Preservation Issues

Landmarks Commission Drops 60 Buildings from Backlog List


-IRT Powerhouse , 850 12th Avenue, designed by Stanford White


-2 Oliver Street


-57 Sullivan Street


-Bergdorf Goodman, an architectural and cultural Fifth Avenue “landmark.”


-DG Yuengling Brewing Co. Complex at 126th St and Amsterdam Ave


-YMCA Harlem Branch on West 135th Street


-Chester A. Arthur at 123 Lexington Avenue


-St. Michael’s Episcopal Church Complex on West 99th Street


-Snug Harbor, Staten Island


-Saint Barbara’s Roman Catholic Church, Brooklyn


-6 Ploughmans Bush, Bronx


-65 Schofield Street, City Island, Bronx


-Green-Wood Cemetery Chapel, Brooklyn


-Pepsi-Cola Sign, Long Island City, Queens


-315 Broadway


-Columbia Club/Hotel Renaissance, 4 West 43rd


-Former Loew’s 175th Street Theater, Now United Palace


-Union Square Park

UPDATE – February 29, 2016

The Landmarks Commission’s decision last week of “no action” on 60 items from the backlog list came with declarations that the owner and/or Council Member objected to designation. “No action” means the Commission did not decide on the merits of the item. It simply removed them from the list. The Conservancy supported designation for most of these items. Now, the LPC’s decision leaves the buildings vulnerable to demolition and sets a disturbing precedent.

For a list of all Commission actions please visit the LPC’s website.

The Commission’s job is to decide whether a building merits designation. The Council is the place to consider politics. The Commission should do its job and designate buildings that are worthy, regardless of future Council action.

LPC’s actions came during a hearing February 23rd on all of the 95 backlogged items. These were items that prior commissions “calendared” but never voted on. The Commission said it would consider 30 items for designation by the end of the year. It also said five items did not merit designation.

To be fair, the Commission did say it is considering Bergdorf Goodman’s and the Stanford White-designed IRT powerhouse for designation despite owner objection. But the Commission’s public acknowledgement of Council influence on so many items diminishes LPC’s own role. The City’s Landmarks Law sets a framework so the Commission can focus on merit and leave politics to the City Council. One Commissioner was left to ask when the Commission would take on a fight.

LPC initially sought to remove all 95 items from the backlog list but bowed to public demand that each item get a public hearing and vote. The Conservancy testified on every item.

We are pleased that there will likely be 30 new landmarks. But we urge the Commission to decide on the merits of buildings going forward. The preservation community also needs to continue to help educate Council Members on the benefits of protecting the City’s architectural heritage.

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UPDATE – February 24, 2016
Landmarks Commission Acts On Backlog Properties

The Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) prioritized 30 of 95 “backlogged” items for designation on February 23 (see list below). The Commission said five items did not merit landmarking. And it took “no action” on the others. “No action” means the Commission did not decide on the merits and any of the buildings could be brought back for future deliberation. But it also leaves the buildings with no protection from demolition.

For a list of all Commission actions please visit the LPC’s website.

The Conservancy is pleased that there will be 30 additional landmarks by the end of 2016. But we feel that many other buildings on the list were equally worthy. The Commission also publicly stated that the support of owners and individual City Councilmembers is what determined whether some buildings will designated and others removed from consideration.

The Commission’s job is to decide whether a building merits being landmarked. The Council is the place to consider politics. The Commission should do its job and designate buildings that are worthy regardless of whether the Council will uphold the designation.

The items at yesterday’s hearings had been “calendared” by previous Commissions without a final vote. Some buildings had been on the list since the 1960s. The Commission initially announced it was going to purge all 95 items without any further consideration. They bowed to the public outcry that ensued and did listen to testimony on the entire list at a series of public hearings. The Conservancy, was one of the ten groups to testify on each item.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission prioritized 30 properties for landmark designation
Click here to see photos

Bronx
65 Schofield Street House
Immaculate Conception, Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Convent and Priests’ Residence

Brooklyn
183-195 Broadway Building
Greenwood Cemetery (in part – Chapel, Gate-House, and Visitor’s Cottage)
Lady Moody-Van Sicklen House
Holy Trinity Cathedral / Ukrainian Church in Exile
St. Augustine’s Roman Catholic Church and Rectory
St. Barbara’s Roman Catholic Church

Queens
Ahles House
Bowne Street Community Church
Pepsi Cola Sign

Staten Island
Curtis House
92 Harrison Street House
St. John’s P.E. Rectory
Lakeman House
Vanderbilt Mausoleum – Moravian Cemetery
Brougham Cottage
Prince’s Bay Lighthouse and Keeper’s House

Manhattan
57 Sullivan Street House
IRT Powerhouse
315 Broadway
Excelsior Power Company Building
Bergdorf Goodman Building
412 East 85th Street House
Edgar J. Kaufman Interiors – 809 United Nations Plaza
St. Joseph’s Church
St. Michael’s Episcopal Church Complex
YMCA, Harlem Branch
Loew’s 175th Street Theater
St. Paul’s Church & School

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Landmarks Conservancy Continues Testimony on “Backlog Buildings”
November, 2015

The Conservancy testified at two hearings covering 32 Manhattan sites that the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) heard in past years without taking a vote. Sessions on November 5 and November 12 completed LPC review of all 95 “backlog” items the Commission originally sought to dismiss with no public review. The Conservancy testified on each proposed individual interior, and scenic landmark and historic district.

The Conservancy supported a significant number of buildings both days. These included the IRT Powerhouse at 850 12th Avenue, designed by Stanford White; 57 Sullivan Street and 2 Oliver Street, both Federal style buildings; and Bergdorf Goodman, an architectural and cultural Fifth Avenue “landmark.”

The Conservancy also supported designating the DG Yuengling Brewing Co. Complex at 126th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, industrial buildings from a significant era in the City’s commercial history; the YMCA Harlem Branch on West 135th Street, a neo-Renaissance building where Langston Hughes, Ralph Ellison and other members of the Harlem Writers Workshop met; the home of President Chester A. Arthur at 123 Lexington Avenue, already a National Historic Landmark; and St. Michael’s Episcopal Church Complex on West 99th Street, which the LPC described as “one of the finest ecclesiastical complexes in Manhattan.”

We supported designating The Edgar J. Kaufman Center, interior rooms at 809 UN Plaza, one of four surviving works of Alvar Aalto in America. But we did not support landmarking the Osborne Apartment Building Interior because it is not a public space.

We also did not support designating seven Broadway theaters because their preservation was already ensured by a 1991 City/State lease with the New 42nd Street Development Corporation, which has been a good steward of the buildings.

In October we reported on our testimony (see below) at the first two hearings on the backlog.

We again thank the LPC for listening to public calls for hearings on the backlog and undertaking this thorough review. The Commission has said it expects to make final decisions on the 95 buildings by the end of 2016.

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UPDATE – October, 2015

The Conservancy has been an active participant in the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s (LPC) backlog initiative involving 95 buildings that have lingered at LPC for years without a decision on whether they should be designated landmarks. We have now testified at the first two hearings. On October 8, the Conservancy testified on 29 buildings in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens. On October 22, we testified on 26 sites on Staten Island. The Conservancy is one of the only groups providing testimony on all 95 “heard but not designated” items.

Thus far we have been pleased to express our views on a wide range of buildings and sites that enhance our city.

Here are excerpts from some of our testimony at the October hearings:

Last year, LPC nearly “de-calendared” all 95 potential individual landmarks and historic districts in one fell swoop with almost no input from the public. The Conservancy and our preservation colleagues successfully waged a campaign for the Commission to reconsider their approach. In an about-face, the Commission decided to accept public testimony on each item at special hearings and even made over 15,000 pages of information about the calendared sites available from their research files for public review. Each backlogged item will now have the opportunity to be re-evaluated, and the Commissioners will be able to hear if designation is supported by members of the public or not. The Commission will hold votes on each item through the end of 2016.

Additional hearings on items in Manhattan are scheduled to take place on November 5 and November 12. As with the other hearings, the Conservancy will be submitting written testimony on all 38 remaining items and will testify before the Commissioners in person. Among the remaining items to be heard are Union Square Park, a rare wood frame Italianate style house on East 85th Street, and the incredible Loew’s 175th Street Theater. We hope you will join us at the upcoming hearings or submit written testimony to express your views and participate in this public process.

JOIN US
The next public hearing will be held on Thursday, November 5, 2015 at 9:00 A.M at the Landmarks Commission office, 1 Centre Street, 9th Floor in Lower Manhattan.

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September 2015
Conservancy to Testify on “Backlog” Buildings

The Conservancy will testify on all 95 individual landmarks, historic districts and (the one) park that have been on the Landmark Preservation Commission’s (LPC) “heard but not designated” list for up to 50 years. As a Citywide organization, we are one of only a few speaking out on every property from the “backlog” list. The testimony will be heard at four special Thursday public hearings on October 8, October 22, November 5, and November 12. Written testimony for the first groups of sites is due October 1, but we invite you to join us at the hearings.

The Snug Harbor Historic District, McKim Mead & White’s IRT Powerhouse and Union Square are among the many items across the five boroughs that the LPC nearly de-calendared in 2014. In response to enormous backlash from the Conservancy, preservation colleagues, elected officials and the public, the Commission dropped a 2014 proposal to take them off of its calendar without a consideration of their merits. Instead the agency followed recommendations put forward by a coalition that Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer led, and it has undertaken a plan to clear out the backlog, holding public hearings this fall and then taking votes on each item through to the end of 2016.

In an unprecedented act, the LPC has put its research files on line. Now the public has access to over 15,000 pages of information about these buildings. They range from historic religious properties in Brooklyn, to single-family houses in Staten Island and the Bronx, Queens co-ops, and Federal-style row houses in Manhattan that date to the early 1800s. Some of the buildings have been restored, others altered, and in some cases ownership has changed. While we agree that the backlog has been lingering for far too long, each building deserves a decision based on its merits.

In the first hearing on October 8, the Conservancy will deliver testimony on 29 buildings in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens. Here is a sampling of our statements:

These are among the landmarks that we will support on October 8.

JOIN US
The first public hearing will be held on Thursday, October 8, 2015 at 9:00 A.M at the Landmarks Commission office, 1 Centre Street, 9th Floor in Lower Manhattan.

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June 2015
LPC Moves Away From “De-calendaring” Buildings

Historic buildings that were once on the chopping block will be given a reprieve as the Landmarks Preservation Commission moves away from “de-calendaring” and towards a new plan. The agency has announced that it will hold a series of public hearings this fall to address its backlog of unresolved designations. Link to WSJ story.

The Conservancy, along with preservation colleagues and elected officials, reacted sharply when the LPC issued a November 2014 proposal to remove protections on approximately 95 buildings and one historic district that had been placed on its calendar, received a public hearing, but never had a designation vote. All of the hearings took place over five years ago, and some went as far back as 1966.

Buildings across the boroughs were on the list, from historic religious properties in Brooklyn, to single-family houses in Staten Island and the Bronx, Queens co-ops, and McKim Mead & White’s IRT Powerhouse in Manhattan. Some of the buildings have been restored, others altered, and in some cases ownership has changed. While we agree that the backlog has been lingering for far too long, each building nonetheless deserves a decision based on its merits. (sample of buildings we think should be landmarked)

Responding to the backlash, the LPC withdrew the wide-scale “de-calendaring” and issued a call for public input. The Conservancy joined a coalition that worked with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer to devise a plan that would allow each building to get a new hearing in a streamlined process that would group buildings by borough, with the intent of clearing out the backlog. The Commission has indicated that its plan will be based on Brewer’s recommendations.

The LPC will be posting research files online this summer, holding hearings in the fall, and allowing the public an opportunity to submit additional information and testimony. We are pleased to be working with the Commission to address this issue and will continue to send alerts as more details become available.

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February 25, 2015
LPC Ignores Preservation Groups on “De-calendaring”

After an outcry from elected officials, preservationists and the public, the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) postponed its plan last December to remove almost 100 buildings from a list of properties that had been “calendared” but never designated. Calendaring is the first step in the public review process and a signal that a prior Commission found the properties likely candidates for being landmarked.

Following the postponement, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer convened preservation groups, including the Conservancy, in a series of meetings designed to elicit ways to help the Commission deal with the backlog in an appropriate manner that considered the merits of each building.

Despite being aware of the groups’ positive intentions, LPC declined to meet or to hear the proposals. This week, LPC has placed a notice on its website seeking “public input” on dealing with the list. Without any information on the Commission’s procedures, LPC is asking citizens for “the articulation of standards for identifying which properties should be issued NO Action Letters.” That is, they are asking for which buildings should be removed, not which buildings should be landmarked.

In a letter to LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan, Conservancy President Peg Breen expressed disappointment that LPC is disregarding Borough President Brewer’s efforts. Prior Commissions routinely dealt with this list. Srinivasan has described dealing with the buildings as a “burden.”

The Conservancy has reviewed the list and found many buildings worthy of designation. We agree that, going forward, there should be a time limit for how long buildings remain calendared without further action. The Conservancy strongly opposed LPC’s initial plan and now finds asking the public to propose standards perplexing. It is LPC’s job to devise standards. It is also their job to designate buildings, though there have been relatively few designations this past year compared to the first year of other Administrations.

Click here for the entire list of the 95 sites (LPC)
Click here for maps of the 95 sites(LPC)
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PREVIOUS STORIES ON THIS ADVOCACY ISSUE

Landmarks Commission Postpones “De-calendaring” Hearing

December 5, 2014

The Conservancy is very appreciative that the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) has indefinitely postponed the December 9 hearing to ‘de-calendar’ nearly 100 historic sites.

We are very thankful for all of your support. We’re glad that LPC listened to your voice.

The Conservancy, along with advocates, elected officials, building owners, and preservationists across the City, was alarmed when the LPC announced that it planned to remove protections from buildings it had calendared prior to 2011, with little warning and no public testimony. Yesterday, the Commission agreed to postpone the hearing to allow a more thorough review of these historic properties.

We look forward to working with the LPC as it considers how to address a backlog of buildings, while maintaining its critical mission of protecting New York’s landmarks.

Click here for a look at some of the buildings that you have helped protect.

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December 3, 2014 (before the postponement)

The Landmarks Preservation Commission’s (LPC) proposal for the wholesale elimination of buildings and districts from a list where they have been calendared for more than five years is a troubling step that disregards the Commission’s own responsibility and mission.

*MAPS: *Click Here to See Borough Maps of Proposed Building and Districts

Prior Landmarks Commissions considered these buildings and districts important or they wouldn’t have calendared them in the first place. Calendaring is the first step in the designation process. It offers some protection for buildings because the Department of Buildings must notify LPC if a building permit is requested for a calendared property. The Commission then has 40 days to decide if they are going to designate it.

In today’s “New York Times,” the LPC Chair is quoted as saying that removing these calendared buildings would “unburden” the agency so it could deal with more pressing matters. The Commission’s job is designating landmarks— giving buildings placed in consideration a fair review.

Prior Commissioners have reduced this list, a few buildings at a time, with public explanations of why they were being designated or removed. If the current Commission feels burdened, they could have reached out asking advocates to help determine buildings ready for designation and those that could be removed. Instead, word of this proposed action drizzled out. The Commission put the disposal list on their website the evening before Thanksgiving— for action on December 9.

At the December 9 meeting there will be no public testimony.

The Conservancy, and most advocates, agree that, going forward, there should be a reasonable time limit for the Commission to decide whether to landmark a property. But this proposal, by not revisiting individual items, will put some of these buildings at risk. Saying that advocates can ask for buildings to be re-calendared is no guarantee that the requests would be answered in a timely manner, or approved.

We agree it will take time to address the backlog. But we believe it would be worth it. Nothing is more central to the Commission’s functions than reviewing and acting on these important sites.

The Conservancy has urged the Commission to rethink this proposed de-listing. There is still time for it to do so. If the Commission proceeds as planned, the Conservancy will immediately submit a list for re-calendaring.

TAKE ACTION
If you agree, contact the LPC and ask them to reconsider their ‘de-calendaring’ proposal.

Click here to write the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC).