From the Daily News:
During the reign of Queens Borough President Donald Manes in the 1970s and 1980s, advocates for historic preservation consistently lost bids to landmark sites - often leading to their demolition.
Wielding his powerful influence on the Board of Estimate, Manes opposed almost every landmark the board considered in his borough. The rejections continued until 1986 - when the scandal-scarred Manes resigned and committed suicide.
A quarter century later, Queens has witnessed significant gains in landmarks. But preservationists fear the landmarks struggles of the Manes era may return after a controversial vote this week.
The City Council is expected on Tuesday to deny the landmark designation of a Tudor Gothic Revival church hall in Jamaica, based on objections raised by the congregation after the vote by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
Some fear the decision would set a precedent for the city to landmark property only after receiving consent from its owner. That could doom future landmarking causes involving absentee landlords and ambivalent residents.
"It definitely will have a chilling effect," said Jim Driscoll of the Queens Historical Society.
Councilman Jim Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows), who is leading the charge to overturn the designation, said the commission should start practicing "real engagement" with property owners before a landmarks vote.
"This is kind of a teachable moment for how we do landmarks," he said.
Gennaro would not elaborate on what the commission could have done beyond the letters, phone calls and meetings with church leaders.
The commission released a statement defending its "early and ongoing outreach to elected leaders, owners and civic groups."
But preservationists worry the agency, which relies on the Council to approve its designations, may be hesitant to landmark again in Queens without owner consent.
"In the future, unless the Landmarks Commission gets a strong, positive 'yes' in writing, they might not move forward," said Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council.
Still, local advocates insisted they are not deflated.
Historian Jeff Gottlieb, who first pitched the church hall as a landmark, vowed to continue fighting for significant sites.
He spearheaded a successful bid in 2008 to landmark an ornate Jamaica bank whose designation had been overturned during Manes' tenure and again by the Council in 1992.
Another Queens activist, Jeffrey Kroessler, also seemed undeterred.
"For someone just entering the arena of historic preservation, this would be a depressing incident," he said. "For those of us with more than one battle scar, we know this is just one battle."