Overhaul of Landmarks rules faces criticism from preservation groups

Posted On Fri, March 23, 2018 By

Posted On Fri, March 23, 2018 By In Landmarks Preservation Commission, Policy

Photo via CityRealty

Earlier this year, the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) unveiled a series of new proposed rules, which the group says will streamline the application process and improve transparency. One of the proposed changes, which calls for more oversight by LPC staff but less time for public review, has some preservation groups criticizing the commission. Preservationists worry this new rule change would not take into account public opinion, as it limits the opportunity for testimony and comment on the application.

LPC has said the rule changes would expedite a frustratingly slow process. One way to do this would be to allow fewer applications to go through the public-review process, which can take up to eight weeks and involve lengthy presentations to the commission and the community board. To save time, LPC wants their staff to solely look at items that typically are approved. In the amended rules, LPC staff alone could approve alterations to historic buildings like the replacement of windows in landmarked districts, the removal of steps and the lowering of doors.

Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP), called the rule changes “anti-transparency, anti-public participation, and anti-good government.”

“Approval of the proposed rules changes will result in a significant degradation of the quality of our neighborhoods and our city, and is something all New Yorkers should be concerned about and should oppose,” Berman told 6sqft in an email.

The Historic Districts Council released a detailed statement about the proposed rules looking at the consequences of the new guidelines, especially how they will be interpreted for decades to come. In the statement, HDC said it recognizes the problem of allowing the 13,000 permit requests the commission receives each year to be brought to a public hearing. However, the council recommends, “that the LPC investigate the possibility of incorporating some level of public review into staff-level permits.”

The council suggests creating a process for the public to review the staff-level permits to ensure the proposal meets the standards. According to the executive director of HDC, Simeon Bankoff, “If the proposal did not meet those standards, the proposal would go to a public hearing for review.”

The Real Estate Board of New York has spoken out in support of the changes. In a statement to Crain’s earlier this month, REBNY President John Banks said: “These changes will make it easier for owners to maintain their landmarked properties and permit the commission to devote more time to evaluating which buildings warrant landmark designations moving forward.”

A hearing will be held on March 27 at 9:30 am at LPC’s hearing room on Centre Street. Before you voice your concerns or support, check out this map that lays out how LPC makes decisions about changes to city landmarks.

And find more information about the proposed rules here.


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