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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4 Responses to “Annual Conference: Open to the Public – Making Our Story Heard!”
  1. Judy berdy says:

    Great idea for stimulating conference

  2. brenda long says:

    Greetings from Ireland.

    My interest is in the preservation of Hart Island as a peaceful and beautiful place of burial for the unclaimed dead of New York.

    I understand that there is an interest in turning Hart into a park…..while I can fully understand the commercial reasons for this I ask those responsible to be aware that those buried there are safer now than they possibly ever were in life.

    My brother was buried there as un-known . I went out there in 1980 courtesy of the Dept of Corrections to have a Mass said for Michael.

    It was one of the most tranquil places I have ever been and the thought of modern life overtaking such peace makes me sad.

    Please be careful with plans for the resting place of so many who had little luck in their lives.

    Thanks for listening…

    Brenda Long

    • Melinda Hunt says:

      There is no discussion or any possibility of turning Hart Island into a commercial park. In New York City, commerce is forbidden on parkland.

      Two active cemeteries in New York, Friends Cemetery in Prospect Park and Prospect Cemetery are under jurisdiction of the Department of Parks and Recreation. All earlier public cemeteries are now public parks.

      While many visitors enjoy their visits to Hart Island, they are not permitted to walk around freely. This is because the older graves, including where Michael was buried, are now eroding into the Long Island Sound. The public is not permitted access to the shoreline where this has become a problem so great that FEMA has approved disaster funding.

      Additionally, most people buried are identified rather than buried as unknowns. They deserve to be honored and their graves visited by friends as well as families without contacting the penal system. Parkland is public space rather than commercial space in New York Ciyt.


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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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