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.


99% ? said...

It is the fault of the preservation community that has become an elitist clique removed from the lives of most New Yorkers - at least the 99% that lives in the real world.

While we see groups like the greens and trees advocates as well as Transportation Alternatives thrive, the preservation community is filled with people like our boro historian (smirking joke) and a tiny group of insiders snug in their districts (more smirks when one asks them for help)

Throw it out and start over again -and this time include everybody.

I am tired that my hard earned taxes goes to support the rich while we are denied support or opportunity.

To hell with expanding Greenwhich Village while St Saviours gets wiped off the map by those two bit bums in Queens who can crap all over us confident that their constituents can expect no help of significance from anyone.

Gary the Agnostic said...

I didn't know that the LPC was that effectual.

Anonymous said...

I fully agree...
it's high time to amend NYC's landmark law!

The existing law and the discriminatory way it's applied in the outer boroughs is criminal.

Queens hasn't had a working LPC interested in us for decades and decades.

So what's the difference if the law gets gutted?

Most of our borough's history has already been obliterated.

It's been gutted by a panel of snarky elitists who favor Manhattan sites over others.

Now let Manhattanites take their turn getting bitten on the ass like we have!

Let Manhattan lose 1/4 of Greenwhich Village and see the Chrysler building covered in pink aluminum siding.

But I'm sure that our city cousins at HDC, CECPP, etc. are now most eager for Queens to show up in defense of THEIR interests.

TS...old boys!

Where were you guys when Queens needed advocates...
busily hob-nobbing at your Manhattan-centric wine and cheese conferences?

This Queens lad is staying home on Wednesday.

Anonymous said...

So what's next....
fill up a bus with spokespeople from all of Queens' anemic historical societies to defend the LPC?


I can just envision Dr. Kroessler wearily strapping on his armor ready to tilt at windmills.

Yo ho Jeff!

Round up the usual suspects and give each of them a speech to read at the city council.

In this grand Darwinian battle
they'll be gobbled up like the fools that they've been.

You prissy Petunias all sat silent for too many years and now it's too late to speak up and make a difference.

So return to Queens...tails between your legs...and beg borough hall for money to cover next year's operating costs.

Anonymous said...

There goes the landmarked lobby of RKO-Keith!

Jerry Rotondi said...

The elitist Tierney-Betts duo
at the LPC have turned up
their noses at creating a municipal
landmark district for deserving Broadway-Flushing--which has already achieved both national and state historic district status.

So now it's my turn to snub that very same LPC that recently snubbed my own Broadway neighborhood.

I will not be attending
Wednesday's hearing to defend
a Manhattancentric commission.

The general lack of regard (that I've personally witnessed) by the LPC for Queens over many years has, most certainly, embittered me.

In all honesty,
I can not deny that fact.

former trustee of the
Queens Historical Society.

Anonymous said...

Economic impact? when repairs/replacements are made in accordance with this proposal, will the owners continue to access tax breaks? You betcha! Appraisal for highest and best use rarely, rarely takes into account an intangible like historical value (it takes too much work to ferret out the value from comps. So a low- or non-income producing property, which could be demo'd and replaced with archicrap condos or rentals will always show a higher, "better" use. LPC needs to be changed, for sure: the designation process is berserk. However, change should not come by stealth-introduction. One of the proposed requirements is detailed advance notice... that should apply here, also.

Steve Behar said...

This is the government you get when you let the real estate industry BUY the politicians!

Cav said...

I agree completely with the first sentence. You nailed the whole problem neatly.

But I see the underlying cause more due to the city gov't as being Manahttan-centric. It's an attitude that has existed since the anschluss of 1898. The tweeders of the city then only saw the outer boroughs as fresh territories to conquer and pillage. We're derisively referred to as "the outer boroughs" by our overlords, not part of the "the City". The conqueror has nothing but disdain for lands and people he has taken and makes laws only to benefit themselves.

Anonymous said...

Testimony for Land Use / Housing Joint Committee Hearing, May 2nd, 2012

My name is Paul Graziano and I am an urban planning and historic preservation consultant, past president of the Historic Districts Council and the Landmarking Chair of the Queens Civic Congress, an umbrella organization that represents over 100 civic and homeowners associations.

I want to go on the record and state that most of the proposed bills are anywhere from somewhat damaging to downright destructive to the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). I oppose them all except for Intros 20 and 80, but I particularly oppose Intros. 845 and 846 which would destroy the ability of the LPC to do anything close to its City Charter-mandated job, which is to protect the important historical, cultural and architectural heritage of the ENTIRETY of New York City, not in just a few parts of town.

Many neighborhoods and homeowners in Queens are extremely disappointed with the actions - or inactions - of the Landmarks Preservation Commission over the past 40+ years, as they have bypassed most of our architecturally and historically important neighborhoods in favor of designating over and over again in Manhattan. Where Manhattan has over 60 historic districts and Brooklyn now has over 20, we have 10 - and most of those are in urban neighborhoods such as Ridgewood, Jackson Heights, Hunters Point and Sunnyside. Those areas are great and certainly deserve landmarking as well, but they are not located in the suburban sections of Queens which make up a large majority of the borough's land area.

Since the announcement that this hearing was going to be held, I have had numerous conversations with many civic leaders from neighborhoods all over Queens. They specifically asked me not to come out and testify at all - just as they have decided not to - in order to send a strong message to the LPC that we are tired and frustrated at having our historic neighborhoods that deserve landmark protection ignored, disregarded and rejected, thereby putting them at risk of being destroyed - frankly, it's "demolition by neglect" of the LPC, due to their refusal to do their mandated duty of protecting and preserving the historic built environment of ALL of New York City, not just in Manhattan or a few favored neighborhoods. We are not and should not be treated as second-class citizens by any agency, something that at least one agency, the Department of City Planning, has acknowledged during the past decade.

Neighborhoods, including Broadway-Flushing, Parkway Village, Kew Gardens, Richmond Hill, Bellcourt and Hollis Park Gardens, to name a few, have sent in RFEs and were rejected out of hand due to the general bias of the few elitist decision-makers on LPC staff that consistently oppose designating suburban neighborhoods as historic districts. This is a fact: there are less than a dozen suburban-type historic districts out of over 100 historic districts within New York City. And, just to clarify: these aren't your run-of-the-mill sections of Queens that we're talking about; they are special, architecturally significant neighborhoods that clearly have a vast majority of residents in favor of designation and/or already have National Register of Historic Places status. In simple terms, they are not controversial and a no-brainer.

The civic leaders that I mentioned before feel that if we can't have our long-deserved landmark designations and historic districts, the Landmarks Law might as well be essentially overturned and ruined for everyone else in the city as well, just on principle alone.

I do agree with those civic leaders in spirit and I can only hope that this entire situation is a massive wake-up call for the LPC. If they had designated landmarks truly based on merit, the way they were supposed to since their inception, they would have many more allies throughout the entire city to help make the case today against what I believe are a raft of mostly troubling bills primarily aimed at legislating the agency out of existence.

Anonymous said...

To the last poster:

please, we bring our own misery upon ourselves.

the other boroughs can fight for themselves and will stand up to their pols and thus deserve respect in all quarters.

look at queens and out leadership - sheep - for the most part cut off from the rest of the city.

when someone stands up it merely gives everyone else an excuse to get some pocket chance in exchange for cutting his throat.

queens has a very poor reputation and its getting worse. years ago, and for many decades after consolidation we benefited from it being Manhattans younger sister.

now we have made ourselves into the scullery maid and are too stupid to change.

Anonymous said...

Gut the LPC. They basically lord over approvals for materials and even colors to be used in a given project. This works well if you are mega rich and your property is in Manhattan. Queens is an after though anyway and Queens property owners don't have the cash to maintain a land-marked property in it's original state.

Anonymous said...

But are you going to
attend and speak Paul?

You didn't really say.

Anonymous said...

I attended and spoke. It was one of the strangest hearings that I've ever attended, and I've been to a lot.

Not only did I touch on the issues listed, I also spoke about other bad behavior by the LPC against neighborhoods in Queens in particular, including Douglaston Hill, Addesleigh Park and other areas that HAVE been landmarked.

The fights and garbage that went on in those situations revealed how messed up the LPC is in their decisionmaking process. I won't go into detail, but I can assure you that the things that happened both publicly and behind closed doors make it very clear that unless you have them by the short hairs, you're not going to get them to move under Mayor Bloomberg's administration.

Simply put, they are hostile to Queens and all other suburban areas of the city, which is in direct violation of their mandate and the City Charter.

When the Emperor finally leaves (thanks Jerry Rotondi, No 4th TERM!), that's when things may change - although not guaranteed, only if we all do something about it.

Paul Graziano

Anonymous said...

i just can not wait to select either Quinn, Thompson or Liu , for our next decision making Emperor ?

Anonymous said...

It don't mean diddly squat!

The real estate board runs NYC.

The mayor merely follows their orders
along with most city council members.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Graziano's right on target with his comments.
Thank you for attending and standing up for us.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Graziano's right on target with his comments.
Thank you for attending and standing up for us.
not really, eastern Queens got the boro into the mess and the center of gravity is moving west.

but his remarks does an excellent job of displaying what critics of the entire preservation movement have been saying for quite some time:

it has lost its original spirit - it just a group of elitists (and wannbe elitists in eastern queens that have not noticed the world has moved on) that are willing to make deals and throw the rest of us under the buss.

he glosses over all those egregious things , Bowne House, Steinway Mansion, Poppenhusen, Astoria, St Saviours, Nidersteins, the list grows.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a lot of BS coming from Astoria again. Not a surprise, as this last Anonymous windbag has a long history of not willing to stand up for neighborhoods in western Queens (home base), just critical of other people actually working hard to protect this borough from total destruction.

I glossed nothing over. Unlike in Astoria, where there was a majority of property owners OPPOSED to landmarking in Old Astoria, Broadway-Flushing took a vote and 85% of the property owners (more than 1100 out of 1300) were in favor. They raised $$$ to get on the National Register and continue to fight to get landmarked. When was the last time that you even visited this part of Queens?

St. Saviour's? I was at just about EVERY press conference and worked with the Newtown Historical Society / JPCA for years. Where were you?

Poppenhusen? Long-time supporter who worked with Susan Brustmann to get her more funding to continue restoration of the building. Where were you? Do you even know how to get there?

Bowne House? I worked with them for years to try to get funding to restore the building. Unfortunately, the people on the board have been unable to get their act together. Where have you been?

Neiderstein's? Yeah, Gallagher and I split the money from its demolition and got free Arby's for life...too bad you weren't in on that.


Paul Graziano

Anonymous said...

That old Ass-toria granny
must be off her meds again.

She's always bitching about everything being the "preservationists" fault.

Speaking of Astoria:
Greater Astoria Historical Society tried kissing the Vallone family's asses for years...and what did it get them?

A royal kick in the ass.

What do they do now...
mount exhibits...hold programs...conduct tours...
yadda, yadda.

This is everything that the other anemic societies around Queens do.

But do these jellyfish stand up and make an open fight?

Hell, no!

George Stiamadedes might raise their rent...or their funding sources might suddenly dry up.

Alas, they too, are prisoners of the purse strings.