On March 5th, the Citizens Emergency Committee to Preserve Preservation filed a lawsuit against New York City's Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) in State Supreme Court.
In the suit, CECPP challenges LPC Chair Robert Tierney's absolute power over the Commission's landmarking process. Currently, Chairman Tierney makes all decisions on whether landmark requests will be brought before the full commission for consideration. CECPP believes that this practice is an "unlawful usurpation of the power of the full Commission, and is authority in excess of his jurisdiction." As stated in the arguments before the court: "If staff members or a subcommittee, or the Chair alone, can reject proposed landmarks with no input from the full commission, who will protect the public interest against political pressures, lobbying, bias or just plain ignorance?" CECPP believes that Chairman Teirney's actions violate city, state and federal law and lead to unnecessary delays in the landmarking process, while excluding the valuable input of the full roster of commissioners, whose knowledge and participation are desirable.
In addition, CECPP is challenging LPC's "standards" by which Landmark applications are judged. Many taxpaying citizens, including knowledgeable preservation experts and professionals, have submitted landmark Requests for Evaluation (RFE) to LPC requesting that specific structures or neighborhoods be considered for either individual landmark status or inclusion within/as historic districts. These applicants have received letters stating that their proposed site or structure did not meet LPC's “criteria”. However, it is not clear who created the criteria since LPC has never published them in any way that is accessible to the public. It is critical that the LPC make public and fully transparent any criteria it considers relevant to judging the merits of RFE's so that preservation professionals and members of the preservation community have full understanding of the process and practices used by LPC.
By bringing this lawsuit, CECPP hopes to bring more transparency and openness to the city's landmarking process, and to make it a fair public process free from political interference and influence, as dictated by the 1966 NYC Landmarks Law. For a full copy of CECPP's petition, go to www.savelpc.org/images/mandamus.pdf. To review a copy of CECPP's Memorandum of Law associated with this case, go to www.savelpc.org/images/mol.pdf.
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