Controversial ‘Anti-Landmarking Bill’ Gets Approval from City

Posted on: June 10th, 2016 at 5:10 am by

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The long-gone 135 Bowery, circa 2011

On Wednesday, the City Council voted to approve controversial legislation that some locals refer to as an “anti-landmarking bill.” As previously reported, “Intro. 775” establishes “do or die” deadlines for landmark designations. Meaning, if the Landmarks Preservation Commission doesn’t vote on proposed individual landmarks within one year (two years for districts), then the proposals are removed from the calendar.

Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation has been fighting the bill on the front lines since last fall, naturally. Its executive director, Andrew Berman, summed it up thusly in an email blast to supporters…

The bad news: By automatically deeming a building or district not landmarked if the LPC does not vote within one year on proposed individual landmarks and two years on proposed districts, the bill encourages powerful developers to delay and try to run out the clock, and discourages the Commission from considering or moving quickly to calendar (and provide preliminary protections for) complicated, controversial, or larger designation proposals. More than half the buildings designated by the LPC over the fifty one years of its existence took longer to designate than Intro. 775 would allow. Once the deadline for designation passes, the proposed historic building or site is automatically removed from the calendar, or consideration for landmark designation. While the LPC can reconsider the building or site for designation, the process of adding a building or district to the “calendar” must, under the law, take several days; during that time a developer can file for demolition permits which would pre-empt any subsequent attempt to landmark the site, thus ending the possibility of designation.

The good news: Following our turning out hundreds to the City Council public hearing on the measure last September and generating thousands of letters to City Councilmembers in opposition, the bill was amended to remove one of its most odious provisions – a five year ban on reconsidering any building or district for potential landmark designation if the deadline is not met. And eloquent and impassioned critiques of the bill were given by City Councilmember Corey Johnson, Rosie Mendez and Ben Kallos. Councilmembers Johnson, Mendez and Kallos have been working tirelessly with us to try to address preservationists’ concerns about the bill, and joined us for and helped organize Monday’s press conference about the bill. We owe them a great debt of gratitude.

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