Preservation Issues

Conservancy Seeks to Protect Landmarks Incentive

-Adorama - 42 W 18th Street

-Proposed 17-story mixed-use building on a parking lot at 42 West 18th Street

Conservancy Testimony


September, 2016

The Conservancy defended benefits for landmarked buildings when we testified at a September 7, 2016 City Council hearing on a project in the Ladies Mile Historic District. The Council voted this week that the City’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) rules did not apply to a new 17-story mixed-use building on a parking lot at 42 West 18th Street.

The owners were requesting waivers, under Section 74-711 of the City’s zoning resolution, of setback and bulk requirements, so that it would be appropriate for the historic district. They did not request an increase in floor area ratio (FAR), which would have triggered MIH. (In fact, the new building will not use the site’s full FAR.) As part of the agreement, the developers will be required to restore three historic buildings on the site to a comprehensive, first-class condition and maintain them in perpetuity.

Section 74-711 has been a valuable tool leading to appropriate new buildings in historic districts and to restoration of numerous landmarks across the City. It offers owners of landmarked buildings flexibility in utilizing existing floor area so that any addition or new construction can be appropriate for its historic surroundings and it requires the type of exemplary restoration work and continuing upkeep that is part of this project. The Landmarks Commission had approved the certificate of appropriateness for the new building on 18th Street, as well as the restoration and maintenance plans in 2015.

The local Community Board and the Borough President were asking for MIH to be applied because of the requested change in bulk and setback. Our testimony supported the decision of the City Planning Commission, that MIH is meant to apply to FAR increases, not bulk modifications. While we support the goals of affordable housing, we noted in the testimony that “For over fifty years, the City has recognized that historic preservation is also a laudable goal. It would be most unfortunate if developers abandoned 74-711 and its preservation purpose because of a new interpretation of MIH requirements.”