Jamaica Savings Bank Still Not Landmarked; Comrie Still On The Fence

Mr. Comrie knows full well that a building’s condition is not a predicating factor for landmark designation. He is underlining the politics of the situation (by implying that unless he is satisfied with LPC’s answers – he will overturn the designation) and by doing so, undercuts the landmarks process.

From the Queens Chronicle

Historic Jamaica Building In Landmarks Tug Of War
by Matt Hampton , Assistant Editor

The Jamaica Savings Bank building in the heart of downtown Jamaica anchors a portion of the borough that has its fair share of history.

But after three attempts to landmark the building, it may be destined to see contemporary upgrades unless a deal can be struck between the owner and the Landmarks Preseveration Commission.

The building has seen better days, as trash collects in the grates on the lower floor windows, but the facade is still a striking contrast to many of the glowing neon beacons that draw the eye in Jamaica’s most commercial neighborhood.

Councilman Leroy Comrie said that he is in favor of seeing the century-old building landmarked, but only if it meets the structural and safety requirements. He is not aware if it was likely to do so, and worried about granting landmarking status and then having an accident occur.

“It may be the most beautiful thing, but if it’s beautiful and hitting you in the head, it’s still gonna hurt.” Comrie said. “If it’s possible to do, I’d like to see it. It’s a beautiful part of history if it can be maintained.”

The councilman said that all of his experience with the building was based on conversations he had with the Landmarks Preservation Commission. He exhorted the group to “get in there and do their job,” with respect to verifying that the building meets safety requirements, and fully informing the owner exactly what landmark status means for the property.

Lisi de Bourbon, Landmarks Preservation Commision spokeswoman, said that the office is very familiar with the building’s status, having tried to landmark it on two previous occassions, meeting a roadblock each time.

When the building was first up for landmark status in 1974, the move was overturned by the city’s Board of Estimate, a governmental body disbanded in 1989 that had jurisdiction over land use and finances.

The building’s second attempt at landmark status was denied by the City Council in 1990.

The facade of the old savings bank was “in no danger of collapse or anything like that,” de Bourbon said. Even if it is in trouble, the commission would gladly work with the owner to make necessary improvements to make sure the building maintains its historical accents, she added.

The building was constructed over the course of 1897-98, and has significance for the community both because of its unique architectural style, and as a symbol of a community that was starting to grow as the borough was incorporated into New York City, according to a report on the building prepared by the landmarks commission.

Posted Under: City Council, Jamaica, LPC, Queens

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