HDC’s Response to The New York Times Editorial on the Landmarks Preservation Commission
As some readers might remember, The New York Times wrote an editorial last month (“The Missing Commission“) pointing to the back-log of requests to the Landmarks Preservation Commission. LPC Chair Robert Tierrney wrote a response, which was published. HDC also wrote a letter to the Editor responding, that went unpublished until now….
To the Editor,
The recent editorial (“The Missing Commission”, October 18, 2008) highlighted the Bloomberg Administration’s long-standing neglect of New York City’s historic properties. Despite his strong election promises and some increase in the agency’s budget, the Landmarks Preservation Commission is ultimately compromised by the Mayor’s primary focus on development. Every year, literally hundreds of New Yorkers request protection for their historic buildings and neighborhoods, only to be caught in a bureaucratic spiderweb. The public has no sense of how the Landmarks Preservation Commission reaches its decisions or sets its priorities, and is forced to wait nervously for action while developers move in and demolish neighborhoods.
The Landmarks Commission is charged by City Charter to identify, protect and regulate New York’s irreplaceable historic structures. The drafters of the law kept it deliberately flexible to allow for the intellectual evolution of preservation; what is important to us today might have been overlooked twenty years ago. What they depended on however, was the political will to insure the agency played an activist role in New York’s development arena. That will, and any sense of activism, is sadly lacking today.
Simeon Bankoff, Executive Director, Historic Districts Council