2023 Preservation Conference – May 20

Looking Beyond Landmarks: Celebrating That Which is Difficult to Preserve

Saturday, May 20, 2023

9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

New York Law School, 185 West Broadway

Join the Historic Districts Council at the Annual Preservation Conference, which will examine sites that are difficult to preserve, including sites of cultural significance, non-buildings, places of commemoration and trauma, and monuments and public art. Hear from communities, scholars, and advocates on how they are preserving memory and how that is reflected in our physical space and structures.

AIA Credit available upon request

View the Preservation Conference Tour Schedule


9:30 a.m. – 10:15 a.m.

After the Ribbon is Cut: Preserving Art and Memory with Jonathan Kuhn

HDC’s 2023 Preservation Conference will kick off with an exciting opening presentation and discussion featuring Jonathan Kuhn, Director of Art and Antiquities for the New York City Parks Department. Jonathan will help frame the day’s themes through a wide-ranging exploration of his work protecting the Parks Department’s “Outdoor Museum.” He will examine the challenges and successes in preserving public art, how attitudes to monuments change over time, and anticipating the needs of new projects. The presentation will feature film, case studies, and much more!


10:15 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

Panel 1: Preserving Culture

How can communities preserve their intangible heritage that contributes to the sense of place? Three panelists will discuss how they are doing this, both through community collaboration and government regulation. 

Panelists include Natalie Milbrodt, Director of the Queens Memory Project, who will share the initiative’s Queens Name Explorer, a growing archive of the borough’s places and sites named after individuals; Grace Jiyun Lee, Senior Community Development Specialist and Cultural Districts Manager for the City of San Francisco, will discuss how the Cultural Districts program works to celebrate, preserve, and strengthen cultural assets and traditions; and Ramona Hernandez, Director of CUNY’s Dominican Studies Institute and Professor of Sociology at City College, will present her work towards the creation of a Dominican Historic District listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

11:15 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Panel 2: Preserving public art, sculpture and monuments

Public art is all across New York City, but many times these works are more susceptible to erasure than traditional architectural sites. How is public art, both government sanctioned and community created, being assessed and preserved?

Panelists include Deborah Gardner, Historian & Curator of Roosevelt House, and a founding member of the NYC Chapter of the Living New Deal, an online repository of New Deal public works and resources, and sponsor of public programs, who will discuss the project; Jane Weissman, Co-Director of the community mural collective Artmakers Inc., and co-author of On the Wall: Four Decades of Community Murals in New York City, who will discuss the challenges, successes, and failures of restoring community murals; and Loretta Howard, Co-Creator and Executive Director of On This Spot, a free digital mapping project that celebrates the artistic legacy of a diverse group of New York women artists through short form documentary video, who will speak about the platform.  


12:15 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Panel 3: Preserving memorials and sites of trauma

How do we acknowledge sites of trauma or commemoration? This panel will look at sites of memorialization, and how these memorials are being preserved or threatened with erasure. 

Panelists include Juan Aguirre of Mano a Mano, an organization dedicated to celebrating Mexican culture in NYC, discussing the organization’s collaboration with Naming the Lost Memorials; Gina Pollara, who is working with the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition to erect a permanent public memorial to the 146 victims on the facade of the building where the fire occurred; and Immanuel Oni, architect and recipient of the 2023 Arnold W. Brunner Grant for his project Beyond Memorial, a collaboration with communities to create memorials to victims of gun violence in NYC. 


Continuing Education credits for architects will be available, courtesy of AIA Brooklyn. Please email [email protected] with your AIA # once you register.

General Admission $35; Friends of HDC $25
Free for students with a valid id

Keynote, Panelists, and Moderators Biographies:

A thirty-six year veteran of New York City Parks & Recreation, Jonathan Kuhn has served as its Director of Art & Antiquities since 1995, and oversees the placement, display and care of permanent and temporary art, and monuments in the City’s parks. In 1997 he founded NYC Parks’ Citywide Monuments Conservation Program. He has curated more than 30 exhibitions on the history of parks in New York, and has authored the catalogue, The Outdoor Gallery: 40 Years of Public Art in New York City Parks (2007), the guide, Historic Houses in New York City Parks (1989/1992), as well as more than two dozen entries in the Encyclopedia of New York City (1995). He is presently planning the exhibition, “After the Ribbon is Cut: Reexamining NYC Park Monuments.”


Panel 1

Grace Jiyun Lee oversees San Francisco’s Cultural Districts program, a place-making and place-keeping initiative administered by the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development that works to celebrate and strengthen the City’s vibrant cultural and ethnic communities. She is committed to advancing equity and celebrating community through meaningful collaboration and shared experiences. Her background is in grantmaking, social sector evaluation, and arts administration. Grace holds a BA in Visual Arts and an MPA in nonprofit management and policy. Outside of work, she loves exploring the great outdoors, petting other people’s dogs, and eating ice cream in a cake cone.

Natalie Milbrodt leads Queens Public Library’s Metadata Services division, responsible for cataloging and digitizing the library’s collections. In 2010, Milbrodt developed the Queens Memory Project to collect images and stories from residents for the library’s digital archives. Milbrodt serves on the Oral History Association’s Metadata Task Force and as an advisory board member for New York State Archives.

Ramona Hernandez is a renowned scholar and Director of the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute (CUNY DSI) at the City College of New York, where she is also Professor of Sociology. With a background in Latin American history and a Ph.D. in Sociology, she has dedicated her career to researching and publishing on the socioeconomic conditions of Dominicans in the United States, as well as the mobility of workers from Latin America and the Caribbean. Under her leadership, CUNY DSI has become a world-class research institute known for its groundbreaking scholarship on the history of the Dominican people, including discoveries of notable figures of considerable historical significance for U.S. historiography, such as Juan Rodriguez, a black Dominican man who is recorded as the first immigrant to settle in New York City, and the Dominican Esteban Hotesse, Second Lieutenant during WW II and a member of the Tuskegee Airmen. Through innovative projects like the Spanish Paleography Digital Teaching and Learning Tool and the National Institute for the Humanities-funded A History of Dominican Music in the United States, a pioneering website narrating the history of Dominican music in the U.S. from 1910 to 2010, Ramona Hernandez continues to contribute to the understanding and preservation of the Dominican historical and cultural legacy here in the U.S. and beyond.

Moderator: George Calderaro is a longtime board member of the Historic Districts Council. George is founding director of the Tin Pan Alley American Popular Music Project which commemorates and continues the legacy of the birthplace of American popular music on West 28th Street. He is also on the board of directors of the Friends of the Upper East Side, the Art Deco Society New York, the Victorian Society New York and the 29th Street Neighborhood Association. He was a founding member of Save Gansevoort Market and a member of the Landmarks Committee of Manhattan Community Board 1. 


Panel 2

Loretta Howard is Executive Director and Co-Creator of On This Spot NYC: Stories of Pioneering Women Artists founded in 2021. Her 40 year career in the New York art world has included curating, directing and owning her own gallery and representing postwar American artists and estates. Loretta completed her MA degree and continued on in the PhD program in Art History at New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts. She graduated from Amherst College in 1983. She serves on the Board of the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College. In the 1980’s she was a founding member of New York Cares.

Deborah Gardner PhD (Columbia) is a native New Yorker who started appreciating and protecting the city’s historic fabric with the Friends of Cast Iron Architecture, later served on the Preservation Committee of the Municipal Art Society, and spent five years on the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission. As the Historian & Curator of Roosevelt House at Hunter College, she creates real and virtual exhibits tied to the legacies of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and the New Deal, and assists with other historical projects.

Co-director of the community mural collective Artmakers Inc., Jane Weissman is the co-author of the cultural history On the Wall: Four Decades of Community Murals in New York City (University Press of Mississippi, 2009). In conjunction with its publication, she curated the traveling exhibition Images of the African Diaspora in New York City Community Murals, most recently on view in Paris (France) and Dakar (Senegal).  She also curated the 2017 exhibition La Lucha Continua The Struggle Continues: 1985 & 2017 (at The Loisaida Center, NYC) and wrote/edited the exhibition’s catalog. Jane is a frequent lecturer throughout the United States and abroad, whose talks focus on New York City community murals, 1970s land art in the American Southwest, and the Mexican murals of “Los Tres Grandes” (Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros and José Clemente Orozco). Jane recently collected and conveyed 35 years of Artmakers’ materials to New York University to be housed in Fales Library’s Special Collections/ Downtown Collection. [email protected],, (in construction)

Moderator: Lisa Ackerman is the Executive Director of Columbus Citizens Foundation, an organization devoted to Italian culture and Italian American heritage.  Previously she served as Interim CEO of World Monuments after serving for more than a decade as WMF’s EVP & COO.  Ms. Ackerman is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Pratt Center for Planning and Environment.  She served as EVP of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation and worked in the Education Department at MoMA.  Ms. Ackerman has broad interests in international heritage conversation and education.  She is currently Chair of Historic House Trust of New York City and the New York Preservation Archive Project.  She also serves on the Board of ASOR and is an advisor to Historic Districts Council.  She holds an MS in Historic Preservation from Pratt Institute; an MBA from New York University; and a BA is Art History and Italian from Middlebury College.


Panel 3

Juan Aguirre, the Executive Director of Mano a Mano: Mexican Culture Without Borders, is a passionate advocate for Mexican culture and art. With a background in public service and nonprofit management, Juan joined Mano a Mano in 2011 to showcase the richness of Mexican traditions and foster cultural understanding. He holds a Bachelor of Science from St. John’s University and has undergone advanced training in leadership development and nonprofit management. Juan’s work at Mano a Mano encompasses organizing public events, bilingual educational programs, and support for Mexican artists. He believes in the power of sharing the history and culture of Mexico to inspire appreciation and connection among people of Mexican origin and beyond.

Immanuel Oni is a first-generation Nigerian-American artist and designer living in New York City. He utilizes spatial justice to unearth past trauma, reclaim space, and speculate possible futures for healing. He received a Master’s in Architecture from Parsons School of Design and a dual Bachelor’s in Biology & Psychology from the University of Houston. He is a former Director of Community Design at the New York City’s Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, an Adjunct Professor at Parsons the New School for Design, and co-founder and Creative Director of the non-profit Liminal.

Gina Pollara runs her own consulting firm providing strategic planning and project management. She is thrilled to be working with the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition to complete the permanent, public memorial to the 146 people who died in that tragic event, which will be installed October 23rd. She is also working on the restoration of the Eleanor Roosevelt Memorial in the United Nations Garden. She has served as interim Chief Operating Officer of Wrightwood 659, an exhibition space in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago designed by the architect Tadao Ando. Ms. Pollara was executive director of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park designed by Louis Kahn and oversaw its construction. As associate director of the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture Archives of the Cooper Union, she co-curated the pivotal exhibition on the project, which ultimately led to its successful completion nearly forty years after its inception. She is currently writing a book about that experience. Ms. Pollara holds a B.Arch. from The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture of The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, and a B.A. from Bennington College.

Moderator: Sean Khorsandi is the Executive Director of LANDMARK WEST!, which he joined in 2015.  Before LW!, he practiced architecture.  Sean has a Bachelor of Architecture from Cooper Union and a Master of Architecture from Yale. He volunteers on the board of The Paul Rudolph Foundation, DOCOMOMO NY/Tri-State, and is an advisory board member of the Historic Districts Council.


The Conference is generously supported 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 with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature. Additional FY23 support is provided by New York City Council Members Erik Bottcher, Gale Brewer, Christopher Marte, Keith Powers, and Lincoln Restler.

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