Landmarks Under Consideration, New York City
In November 2014, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) announced a plan to clear 95 properties that had been on its calendar for five years or more, but not yet designated as landmarks. The wholesale removal of these properties without considering each one's merits would have represented a severe blow to the properties and to the city’s landmarks process in general, sending a message that would jeopardize any future effort to designate them. The properties represented years of research and support from New Yorkers, elected officials, community groups and the Commission itself. To broadly reject all of that through an administrative action would be disrespectful to the efforts and judgment of previous LPC Commissioners and staff. Further, the removal of these 95 sites from the LPC’s calendar would render the LPC powerless in the case of any proposed work or demolition project involving those sites.
The Historic Districts Council acted strongly in opposition to this action, and advocated for a more considered, fair and transparent approach. To further prioritize this advocacy, HDC made the initiative one of its Six to Celebrate in 2015, calling it “Landmarks Under Consideration.” As part of this effort, HDC worked with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and a coalition of other preservation organizations to submit an alternative plan for the LPC’s consideration. The plan eventually formed the basis for the LPC’s initiative, entitled “Backlog95,” calling for a series of public discussions to evaluate the properties in geographical groupings. Announced in July 2015, the LPC’s initiative was the direct result of the advocacy of preservation groups and concerned New Yorkers, over 200 of whom wrote to the LPC to demand a fair process for considering the sites on their individual merits.
In fall 2015, the LPC held four “special hearings” in which the items were grouped according to their location by Community District, with roughly 5-12 items per group. At these hearings, the public was given the opportunity to comment. HDC wrote and delivered statements for nearly every item. In February 2016, the LPC held another special hearing to discuss and vote on how to proceed. The Commission was given three choices for the fate of each property: prioritize for designation by the end of 2016; remove from the calendar by voting not to designate (based on a lack of merit); or remove from the calendar by issuing a no-action letter (this allows an item to be taken off the calendar without prejudice, meaning it could be brought forward for designation at a later date). On that day, 30 items were prioritized for designation, five were removed from the calendar with a vote not to designate and the rest were removed from the calendar by issuing a no-action letter. The five properties that the Commission voted not to designate were largely irreparably altered or had been demolished.