City Council Bill Would Hamstring Landmarking Efforts
Councilmember Woo (l.) and Greenfield's Intro 775 will be heard at City Hall on July 21, 2015
Intro. 775, authored by City Council Landmarks Chair Peter Koo and Land Use Chair David Greenfield, presents a serious threat to landmarking and preservation efforts in New York City by hamstringing the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) and providing resistant property owners and developers with an out to prevent and prohibit landmark designation of their properties. This wrong-headed bill is slated for a hearing and potential committee vote in the City Council on Tuesday, July 21 at 11 am in the City Council Chambers.
Intro. 775 would prohibit the landmark designation of any property under consideration by the LPC for more than a year or any district under consideration for more than two years without a final decision by the Commission. The property or district would automatically be ruled ineligible for designation without the possibility of reconsideration for a period of five years -- allowing resistant property owners or developers to demolish or alter their properties.
The bill purports to address the need to ensure that the landmark designation process is predictable and takes place within appropriate timeframes. But with more than 80% of designations already taking place within this timeframe, the bill swats a fly with a sledgehammer, and does nothing to address the contributing factors to the minority of cases where individual designations take more than a year or district designations take more than two years.
The LPC is the city's smallest agency, with the fewest resources and smallest staff, in spite of the fact that it has oversight over more than 33,000 properties, and is charged with evaluating historic resources and potential landmarks throughout the entire city. Complicated or controversial designations can take time, requiring additional research, delicate negotiations, and the drafting of highly detailed designation reports. And powerful property owners or developers can delay the process with political opposition and threats of lawsuits and legal challenges. While providing the LPC with no additional resources to ensure that designations take place within the proscribed timeframes, Intro. 775 will discourage the LPC from taking on difficult designations for fear of not meeting the deadlines, and encourage stonewalling and resistance by developers to seek to run out the clock.
GVSHP and a coalition of preservation groups recently met with the bill's authors to express our concerns and encourage them to rethink or amend the legislation. Thus far they have done neither, and a hearing and possible vote is now scheduled for later this month. It's critical that the City Council hear from New Yorkers that Intro. 775 would be damaging to our city and is the wrong approach to seeking a better and more efficient landmarking system.
HOW TO HELP: