Tuesday, May 1, 2012
City Council set to gut Landmarks Law
From HDC Blog:
The City Council is holding a public hearing at on Wednesday, May 2 at 10am at 250 Broadway to contemplate 10 bills which, if passed, will greatly change the workings of the Landmarks Preservation Commission in some very damaging ways.
...there are two bills which seek to inhibit LPC’s powers to designate or regulate properties.
Intro 845 (CM Comrie, lead sponsor) – allows for replacement materials on landmark buildings to be those present at time of designation.
Intro 846 (CM Comrie, lead sponsor) – mandates City Planning Commission to analyze economic impact of designation on the development potential of proposed landmark and instructs City Council to strongly regard this analysis in their deliberations. The bill also requires the LPC to issue very detailed draft designation reports early in the public hearing process and promulgate rules for historic districts immediately after designation.
These bills are aimed at making the LPC ineffectual and providing faulty intellectual rationales for the Council to reject designations at the behest of developers.
Intro 845, the Replacement Materials Bill, undermines the basic benefit of LPC oversight in helping to gradually return areas to a more historically-appropriate condition. With the advent of new material technologies and the growth in skilled building artisans, it is easier and cheaper than ever before to replace failing building materials with appropriate replacements of high quality. What this bill would result in would be the endless replacement of white vinyl windows in designated historic districts with more of the same.
Intro 846, the Economic Argument Bill, deliberately misconstrues the economic value of landmark designation by emphasizing the false value of “property strictly as development ”. By enabling the sole criteria of economic value to be the highest use of a site, the bill strives to denigrate the economic value of landmark designation to property value. The most highly valued and most desirable property in New York City falls within historic districts. There are a number of factors why these areas are so successful and one of them is their landmark protection. People want to live where there is certainty and protection. Under this bill, the recent Park Slope extension could be found to have an negative economic effect on the neighborhood because it could potentially affect the FAR of rowhouse blocks, whereas commonsense and actual real world data will show the opposite to be true.
This is a deliberate attack on the Landmarks Law , which was intended by its drafters to “stabilize and improve property value; protect and enhance the city’s attractions to tourists and visitors and the support and stimulus to business and industry thereby provided; and strengthen the economy of the city”. This is how Landmark designation worked in 1965, and it’s how Landmark designation works today.
That the City Council is hearing all these bills with almost no notice is very disturbing. That each speaker is only going to have THREE MINUTES to comment on 10 bills is outright appalling. Regardless of the merit of these bills, the concerned public of New York City’s neighborhoods deserves a real opportunity to discuss the issues raised by these bills. Under these circumstances, any germ of good policy in these bills simply cannot have a fair hearing or thoughtful discussion whereas the bad ideas risk slipping through unchallenged.
HDC urges you to come to 250 Broadway on Wednesday, May 2 at 10am and tell the City Council firmly – this is bad public policy, bad for preservation and bad for New York! Written testimony is also permitted and should be brought to the hearing or sent to CM Comrie and Speaker Christine Quinn at 250 Broadway, New York, NY 10007. You can contact Speaker Quinn on the Council website or send your testimony to gbenjamin(at)council.nyc.gov.