Proposed Bill to Change Replacement Materials in Landmark Buildings
Intro 845A, the Replacement Materials Bill (text below), would significantly change the way the Commission regulates designated properties and would undermine the basic benefit of LPC oversight in helping to gradually return areas to a more historically-appropriate condition. One of the things that historic designation achieves is the improvement of the condition of the building and district over time by ameliorating many inappropriate conditions at the time they need to be replaced. This has long been recognized as a benefit of LPC oversight. In the 1981 Ditmas Park Historic District designation report it is stated
“many of the houses in the district have suffered from alterations which do not conform to the architects’ original intentions. Many have had their original siding replaced by synthetic shingles or aluminum, porches have been enclosed, and details removed. Despite these unfortunate alterations, the District retains much of its turn-of-the-century ambience. The low-scale nature of the development has been retained, the plantings have flourished, and the buildings are well maintained. It is hoped that historic district designation will aid in the preservation of the buildings that are still intact and encourage the restoration of the structures that have already been altered.”
This is especially true now with the advent of new replacement materials and the increase in skilled local artisans. These days, it is easier and cheaper than ever before to replace failing building materials with appropriate replacements of high quality. The Commission regularly approves the use of substitute materials that match the important details of the historic material. For example, cornices that were originally wood or metal can be, and often are, replaced with new materials like glass-reinforced concrete. The Commission’s rules also allow for aluminum windows to replace wood windows in most situations if the details and operation are right. There are some situations where the Commission does not approve substitute materials because the features are too important to the architectural integrity of the building. That determination is, and should be made, on a case-by-case basis.
Conversely, the bill would permit an owner to use an inappropriate material to repair or replace an existing feature in all cases if that material is currently being used. This bill would not encourage upgrading or enhancement of building materials and instead result in the endless reinstallation of inappropriate materials on designated properties, such as white vinyl windows and vinyl siding. This legislation would have a deleterious effect on the gradual improvement which historic district designation is intended to bring about, which could, in turn, have a long-term negative effects on both property values and building maintenance.
Proposed Int. No. 845-A
By Council Members Comrie, Dickens, Ferreras, James, Koo, Williams, Wills, Rodriguez and Halloran
A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to allowing owners of landmarked properties to use the same or similar materials in maintenance of their property .
Be it enacted by the Council as follows:
Section 1. Section 25-311 of the administrative code of the city of New York is amended by adding a new subdivision e to read as follows:
e. Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 25-305, 25-306, 25-307 and 25-310, any improvement requiring ordinary repairs and maintenance, minor work or approval under sections 25-306, 25-307, 25-308 and 25-309, designated by the commission as a landmark or interior landmark or located within an historic district may be performed with in kind materials for features as reflected at the time of designation. For purposes of this subdivision, “in kind materials” shall mean the same or similar materials as present in the improvement at the time of designation, used in the same or similar manner and location.
§2. This local law shall take effect immediately.
LS # 3598