Six To Celebrate,” which offers tours of six areas the group deems worthy of preservation.

“These tours serve to highlight neighborhoods that many New Yorkers are unaware of to shine a light on unknown aspects of their history or built environment,” said Barbara Zay of HDC.

The Forest Close Association its neighborhood for the honor. Forest Close is a group of 1927 rowhouses bounded by 75th Road, 76th Avenue, and Austin Street.

Click here to read the whole article


Ratner wins prize for best … preservationist?

Brooklyn Paper

Preservationists at the Municipal Art Society issued their most prestigious award to Forest City Ratner’s chairman Bruce Ratner and head Maryanne Gilmartin on Wednesday night. Advocates that take exception to the builder’s biggest projects, Atlantic Yards and MetroTech Center, which have replaced and are slated to replace more than a dozen primarily low-slung blocks with hulking skyscrapers and the Barclays Center arena, are fuming at the decision.

“Forest City Ratner Companies has been bulldozing and demolishing huge tracts of land,” said Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council, a preservationist group that spun off from the Municipal Art Society in the 1980s. “They’re creating these places that are not places at all.”

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Everything Old Is New Again: Conversions of Historic Properties in Lower Manhattan

Historic properties are being reimagined and preserved through significant new investment and changes in use. These projects show that preser­vation and economic development can be powerful partners. As new office space comes online across the district, historic former office buildings are being converted into new retail, hotel and residential spaces fitting for a 21st Century Downtown.

Click here to access the full report.



Brooklyn’s Historic Churches Disappear to Make Way for Condos


Some preservationists and historians say the loss of churches is changing the face of some of borough’s most historic neighborhoods.

“I think it’s a tragedy that we are losing these unique and amazing structures,” said Sharon Barnes, a member of the Society for Clinton Hill. “They are part of the fabric of our streets and to lose so many is heartbreaking.”

But Simeon Bankoff, director of the Historic Districts Council, an organization that advocates for New York City’s historic neighborhoods, said that church to condo conversions are a practical way to preserve the historic nature of the buildings after congregations can no longer afford the upkeep.

“The actual physical character of the buildings is retained even when they are converted to residential use,” he said.

Click here to read the whole article


The Value of Land: How Community Land Trusts Maintain Housing Affordability


Urban Omnibus by Oksana Mironova
Affordable housing is on New York City’s mind. A critical mass of civic organizations, academic institutions, city agencies, advocacy groups, and others are pondering the essential and perennial issue of how to ensure that the city becomes affordable for the extraordinarily diverse population that makes it work. What’s more, the conversation is riding a new wave of perceived political support from the de Blasio administration, which has tapped leading academics and esteemed private and public sector figures to deliver on its ambitious promise to build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing in ten years. With the details of the Mayor’s plan due to be released May 1st, we will undoubtedly be hearing a great deal of commentary about policy and implementation – development sites, low-income housing tax credits, preservation, NYCHA reforms – for weeks to come.
Click here to read the whole report


Plan to Honor Big Developer in Brooklyn Is Criticized

NYTimes BY Matt Chaben

The Municipal Art Society is well known for campaigns to save Grand Central Terminal and Lever House and to stop towers that would have cast long shadows over Central Park.

But now the civic organization is the one defending itself, for deciding to award the developer Bruce C. Ratner its highest honor, one named for the very person who led some of those fights.

“We claim no ownership of the Onassis name, though we do draw on her spirit,” said Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council, a citywide preservation group. “To honor Forest City Ratner with an award named for someone so well known for fighting to preserve New York’s neighborhoods is just too much.”

Click here to read the whole story


An economic defense of old buildings

Washington Post By Emily Badger

“For a long time, preservationists have been making the the cultural argument that these places feed our soul, and they connect us to our past,” says Stephanie Meeks, the president and CEO of the National Trust of the National Trust. “But this is the first time we’ve had empirical data to show that these places perform better economically and on many livability factors, as well.”

The report divided each city into a grid of 200-by-200-meter squares to allow comparison across neighborhoods (city blocks tend to be different sizes even across the same city, making that unit a poor measure).

Click here to read the whole article


State will not move forward with historic district designation of Gowanus due to overwhelming opposition

Daily News BY 

The state Historic Preservation Office has decided not to pursue the designation of a large swath of the neighborhood, an area that would have covered 422 properties near the notoriously polluted Gowanus Canal

“It’s very disturbing that people went door to door . . . bullying people to go against this and giving them misinformation,” said Linda Mariano, co-founder of Friends and Residents of Great Gowanus, a citizens group that has pushed for the creation of a historic district since the early 2000s.

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This Is New York Now: Starbucks, Frozen Yogurt and Juice Bars

We’ve been waiting for the other shoe to fall for months now, ever since Bleecker Street Records was pushed out of its longtime home at 239 Bleecker Street in August by a massive rent increase that would have required the record store to pay $27,000 a month. What purveyor of luxury goods would fill the home from which the vinyl mecca drew its name? (Miraculously, Bleecker Street Records found a space around the corner at 188 West 4th.)Now we know, h/t Grub Street: a Starbucks will be moving in.

Click here to read the whole article



New Yorkers, Take Back Your City


The old-school gentrification of the 20th century, while harmful, wasn’t all bad. It made streets safer, created jobs and brought fresh vegetables to the corner store. Today, however, what we talk about when we talk about gentrification is actually a far more destructive process, one that I prefer to call hyper-gentrification.

Unlike gentrification, in which the agents of change were middle-class settlers moving into working-class and poor neighborhoods, in hyper-gentrification the change comes from city government in collaboration with large corporations. Widespread transformation is intentional, massive and swift, resulting in a completely sanitized city filled with brand-name mega-developments built for the luxury class. The poor, working and middle classes are pushed out, along with artists, and the city goes stale. Urban scholar Neil Smith wrote extensively about the phenomenon, calling it “a systematic class-remaking of city neighborhoods.”

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Public Library Is Abandoning Disputed Plan for Landmark


In a striking about-face, the New York Public Library has abandoned its much-disputed renovation plan to turn part of its research flagship on Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street into a circulating library and instead will refurbish the nearby Mid-Manhattan Library, several library trustees said.

“When the facts change, the only right thing to do as a public-serving institution is to take a look with fresh eyes and see if there is a way to improve the plans and to stay on budget,” Anthony W. Marx, the library’s president, said on Wednesday.

The renovation of the flagship, the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, would have replaced the book stacks under the building’s main reading room with the new lending library. The project was to be paid for with $150 million from New York City and proceeds from the sale of the Mid-Manhattan Library, at Fifth Avenue and 40th Street, and the Science, Industry and Business Library in the former B. Altman building, on Madison Avenue at 34th Street.

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New York Public Library Scraps Redesign Plans

The Controversial Renovation Plan Prompted Three Lawsuits


The New York Public Library has scrapped a controversial renovation plan that would have gutted century-old book stacks from its landmark Fifth Avenue building.

Its decision came amid three lawsuits and skepticism from Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was under pressure from his supporters to claw back $150 million in city funding for the project.

The library on Wednesday said that an independent cost analysis it commissioned showed that the renovation of the Stephen A. Schwarzman building would have cost significantly more than the $300 million it originally projected.

“When the facts change, the only right thing to do as a public-serving institution is to take a look with fresh eyes and see if there is a way to improve the plans and to stay on budget,” Anthony Marx, the library’s president, said.

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City unveils 200K-unit, $41B housing plan



Mayor Bill de Blasio hails his effort as “literally the largest and most ambitious affordable-housing program” in the history of the nation. He promised to work collaboratively with the real estate industry but vowed to “drive a hard bargain.”

The mayor did not identify specific neighborhoods that would be targeted for aggressive development, however City Planning Commissioner Carl Weisbrod said the Planning Commission would initiate a “dozen” planning studies in the months ahead to start that process. His plan calls for additional building atop rail yards, such as with Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and Hudson Yards in Manhattan, but does not identify specific locations.

Public housing will be a component of this plan, though likely not the building of new public housing, as Mr. de Blasio noted that funding from the federal government was essentially “frozen.” Asked if new legislation will be required from Albany to help entice developers or protect rent regulated apartments, Mr. de Blasio responded vaguely that his administration expected the full cooperation from both the federal and state governments.

“We insist on real involvement,” he said.

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Mayor de Blasio’s Plan to Build More Cells

In considering ways in which space can be arranged to accommodate New York’s poor, the new plan is not the most sensible one. By Aaron Betsky

Does anybody care about the quality of housing? Apparently not, or at least not in New York. How and where you live is only a numbers game, as Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement of a plan to “spend” up to $40 billion to create “affordable” housing in the city makes clear.

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The Giant New Building That Is About to Overshadow the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine — And How the City Ought to Step In

New York Magazine By 

There’s a better way: negotiate. What matters most to the cathedral’s majesty is its presence on the street, not the height of its still-nonexistent central tower. So if Mayor de Blasio moves fast, before construction has actually begun, he can still broker a compromise:

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Architects Newspaper By: Alan G. Brake

One of New York’s leading preservation groups names winners of its first awards program

The Historic Districts Council, one of New York’s leading historic preservation organizations, has announced the winners of its first annual design awards. The goal of the awards program is to “broaden perceptions of the possibilities of design in historic settings,” according to a statement from the organization. AN served as a media sponsor for the awards, and I served as a juror for the awards along side jury chair James Stewart Polshek; Leo A. Blackman, principal, Leo A. Blackman Architects; Jean Caroon, principal, Good Clancy; Andrew Scott Dolkart, director of the Historic Preservation program at Columbia; and Adam Yarinsky, principal at ARO. Drawing over 70 entries from within the five boroughs, the award winning projects exemplify the power of contemporary design to engage with history and enrich the life of the city.

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Supporters of Closing Rizzoli Bookstore Call for Reforms to City’s Landmarks Process

News 1

Supporters say the century old Rizzoli Building, which houses the Rizzoli Bookstore, deserves protection through landmark status, despite a rejection by the Landmark Preservation Commission. They say the commission’s process is slow and lacks transparency.

“We’re here today to ask that LPC immediately study those remaining buildings on West 57th street, particularly those on this block, to identify and landmark those that represent the best of their eras, so we don’t have any more Rizzoli situations,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

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Demolition freeze may cover 80% of the city


Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer’s bid to protect buildings over age 50 frightens developers, construction unions and housing activists.

Crains By Joe Anuta

A politician’s proposal to protect the thousands of older buildings in New York that face demolition each year has triggered a backlash not just among powerful developers, but also among construction unions and advocates for affordable housing who fear the measure could drastically curb residential construction in the city.

The storm began on April 4 at a protest outside the stately, likely-to-be-razed Rizzoli bookstore on West 57th Street, when Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer pledged to do more to prevent such losses in the future. She offered to introduce a bill that would require a 30-day review by the Landmarks Preservation Commission of any demolition permit filed for a building over 50 years old. The measure would apply to nearly 80% of the city’s structures and 91% of those in Manhattan, according to city data.

 Click here to read the full story


Museum fears plaster disaster from next-door hotel project

The Villager by Sam Spokony

  To the dismay of advocates for the historic Merchant’s House Museum, the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission finally approved a plan for the construction of an eight-story hotel next to the museum, in a six-to-one vote on April 8.

The planned 27 E. Fourth St. hotel — which would sit immediately to the west of the 29 E. Fourth St. museum — had twice been rejected by L.P.C., after first being introduced in 2012 as a nine-story structure. But the final design’s slightly smaller scale, along with other exterior changes, apparently led the commission to allow it to go forward.


Merchant’s House-Neighboring Hotel Approved by Landmarks

Curbed by Jeremiah Budin

The only Commissioner to vote against the proposal, Margery Perlmutter, called it “drab on so many levels.” “I feel likewe’ve been exhausted into saying yes to this proposal, so I’m saying no,” she said.

The hotel proposal has been a subject of controversy not just because of its underwhelming design, but also because of the neighboring Merchant’s House, which preservationists fear will be harmed by the construction. The developers have promised to take extensive measures to ensure that the almost-two-century-old structure will not be harmed, and the Commission had basicallysigned off on that aspect at the last hearing, so there was no further discussion of the museum. It’s supporters, wearing stickers urging the LPC to say no to the hotel, left quietly and dejectedly.

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LPC Likely to Protect Ladies’ Mile Buildings From Demolition


Chelsea Now by Scott Stiffler

A developer’s plan to demolish two landmarked 19th-century buildings on West 19th Street was met with stiff resistance by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), following similar opposition by community leaders and preservationists.

Although no official vote was taken at the April 1 hearing, the commissioners were nearly unanimous in their belief that Panasia Estate, the owner of 51 and 53 West 19th Street (between Fifth and Sixth Avenues), should focus on restoring the buildings — which lie within the Ladies’ Mile Historic District — rather than replacing them with a proposed 14-story residential building.

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“Everybody Has Been Bought Off”: Brewer, Neighbors Protest Imminent Rizzoli Bookstore Demolition

Gothamist by Ben Miller

A coalition of preservationists and community leaders held a rally and press conference today in front of the soon-to-be-demolished Rizzoli Bookstore, which has already been defaced, at least on the outside, by the developers who hope to tear it down and put up more glassy condos.

Click here to read the full article


Sunset Park Leading Grassroots Effort to Preserve Its History

NY1 by Jeanine Ramirez

“We’ve got letters from all those homeowners saying that they are in support,” said one person.

On Wednesday, the community board voted unanimously in favor. It will now write a resolution to the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Board members emphasized that the effort is not to make the working-class community more expensive, but to maintain its architectural significance.

“That character is one of affordability, said Daniel Murphy, the chair of Community Board 7. “We were never a bourgeois neighborhood. We want to preserve as much as that as we can.”

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COOKFOX Wins Award for Front Street; BK Heights Tour

Curbed by Zoe Rosenberg

The Historic District Council has awarded an inaugural design award to Historic Front Street at South Street Seaport. Designed by COOKFOX Architects, the project infilled a number of empty sites along the stretch.

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A Landmark Restored, From Mosaic Marble Floor to Grand Dome

Michael Nagle for The New York Times

Sandstone walls were painted white. Decorative walnut and mahogany woodwork was painted green. The hand-cut mosaic floors of the two banking halls were badly damaged, as were floors of encaustic tile elsewhere in the building. Most of the decorative hardware was gone. The bird-cage elevator was stilled.

Dust had accumulated so exactly along the lines of the framework behind the dome that Mr. Perez San Martin thought the dark spokes were part of the original mural. A cleaning and restoration by Sandra Spannan of See Painting revealed otherwise.

New encaustic tiles were ordered from the English firm Craven Dunnill & Company, which still had the molds and colors necessary to match the existing floors, Mr. Perez San Martin said. The walls and woodwork were stripped and restored.

Click here to read the full article


Preservation Pays! REBNY’S Campaign Against Landmark Protection Is Misguided

By opposing preservation, REBNY and its allies oppose the will of the people


Imagine New York City without a landmarks law protecting historic neighborhoods and buildings. Actually, one does not have to imagine. There are examples aplenty across the five boroughs. From urban renewal sites to the apartment towers rising in Williamsburg and Long Island City, from “McMansions” replacing older homes in Forest Hills and Kew Gardens to new construction breaking up an intact block of row houses in Sunset Park, there is evidence anywhere you look.

The Real Estate Board of New York has launched an aggressive media campaign against historic preservation. There are too many landmarks, they wail, and many of those are unworthy! They argue that historic districts impede growth and development. Their evidence on all fronts is slim to misleading. Here’s why.

Follow us: @newyorkobserver on Twitter | newyorkobserver on Facebook

Click here to read the full article


Mayor de Blasio’s Brooklyn housing plan is building big worries



The fears crystalized Wednesday when the Planning Board approved a $1.5 billion project on the site of old Domino sugar plant in Williamsburg. It will have towers as high as 55 stories, or about 20 stories more than zoning on the site normally allows.

Permission for the taller buildings was granted in return for the developer setting aside 537,000 square feet, a quarter of all space, for 700 units of affordable housing.

That’s compared to 20% under a less dense 2010 plan.

Click here to read the full article

Cities Mobilize to Help Those Threatened by Gentrification


Newcomers, whose vitality is critical to cities, are hardly being turned away. But officials say a balance is needed, given the attention and government funding being spent to draw young professionals — from tax breaks for luxury condominium buildings to new bike lanes, dog parks and athletic fields.

“We feel the people who toughed it out should be rewarded,” said Darrell L. Clarke, president of the Philadelphia City Council, which last year approved legislation to limit property tax increases for longtime residents. “And we feel it is incumbent upon us to protect them.”


Argument Over a Brownstone Neighborhood

The Case for and Against a Bed-Stuy Historic District

By /New York Times

Supporters contend that a designation would preserve an architecturally and historically significant part of the city while also rewarding residents who had stuck with the neighborhood during tough times, in part by increasing the value of their homes and preventing unwelcome new development.

Opponents predict that a designation would bring heftier renovation costs and a tangle of regulations for homeowners seeking to improve their properties, along with higher rents and sale prices that would force out the largely low-income minority residents who form the area’s core. Opponents also argue that most Bed-Stuy residents weren’t adequately informed about the proposal.

Click here to read the full article


 Renovation, restoration the trend in Midtown East

By /Real Estate Weekly

With Midtown East’s controversial rezoning currently on hold for the foreseeable future, owners of properties in the district are taking a second look at extant buildings — and many like what they see.

125 Park Avenue

Numerous major renovations and restorations had already been launched in the area prior to the rezoning’s tabling, from SL Green’s swanky 2008 renovation of 125 Park Avenue, a 1923 Romanesque Revival office building directly adjacent to Grand Central, to a current restoration of 501 Fifth Avenue by Abramson Brothers, Inc., which will restore the 1916 Beaux Arts skyscraper’s original limestone façade.

In the wake of these are a slew of similarly ambitious projects, including RFR’s “reimagined” 285 Madison Avenue, a gut renovation and new ground floor at the equally impressive 292 Madison just across the street and a burnishing of 501 Madison Avenue that promises to bring a tarnished Art Deco jewel back to its original luster.

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HDC’s Simeon Bankoff Talks About Life on the Preservation Front Lines

City Land Profile

Advice for the Uninitiated. Mr. Bankoff described HDC’s work as tripartite: education, advocacy, and community outreach. In addition to his ubiquitous presence at Landmarks, City Council, and community boards in support of preservation, HDC hosts lectures and tours, often in response to requests from civic groups. Mr. Bankoff likes to bring together civic groups with government representatives from Landmarks, Buildings, and Council, providing the agencies with an opportunity to meet communities in a neutral situation, and the communities with different perspectives on the designation process.

Click here to read the full article


Potential Historic District Supported by Elected Officials and Community Boards

By: Jesse Denno/City Land

Representatives of Council Members Daniel Garodnick and Ben Kallos testified in support of the designation. A representative of Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney voiced her “full-throated support” of “this iconic area of our city,” and a representative of State Senator Liz Krueger testified that “threats to this section of Park Avenue are not merely theoretical.” Representatives of Manhattan Community Boards 8 and 11 also recommended designation.

Click here to read the full article




Testimony for LPC Hearing on February 21, 2017

Posted by on Thursday, February 23, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

HDC regularly reviews every public proposal affecting Individual Landmarks and buildings within Historic Districts in New York City, and when needed, we comment on them. Our testimony for the latest items to be presented at the Landmarks Preservation Commission is below.

Item 2

150 Barrow Street – Individual Landmark


A Renaissance Revival style hotel designed by Julius Munckwitz and built in 1897-98. Application is to install flood barriers, replace storefront infill and windows, construct a rooftop addition and bulkheads, and install rooftop mechanical equipment, screens, and railings.

HDC is pleased with the restoration program and future flood protection for this long-neglected Individual Landmark. Situated on a prominent corner lot, 150 Barrow Street is a highly visible example of Greenwich Village’s historic character. For all of the work being put into the original building, however, the proposed rooftop addition and mechanicals amount to two additional stories which is very distracting from this historic structure. This collective bulk is far too visible from the West Street thoroughfare and the Hudson River Promenade, as this building is prominently situated on a corner. Also, HDC finds the proposed corragated metal material to be unsightly on top of this building.

HDC understands that the proposed rooftop bulk is for a party room, which we feel could be worked into the existing building instead of adding bulk to the top. Changing the program in this way would eliminate one story, leaving only the mechanicals on the roof and essentially eliminating the visibility of this mass. As this building is being developed at the same time with a new building next door which is unconstrained from landmark regulation, HDC suggests incorporating this square footage into the new building. As it will be taller, it could afford better views. The HDC looks forward to seeing a new proposal that accentuates, not competes with this Individual Landmark.

LPC determination: No action

Item 3

242 Lafayette Street – SoHo-Cast Iron Extension Historic District


A Queen Anne style factory building designed by John Sexton and built in 1881-82. Application is to replace windows.

The proposed windows appear clunky because of the middle muntin’s profile, which makes the division between the windows appear too thick. This is a result of two separate one-over-one windows trying to appear as a single two-over-two. A more sympathetic solution would be to match the existing windows located on the third story on the north side of the building and replace these openings with one window, not two.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 4

46 MacDougal Street – Sullivan-Thompson Historic District


A Federal style rowhouse built in 1826, and altered in 1875, 1914, and 1969. Application is to construct a rooftop addition, alter the rear façade, excavate at the cellar, alter the storefront, and replace windows.

The pre-designation rooftop addition is more appropriate than what is currently proposed, as HDC found the proposed rooftop addition to be far too visible. As there is already a recently-constructed rooftop mass, an additional addition adds unnecessary height to the building at the expense of the historic character of this building. Given the fact that this nearly 200-year-old building was originally constructed as a Federal style rowhouse, the proposed rooftop addition almost equals the volume of the original house. Furthermore, 46 MacDougal Street sits in a historic district designated with 22% non-contributing buildings, meaning the applicants had a one in five chance of obtaining a building on which they could make unsympathetic alterations. This building, however, is the first application to the LPC in the newly-designated Sullivan-Thompson Historic District, and we implore the Commission to set a positive standard which we hope does not allow extremely visible rooftop bulk on top of Federal, “contributing” buildings. As such, HDC recommends the applicant rework their program to fit within the already constructed bulk on the roof, as the extensive excavation will provide significant square footage.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 5

150 Fifth Avenue – Ladies’ Mile Historic District


A Romanesque Revival style store and loft building designed by Edward Hale Kendall, and built in 1888-90, with a one-bay extension added in 1900, and a three-story attic section added in 1909. Application is to construct a rooftop addition, infill lightwells, install new building entrance infill, and replace windows.

HDC finds the proposed multi-story rooftop addition to be far too visible from Fifth Avenue. The photographs included in the application show neighboring distinct roofs–like mansards and steep pitches–that define the style and feel of the Ladies’ Mile Historic District. The proposed addition completely erodes this unique roofline. HDC suggests lowering and setting the rooftop addition farther back to eliminate its view from Fifth Avenue.

Our committee is also concerned with the alterations to the entrance. Historic photos show a wooden entrance on Fifth Avenue which has a transom, sidelights, bulkheads and a double-door and we strongly suggest creating a configuration based on these proportions and materials. The grand, arched entrance features solid stonework characteristic of the building’s Romanesque Revival style and the proposed entrance is entirely glazed with thin aluminum divisions which clashes with the massiveness of this building. Finally, our committee is disappointed that the applicant wishes to replace so many historic wooden windows with aluminum. Wood windows should be repaired and maintained where possible.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 6

225 West 86th Street – Individual Landmark


An Italian Renaissance style apartment building designed by Hiss and Weekes and built in 1908-1909. Application is to modify masonry openings, replace infill, install canopies and guard booth, and modify the courtyard paving and garden design.

While HDC finds the proposed guard booth to be attractive, our committee is concerned with the location of the booth on a public sidewalk. HDC suggests examining the Dakota and the Apthorp, both of which are Individal Landmarks and feature guard booths without a sidewalk incursion.

HDC opposes the removal of the original mahogany window within the arch of the Belnord for a new doorway. Not only will the window be destroyed, but enlarging this opening for a door will result in the removal of historic masonry in this location. This seems especially injurious considering there is another entryway a mere ten feet away.

Regarding the alterations to the interior courtyard, which is a designated feature of this building despite its lack of public access, HDC opposes changing the window openings into doors. Like the window within the arch, this alteration would result in significant loss of historic fabric and we are confident that the applicant can determine another location within the building for the proposed amenity room, possibly on a higher floor. This would prevent carving into the historic limestone and disrupting the courtyard’s intended design and eliminate the need for more canopies, as there are already several in historic locations.

The proposed courtyard plan is a significant departure from its orignal design, which has remained essentially intact and seems heavy-handed.  The plan, as proposed, disconnects the garden paths from the building’s arches and this loss of relationship to the axes of the building’s plan is problematic.  These alterations do not seem to ameliorate any specific feature, and only add more paving. This historic plan has worked for over 100 years, and it seems insulting to alter it now.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 12

313 West 77th Street – West End Collegiate Historic District


A Romanesque/English Renaissance Revival style rowhouse designed by Van Campen Taylor and built in 1890-92. Application is to construct a rear yard addition, install rooftop mechanical equipment and railings, and install ironwork at the parlor floor entrance.

HDC finds the proposed rear yard addition excessively tall and its superfluous use of glass inconsistent with other rear yard additions within this block. This Romanesque/English Renaissance Revival style building is completely intact and the proposed rear yard addition will obliterate the entire rear facade. Our committee suggests lowering the rear yard addition by one floor and reducing the amount of glazing.

313 West 77th Street has a clear historical record that shows multiple divided lights as a key feature of its fenestration. As such, the windows should not be changed to one-over-ones and we implore the LPC to retain this interesting feature which is inherent to its style. We look forward to seeing a revised application with a proposed design more sympathetic to this historic 1890 building.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Category: HDC@LPC · Tags:

Six to Celebrate App

Posted by on Tuesday, February 21, 2017 · Leave a Comment 


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HDC now has a Six to Celebrate app! All the amazing information in the walking tour brochures is now available right on your phone   (or tablet). You can learn about the history of each Six to Celebrate neighborhood along with additional information about specific sites within each neighborhood. Now all you have to do is take out your phone and you can impress everyone with your knowledge about NYC history.

The app is free and available for Apple IOS and Andriod OS

Apple Download

Android Download 

Category: Featured, Six to Celebrate · Tags:

HDC@LPC – Testimony for Hearing on February 14, 2017

Posted by on Wednesday, February 15, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

HDC regularly reviews every public proposal affecting Individual Landmarks and buildings within Historic Districts in New York City, and when needed, we comment on them. Our testimony for the latest items to be presented at the Landmarks Preservation Commission is below.

Item 1

7 Irvington Place – Fiske Terrace-Midwood Park Historic District
An altered Arts & Crafts style free-standing house with free-standing garage, designed by Slee & Bryson with E.R. Strong and built c. 1913. Application is to alter and enlarge the house and demolish the garage.
This 1913 home has clear historic documentation of its Arts & Crafts style. The proposed alterations, unfortunately, show a complete disregard for this history or style. A minor, minimally-visible expansion might be appropriate, but changing the whole form of the structure removes the historic context from this building. Our committee was puzzled why someone would choose to purchase a home in an historic district and then propose to completely destroy the house.
Moreover, this building is currently designated an Arts & Crafts style building and the proposal will inherently change the style. If this is approved, how will this house still be considered a style building? HDC cautions that permitted work like this could undermine the building’s significance in the future. HDC looks forward to seeing a revised proposal that accentuates, not eliminates, the historic character of this home.
LPC determination: No action

Item 2

149 Clinton Street – Brooklyn Heights Historic District
A rowhouse built c. 1900. Application is to construct a rooftop bulkhead and railing, and alter and excavate below the attached garage.
This house is taller than the others in the row already, making the protruding railing and bulkheads’ visibility all the more prominent. HDC recommends the proposed railing be reworked as either a decorative feature of the building, or be set back so that it is not visible. Changing the design of the railing and painting it black to appear as cresting may be a sensitive approach to this problem if it cannot be set back.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 4
220 Park Place – Prospect Heights Historic District
A neo-Grec/Queen Anne style rowhouse designed by John V. Porter and built circa 1884. Application is to construct a rear yard addition and rooftop bulkheads, perform excavation, alter the railways, and install a ramp.
Originally one of three row houses built together in 1884, 220 Park Place remains the only building of the row intact, featuring Neo-Grec with Queen Anne style elements which differ from the other buildings on the block. It is because of this integrity that HDC is concerned with this application. The proposed rear-yard addition is extremely bulky and overwhelming to this rowhouse and the houses on the rest of the block. While a rear addition may be appropriate, this one, which nearly doubles the size of the building, is not. HDC recommends rethinking the elevator, as this building is already the tallest one on the block and the proposed rooftop bulkhead, which is 16 feet high, will add considerable height and overwhelm its neighbors. Perhaps a hydraulic elevator would lessen the visual impact by putting the mechanicals in the basement. HDC looks forward to seeing a revised proposal with visibility studies included, as they were not included with this application.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 6

152 East 71st Street – Upper East Side Historic District


An Itallianate style rowhouse designed by W. O’Gorman and built in 1871. Application is to remove a bay window at the rear façade and construct a rear yard addition.

This building is the last survivor of a row of 1871 houses, all of which had decorative bay windows in the rear. Destroying this fine architectural feature and replacing it with a poorly-considered aluminum green house is an affront to this historic building. If an addition is desired, HDC urges the applicant to design one that incorporates the historic bay into its design.

LPC determination: No action

Item 8

121 Manhattan Avenue – Manhattan Avenue Historic District


A Queen Anne and Romanesque Revival style rowhouse designed by Edward L. Angell and built in 1890. Application is to alter the rear façade, construct a rooftop bulkhead, and install mechanical equipment, screens and railings at the roof.

As a corner building, 121 anchors the Manhattan Avenue Historic District and its remarkable roof line is an  intentional statement of architect Edward Angell. The proposed screens, railings and bulkhead at the roof detract from this design. HDC recommends less visible railings and lowering the bulkhead to minimize the impact of this lovely but very small historic district.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 9
36 Riverside Drive – West End Collegiate Historic District
A Romanesque/Renaissance Revival style rowhouse designed by Lamb & Rich and built in 1888-1889 with early to mid 20th century alterations. Application is to modify the front façade and areaway, and construct rooftop and rear yard additions.
36 Riverside Drive is one of two surviving buildings which were once part of a four building wide townhouse configuration. The building is wedged between massive apartment buildings and is a prominent anomaly on this street. While this property has been highly altered, moving farther away from its original stylistic appearance will detract from the building’s historic character.  As an example of the Romanesque/Renaissance Revival style, HDC does not find the expanse of glass windows at the third story appropriate. Rounded-arch windows are a primary characteristic of Romanesque architecture and HDC urges that these features be incorporated on this story. Further, the lack of masonry divisions in the glazing moves away from the heavy ashlar which typifies this style. On the parlor floor level, the applicant is attempting to harmonize the openings and make this façade symmetrical. This is problematic because the building itself was never symmetrical, but rather was symmetrical to other buildings which are no longer extant. The original façade and stonework, including scrolls, the shell and the bay are all intact, but obscured behind glass. HDC would like to see the original façade exposed again, as opposed to discarding it, which is tantamount to significant loss of historic fabric. Revealing the original facade would move the building even further in the right direction, in terms of historic preservation. Several houses in this historic district have stoops that have been removed and had ground floors harmonized, and HDC is confident it could be achieved here as well.
Regarding the rear addition, we recommend reducing it by one story as the current proposed addition is 26 feet tall and overwhelming in size. A size reduction would reduce the visibility of the rooftop addition and railings, which are highly visible from Riverside Park and detract from the dormered and ornamented roofline.
LPC determination: No action

Category: HDC@LPC · Tags:

District 9 Special Election: City Council Candidates Questionnaires

Posted by on Monday, February 13, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

Community Voices Heard, the Historic Districts Council and Mount Morris Park Community Improvement Association have partnered to tailor a brief questionnaire in lieu of a candidates’ forum which targets the pressing issues in the District 9 community to increase voters’ awareness and candidates’ transparency on these issues.

Instructions: Please answer each question on this form concerning development in your district. Your answers will be published online and leafleted prior to the District 9 election on February 14, 2017.

  1. The East Harlem Rezoning will have widespread effects in the community and will most probably increase development pressure in adjoining areas. What will you do as a Council member to mitigate the effects of the rezoning on Central Harlem?
  2. How will you help fight against gentrification of the area, and especially the displacement of longtime residents and businesses?

Cordell Cleare

As the City Council Member, I would seek to mitigate the effects of rezoning on Central Harlem by:

1.      Working with the Mayor’s office, HPD, developers and union reps to negotiate a percentage of units that reflect the income bands of low and moderate income residents within the district and mandate more income targeted housing from developers who get the opportunity to develop.

2.      Work with the State to build more housing in the district

3.      Advocate and preserve the history and culture of Central Harlem

Fight Gentrification of area, esp. displacement of residents and small businesses –

As the City Council Member, I plan to fight displacement of long term residents and small business by:

1.      Assign a staff member who would work with housing and small
business development.

2.      Continue to work with tenant/block associations, citywide housing
groups and coalitions to educate tenants about their rights to prevent
harassment and illegal evictions, esp info for tenants who sublet to
prevent high turnover of apts and inform tenants about succession rights

3.      Advocate for legislation on the state level to protect preferential
rent tenants

4.      Collaborate with legal aid services to dedicate time where they can
offer services to tenants from the district who can assist with eviction
proceedings and housing information

5.      Encourage tenants to testify at the Rent Guidelines Board

6.      Submit a bill request and work with CMs to create a sub-committee
on HDFC’s within City Council; (this would allow for more oversight and
accountability in this area)

7.      Work with not for profit organizations to ensure they are managing
their properties as well

8.      Support Intro 214 – a bill sponsored by CM Mark Levine that would
provide legal counsel for low-income eligible tenants who are subject to
eviction, ejectment or foreclosure proceedings

9.      Support Intro 477 – a bill sponsored by CM Inez

Todd Stevens

For the East Harlem Rezoning, while the flexibility of taller buildings in certain locations such as 125th and Lexington and 116th and Lexington in order to have more affordable housing is of great value, I’m concerned of and will fight for the value of light and the protection of each block’s quality of life.  Enabling higher buildings in specific locations of East Harlem will lessen the need to effect our coveted low-lying blocks in Central and East Harlem.

I have great concern to help long term residents continue residing in their homes. I see the greatest immediate need in helping HDFCs resolve their financial challenges and as a real estate broker with fifteen years experience, help every HDFC become entirely self-sustaining for many years to come. My doors will always be open to any tenant of whom feels mistreated by his/her landlord.  ‎I believe Harlem’s #1 challenge is that it needs to build more affordable housing. I would not let any large125th Street or large 116th Street retail structure be built without residential housing.  I also look forward to increasing our home ownership in Harlem. For our long term and short term businesses, I’ve had great concern for a commercial landlord’s ability to be deliquent toward productive, profitable and needed small businesses. For example, a commercial landlord’s mere insincerity is why we don’t have a store on Malcolm X Blvd to buy frozen yogurt. I look forward to protecting Harlem and it’s residents for many years to come.

 Larry Scott Blackmon

  1. As a council member, I will make sure to work with the community to have a community led vision for the rezoning that includes protections to maintain affordability based on incomes. It is critically important that the City listen to the voices of the people who reside in East Harlem on this matter and I will fight to ensure that the proper engagement is done.
  2. Again, as Council Member I will work to ensure that long time residents have as much involvement in the home procurement (be they ownership, rental, HDFC’s and others) process as possible before these properties hit the market. This includes constant communication with constituents, education, public forums and more.  In addition, under my leadership, we will find creative solutions to the problems that gentrification brings to communities.

Bill Perkins

  1. I will organize, demonstrate, advocate and do everything needed to stop it. This plan to rezone a swath of the neighborhood is not a plan that is affordable to the people who live here. Instead it is a plan to allow high-density development that will hasten gentrification and displace working-class families in the neighborhood.

Rather, we need to insist that they halt the rezoning and instead implement a plan that provides protection for low-income tenants, including families with children, in rent-stabilized units and forces landlords to follow the law so that tenants can stay in rent-stabilized homes. Aggressive protections for existing vulnerable residents will be critical in order to prevent displacement.

  1. We need to provide protection and representation for tenants, crackdown on abusive and greedy landlords and finally pass the Small Business Protection Act that provides relief and protection for our mom-and-pop stores that are being forced out and protects them from being unreasonably exploited by unscrupulous landlords caring only for record profits and not the fabric and character of our neighborhood.  The people and businesses that helped build this neighborhood must not be forced to move out of this neighborhood. I will stand with you to prevent it from happening.

Marvin Holland

  1. The East Harlem Rezoning will have widespread effects in the community and will most probably increase development pressure in adjoining areas. What will you do as a Council member to mitigate the effects of the rezoning on Central Harlem? I would vote no to rezoning until there is more community involvement, with an opportunity to scale back. A key requirement is an enforceable community agreement. Residents should be aware of any changes before they are made and every effort should be made to come to an agreement.

On a council level, I would introduce and push legislation requiring new development of housing not take place without being accompanied by the services necessary to sustain an influx of new residents, including supermarkets, transportation and increased sanitation measures.

  1. How will you help fight against gentrification of the area, and especially the displacement of longtime residents and businesses? As member of PA’LANTE Harlem’s board, I have been active in the fight against aggressive gentrification and displacement of Harlem residents for the past three to four years, and will continue to do so.

With regards to protecting businesses, I am endorsed by Councilman Robert Cornegy, Chair of the Committee on Small Business. I will continue to work with him as well as other council members on his recent bill to protect small businesses from harassment. I will work with members to reduce commercial rents for small businesses in order to increase local hiring. Last but not least, I would create a business ombudsman position in my office to provide support, marketing and assistance as well as to help navigate the city bureaucracy.

Athena Moore

  1. I do not support the East Harlem Rezoning plan in its current form. Any plan that is adopted must have the input and reflect the identified needs of the community. Over this past year, I’ve worked to encourage community engagement in the rezoning process through town hall meetings and working along side Community Board 11. I believe it is critical that any plan must reflect the needs and concerns of the residents living in the affected area. As City Councilwoman I will be a strong advocate for you and your East Harlem neighbors. I will hold public hearings, allocate budget resources and work in coalition with organizations like yours, the Mayor and my city council colleagues to preserve the character of the neighborhood, support small businesses and to protect affordable housing. To mitigate any negative effects from the rezoning plan, I would leverage my voice and vote as a city council member within the Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP) to ensure that any new development fully complies with all regulations and protects our community.  Working with the NYC Department of City Planning, I will ensure that a comprehensive environmental review is thoroughly completed factoring in quality of life issues and minimizing any impacts on transportation, sanitation, parking, and schools etc. Working with other city and state agencies, including the DEP, DOT, MTA, NYPD and others, I will advocate to minimize the effects of construction, noise, and public safety issues.  In addition, I would work to assure that development is contextual to preserve neighborhood historic architecture and character, and advocate for housing that is 100% affordable. I would oppose high towers and assure adequate air, light and density. As City councilwoman, I would also work to protect the East Harlem African Burial Ground that was discovered and ensure that the history and legacy of this sacred ground is preserved. I have already presented testimony and been actively working on this issue.

2. Over the past several years, I have worked as Director of the Borough President’s Northern Manhattan Office delivering services, fighting to prevent displacement of residents and businesses, and advocating for East Harlem neighborhoods. I have worked closely as a liaison to the Mount Morris Park Community Improvement Association, Community Board #11, Harlem Business Alliance, East Harlem Task Force with Councilwoman Melissa Mark Viverito, and many housing and community advocates like Community Voices Heard. As city council woman, I will continue to be fierce advocate to address the issue of gentrification at every turn calling for equal access, inclusion and equity in contracting, and call for prioritization of local long residents in all housing and economic development opportunities. I would work to ensure that community benefit agreements are put in place so that proper investments, including prioritization of jobs for neighborhood residents and for minority women and business enterprises.

Category: City Council · Tags:

HDC@LPC – Testimony for Hearing on February 7, 2017

Posted by on Monday, February 6, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

HDC regularly reviews every public proposal affecting Individual Landmarks and buildings within Historic Districts in New York City, and when needed, we comment on them. Our testimony for the latest items to be presented at the Landmarks Preservation Commission is below.

Item 1
610 East 169th Street – Individual Landmark
BINDING REPORT, Docket #196462
A Classical Revival style library building designed by Babb, Cook & Willard and built in 1907-08. Application is to install a sound attenuation screen at the roof.
For the significant cost associated with the construction of these screens, HDC wonders if it would be cost-effective to purchase new HVAC equipment, which would be smaller and quieter, and therefore eliminate the need for these enormous screens. While this is a utilitarian need, these screens are quite large and detracting from this building.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 2
Rufus King Park – Individual Landmark
A park, site of the Rufus King Mansion and estate, a Colonial style residence built in 1730-55, with an addition built in 1806. Application is to construct entrances and pathways.
HDC understands that the genesis for the several new, paved paths is that these trails already exist as “desire paths.” To minimize the impact of so much paving in this quadrant of the park, we recommend that Parks consider a more permeable, green material such as grasscrete, which could mitigate the extensive paving. HDC understands that manor house experienced some cracking due to vibrations the previous time paving was installed. We ask that monitors be placed in the house to ensure no further damage is done, regardless of what work is approved today.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 4

311 Vanderbilt Avenue – Clinton Hill Historic District
An empty lot located behind 312 Clinton Avenue, a Northern Renaissance Revival style rowhouse designed by S. F. Evelette and built in 1885. Application is to construct a new building.
HDC does not find the proposed building to be an appropriate addition to the Vanderbilt Avenue streetscape or the Clinton Hill Historic District. The committee was not convinced of the design evolution based on existing context, either. The contextual borrowed element which is driving the design is a single, massive concave arch which dominates the façade. While this curve is found along the street, it is employed on the other facades in tripartite divisions which are symmetrical. The proposed design is a grand gesture imposed on a monolithic, asymmetric façade which results in an interruption of the scale of the block. Nowhere in this historic district is there a precedent of double-height glazing floating above a garage door. The material of simulated Travertine evokes a Modernist sentiment which appears as more alien than as a contextual statement.
The applicant pointed to 208 Vanderbilt Avenue, a new building designed by Adjaye and Hotson, as a precedent. This building is not included in the historic district, but for argument’s sake, this building is more successful for several reasons which the proposed design should take cues from. For one, it is of a smaller scale with no visible rooftop addition, thus defaulting to its historic neighbor. Its non-traditional material choice is broken up into panels on the façade, eradicating an appearance of a monolith. Its window openings, while not symmetrical, also play to a tripartite configuration.
HDC looks forward to seeing a revised proposal at a future public meeting.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 8
860 St. John’s Place – Crown Heights North II Historic District
A Romanesque Revival/Renaissance Revival style rowhouse designed by Frederick L. Hine and built in 1898-99. Application is to legalize façade and areaway alterations without Landmarks Preservation Commission permit(s).
One of the great advantages of owning property in a designated Historic District is being able to call on the experienced staff of the LPC. In this case, some unfortunate alterations were made that could have been prevented, but it is not too late to benefit from the staff’s guidance to rectify those issues. HDC would particularly recommend that the applicant work with the staff to find a more suitable door for this charming house, such as the example provided at 856 St. John’s Place. Additionally, HDC recommends a closer inspection of the windows at the parlor floor and the stucco over the band of brick spandrel below the parlor floor. Proposed alterations to these elements appear to be contextually inappropriate and should be modified before approval. HDC also recommends returning the ironwork to its original height.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 11
11 Commerce Street – Greenwich Village Historic District
A late Federal/Greek Revival style rowhouse built in 1826. Application is to construct a rooftop addition and railing and modify the rear façade.
HDC found the proposed copper material harmonious with the masonry building, as long as it is as invisible as it is proposed in the drawing set. Because this is a row of nearly 200-year old houses, we ask the Commission to preserve the top story of the building, essentially omitting the new glass openings at this level.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 12

145 Perry Street – Greenwich Village Historic District
A two-story garage. Application is to demolish the existing building and to construct two new buildings.
HDC approached this application conceding that the existing garage building has little chance of survival. We lament losing historic fabric; after the passage of 50 years, we feel this building adds an attractive patina and layer of history to the district as opposed to how it was viewed when it was only a 20-year-old building at the time of designation. The LPC should keep this in mind when assigning labels to buildings in future historic districts, as the throw-aways of today often become the charm of tomorrow.
Regarding the proposed new building, HDC finds its materials refined and its overall concept original. The issue here is scale and proportion. While this design choice has decidedly retreated from resembling the typical rowhouse style or scale found in this district, this building still appears to be quite large for a house, with its granite water table nearly human height. Conversely, if this conception is taking cues from larger-scaled warehouse buildings in its vicinity, it still fails in its proportions, as the double-height fenestration is an exaggeration of scale.  Both the larger industrial buildings and smaller residential buildings in the area achieve harmony in their respective scales because of proportionate window openings, massing, and other features. Simply put, the architectural elements proposed for this building are too big for the cube that they occupy.
HDC requests that these details be refined and we look forward to seeing the next iteration at a future public meeting.
LPC determination: Approved

Category: HDC@LPC · Tags:

HDC Statement to NYC Planning: Loew’s 175th Street Landmark Designation

Posted by on Wednesday, February 1, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

Statement of the Historic Districts Council

Designation Hearing

February 1, 2017

Item 22




The Historic Districts Council is the advocate for New York City’s designated historic districts and neighborhoods meriting preservation.

The Historic Districts Council is pleased to support the designation of the Loew’s 175th Street theater, which was first considered by a very young Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1970. Nearly half a century later, this building is nearing official protection. This building’s early selection for landmark status speaks volumes for its architectural merits, including its membership in the Loew’s Wonder Theaters portfolio, its distinguished architect, and its rare fusion of architectural styles. This building should be landmarked: it has strong community and civic support and our city’s expert agency prioritized it for designation not just once, but twice.

As early as this month, Manhattan Community Board 12 passed a resolution in favor of landmark designation and its reasoning was full of architectural and cultural accolades. Despite this, HDC fears this beloved building may not protected because of local councilmember obstruction. Councilmember Rodriguez initially supported designation and since has rescinded this support, citing other buildings in the neighborhood that should be protected, perhaps first.

This type of reasoning is troubling from a process perspective. First, to support a landmark is, for the most part, based on merit. It has been well established that this building is meritorious for landmark status according to our City Charter. If the building had been altered, marred or in some other way lost its merits, then this could be a valid reason for CM Rodriguez to renege on his position. However, this is not the case, as the building has not changed. Secondly, using the Loew’s building as a political bargaining chip in order to protect other buildings in this community district is not a good strategy. A separate campaign and advocacy should be formed around the other buildings the councilmember wishes to see protected and certainly not at the risk of losing the Loew’s which has already been designated by the LPC. Finally, defying public support for this building when the community wishes for it is antithetical to the role of local councilmember.

HDC understands that CM Rodriguez has also been sympathetic to the owner of the theater, which is a religious institution and opposes designation. The LPC thought this building was important enough to supersede the owner’s wishes, which is why there is no provision for owner consent in the NYC Landmarks Law. Further, the LPC successfully designated several religious properties during the Backlog Initiative, which this building was a part of. A religious property is no excuse for withholding landmark status, and neither are any of the others cited.


Category: Designation · Tags:

2017 Six to Celebrate Launch Party

Posted by on Tuesday, January 24, 2017 · 1 Comment 

Each year, we select six community preservation initiatives for ongoing guidance and support. Join us!

2017 Six to Celebrate Launch Party!

Calvary-St. George’s Parish Hall

61 Gramercy Park North, Manhattan

Wednesday, February, 15, 2017


Friends $20 / General Admission $25


2017 Six to Celebrate:

Chelsea, Manhattan

Corona-East Elmhurst, Queens 

Hart Island, The Bronx

Mott Haven, The Bronx

Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn

West Harlem, Manhattan


Six to Celebrate annually identifies six historic NYC neighborhoods that merit preservation. These will be priorities for HDC’s advocacy and consultation over a yearlong period. Please join the Historic Districts Council at the 2017 launch party!

To read more about the 2017 Six to Celebrate go to our website


Support is provided in part by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and by the New York State Council on the Arts and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. Additional support is provided by City Council Members Margaret Chin, Inez Dickens, Daniel Garodnick, Vincent Gentile, Corey Johnson, Ben Kallos, Stephen Levin, Mark Levine, Rosie Mendez and Rafael Salamanca, and by New York State Assembly Members Deborah Glick, Richard Gottfried and Daniel O’Donnell.

Category: Six to Celebrate · Tags:

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The Historic Districts Council (HDC) is the advocate for all of New York City's historic neighborhoods. HDC is the only organization in New York that works directly with people who care about our city's historic neighborhoods and buildings. We represent a constituency of over 500 local community organizations.

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