From the Queens Examiner:
The letter -
Too many politicians and bureaucrats have come to regard the state and all affairs of the state as their private property. Their bureaucracies form a sort of grand private club which has its own set of rules. It is a creed of this class that the public business is theirs and theirs alone to manipulate as they see fit. Nowhere is this more evident than in the landmark designation process.
Paul Graziano, an urban planner from Flushing, confirms this reality in a statement referring to the Mosley landmark case. He said, “To me, it was all a homeowner who didn’t want to be told what to do. Why should an ultra minority ruin the entire thing?” When confiscating property to achieve its ideal the “greatest good for the greatest number,” the Third Reich faced a similar problem with an “ultra minority” called Jews.
Mr. Graziano seems perturbed by the audacity of a homeowner refusing to be part of his grand plan and vision for humanity. He is oblivious to the principle of inalienable individual rights; rights that prevent fifty-one percent of humanity enslaving the other forty-nine; nine hungry cannibals from eating the tenth one. The pursuit of happiness is defined as man’s right to live for himself, to choose what constitutes his own private, personal, individual happiness. This means Mr. Graziano, self-proclaimed praetor of the past, can neither decide nor dictate what is to be the purpose of a man's existence or prescribe his choice of happiness.
In light of this assault on our property and individual rights, why do our representatives and homeowners' association support and urge expropriation of our property without compensation and its use to promulgate Mr. Graziano’s world view?
The reply -
Contrary to Ed Konecnik's letter from last week entitled "A Bureaucratic Nightmare," the Landmarks Law was created in 1965 in order to preserve architectural, historical and cultural buildings, landscapes and sites of local, state and national signficance. While zoning laws create a basic framework for development - an invisible envelope where anything that the rules state can be created within - landmarked buildings need to follow additional design review. This type of design review is quite typical in small towns and big cities around the United States as a way to retain the character of an area - not to freeze it in time, necessarily, but to make sure that existing historic buildings are protected and new development (yes, new development and additions are allowed in landmark districts) is created that better reflects the context of the neighborhood in question.
In response to Mr. Konecnik's inappropriate remarks comparing New York City's land-use and historic preservation ordinances to Hitler's Germany and the "Final Solution," and his snide comments inaccurately describing my role or philosophy pertaining to zoning and preservation, a few things should be noted. Our country, being a democratic republic, has elections and other decision-making processes based upon a majority voting structure. As in his own neighborhood of Broadway-Flushing, where a large majority of the residents supported - and received - a National and State Register Historic District and are now pursuing New York City Historic District status, over 85% of the property owners in Douglaston Hill - of which the Mosely property is part of - supported Historic District status as well. If a neighborhood meets the criteria for landmark designation and the majority wants it, they should be entitled to pursue that designation if they so desire.
If Mr. Konecnik believes that zoning or preservation ordinances are too strict in New York City - or perhaps feels that there shouldn't be any at all - he might want to move to Houston, Texas, where there are few municipal zoning laws and a residential unit can be located next to an oil rig on one side and a fast-food joint on the other.
Note: The author is an urban planning and historic preservation consultant.