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

Statement of the Historic Districts Council

Designation Hearing

February 1, 2017

Item 22

BOROUGH OF MANHATTAN

LOEW’S 175th STREET THEATER

 

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 Councilmember Rodriguez initially supported designation and since has rescinded this support, citing other buildings in the neighborhood that should be protected, perhaps first.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.

 

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