Preservationists Publish Report Asking City to Better Protect Soon-To-Be-Landmarked Buildings
It’s not always as easy as one might think to successfully advocate for the landmark designation of an historic building in New York, especially when that building’s owner is not on board with preservation efforts.
According to the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP), more than 20 historically significant buildings (including those designed by renowned architects like Frank Lloyd Wright and Morris Lapidus) have been heavily altered or altogether demolished over the past 12 years after city officials gave word to owners that their buildings were under consideration for landmarking. This comes from a new report that GVSHP commissioned, which examines the Bloomberg administration’s actions regarding the notification given to developers and owners that the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) was looking at their properties, allowing alteration and demolition permits to slip through before any historic protections were granted.
Typically, the public is only made aware of a building being considered for landmarking when it’s put on the LPC’s hearing calendar. And it’s at that point that owners cannot make any changes to their buildings until a decision is reached. GVSHP’s report (undertaken by Gregory Dietrich Preservation Consulting), though, states that the LPC has often notified building owners weeks or even months before the calendar is made public. The Commission argues that the preservationists’ claim represents a very small fraction of the thousands of buildings that have gone through the landmarking process over the past 12 years.
The new facades of David Schwimmer’s home, 331 East 6th Street (left) and the site of the former Dakota Stables, 342 Amsterdam Avenue (right)
The issue got media attention when actor David Schwimmer demolished an 1852 East Village rowhouse after reportedly being given advanced notice of landmarks consideration. The same was true for the 1894 Dakota Stables. When owners of the then parking garage were tipped off about potential landmarking, they filed and received permits to destroy the very elements that made the structure worthy of protection.
How is the problem solved? GVSHP’s Executive Director Andrew Berman thinks it’s a simple answer. In a recent email from the Society, he writes “Property owners must by law be notified of any potential action under consideration by the Commission, and certainly should be. But the current practices of the Commission, which go well beyond this, give bad actors too much opportunity to get around the law and subvert the landmarking process.”
Mayor de Blasio appointed Meenakshi Srinivasan as the LPC Chair earlier this year. She should be receiving GVSHP’s report this week. How do you think the new administration is going to receive the recommendations?
Lead image via Wiki Commons