Preservation group asks New Yorkers to suggest cultural sites for landmarking

Posted On Wed, July 15, 2020 By

Posted On Wed, July 15, 2020 By In History, Landmarks Preservation Commission

Photo of the Stonewall Inn, a cultural landmark, by NPCA via Flickr cc

When it comes to landmarking in NYC, some of the biggest news as of late is that the LPC has calendared a building in Downtown Brooklyn that was home to abolitionists before the Civil War. If landmarked, the decision will be based on the structure’s cultural merit, not necessarily its historic architecture. And with more and more people realizing the importance of preserving cultural history, the Historic Districts Council is asking New Yorkers to suggest the cultural sites that they believe are worthy of landmark designation.

“These are places which people live by, go to and many times have incorporated into their personal cosmology of the city,” HDC’s executive director Simeon Bankoff told 6sqft. “Often such personal maps include the public spaces which are so important to city dwellers, not only parks and open spaces but also shops, libraries, and restaurants. They can also include easily-overlooked places such as a prominent figure’s house or where a significant event happened, places which might require a deeper knowledge to recognize, but once you do, transform the city into more of the multi-dimensional space it actually is.”

The city’s Landmarks Law was created to safeguard “the buildings and places that represent New York City’s cultural, social, economic, political, and architectural history.” The challenge with many sites of cultural significance, however, is that they “exist because of their use,” Bankoff tells us. For example, CBGB no longer functions as a punk music venue, and for locations like this, “New York City’s Landmarks Law cannot protect that on its own.”

But Bankoff and many other preservationists believe that this alone should not stop a cultural landmark from being designated. “The goal of our survey is two-fold; to get people to think outside the easy box of handsome buildings, and to help educate ourselves about what’s out there that New Yorkers would like to see saved,” he told us.

Among the sites that HDC has advocated for cultural landmarking are the Beachside Bungalows of Far Rockaway, the Walt Whitman House in Wallabot, and Casa Amadeo in the Bronx (NYC’s oldest Latino music store). These remain unprotected, but the LPC has made some cultural designations in recent years. Last summer, they designated six significant LGBTQ sites across the city, including the Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, Caffe Cino, and James Baldwin’s Upper West Side home.

You can take HDC’s survey here >>

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