In 1984, a series of grime-covered windows at 714 Fifth Avenue caught the attention of an architectural historian by the name of Andrew Dolkart. Seemingly innocuous, and almost industrial in aesthetic—at least from afar—the glass panes would later become the foundation for a preservation victory.
Over the past couple years, preservationists have waged two big battles pertaining to the 51-year-old landmarks law. First, there was Landmarks Preservation Commission’s decision to de-calendar 95 historic sites–in other words, remove them from the “waiting list” to be considered for landmarking, leaving them in jeopardy. The LPC eventually withdrew this plan after massive public outcry, but then proposed a bill, Intro. 775, to implement timelines for reviewing possible landmarks, which was met with criticism again for a perceived catering to developers who want to demolish or alter a property. The proposal stalled, but the Council is back at it, now “proposing a half-dozen recommendations to simultaneously streamline and expand the landmarks process” that they will vote on this month, reports the Times.
The city’s preservation groups have reported that the results of a series of studies, prompted by the 50th anniversary of the city’s Landmarks Law, have put some numbers behind the claim that landmarking doesn’t harm, and may actually improve, the economic balance of neighborhood development and growth. According to Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council, “This is the first time which preservationists–who tend to be from the humanities and subsequently math-averse–have put real data behind anecdotes.” The combined reports represent the most comprehensive study to date of the impacts of historic preservation in New York City.