A coalition of preservation groups from around the city gathered outside the landmarked midtown headquarters of the Real Estate Board of New York Monday to push back against a recent report from the powerful property-industry lobbying group that linked landmarking to a dearth in new affordable housing.
"This is a red herring," Andrew Berman, of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, said of the report. "This is not why New York is faces challenges to affordability."
Speaking outside of the old, art-deco General Electric tower on the corner of Lexington Avenue and East 52nd Street, Mr. Berman was referring to REBNY's Sept. 25 study on the impact of landmarking, which lambasted what it termed the overzealous activity of the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission in expanding building protections in the city. As a consequence, REBNY said that only five units of affordable housing had been constructed in Manhattan's landmarked districts since 2003, and that none had been built since 2008. Meanwhile, 8,070 units of such lower-priced housing went up elsewhere in the borough over the same five-year period, the report concluded.
But on Monday, the preservationists fired back. They charged that some REBNY members simply wanted to tear down historic buildings that house low- and middle-income individuals and put up luxury towers instead.
"The biggest cause of New York's affordability (problem) is the loss of existing affordable units," Mr. Berman said, going to far as to insist that landmark designations are often the only thing standing in the way of the units' destruction.
As examples he cited landmarked buildings that are entirely composed of affordable units, including West Beth and 505 LaGuardia Place in the West Village and Dunbar Apartments in Harlem as examples of developments that would have been at risk should they not have been landmarked.
Remember that REBNY sponsors the political action committee, Jobs For New York.