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Time to Get Landmarking Process on the Clock

September 14, 2015
By REBNY President John Banks

John Banks

This week marks an important public hearing on legislation that will bring timelines to how we designate new landmarks and help the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) to eliminate its formidable backlog of buildings that have been calendared for a hearing but are awaiting a resolution, for as long as, in some cases, decades.

Creating reasonable timelines for LPC’s process of designating new landmarks is a smart and sensible way to help property owners know what to expect and make sure future backlogs are avoided.

REBNY supports Intro 775, and we believe that this legislation is a fair measure which would officially codify LPC’s recent expeditious review process and standardize landmark designation.

Under this legislation, LPC will have two years to formally review and vote on historic districts from the time they are “calendared” for designation, and one year for individual landmarked properties.

This bill also proposes that if the LPC considers a building for landmarking but does not designate it, the property in question could not be reconsidered for landmark status for a period of five years.

This would ensure that a property is not repeatedly re-calendared—effectively bypassing the timelines put in place by the legislation—but allows LPC to review the property later on if standards change or new information comes to light.

The current LPC and city officials recently have made considerable efforts to improve the efficiency of the landmarking process.

In the past year, LPC has reduced the number of calendared properties from 3,400 to less than 1,700. Earlier this summer, the Commission also announced its Backlog Initiative, which is providing a resolution within 18 months for 93 buildings and two historic districts, the vast majority of which have been calendared for over 20 years. This legislation would ensure that these efforts continue and make sure that a backlog of this magnitude does not accumulate again.

Finally, concerns that this bill would prevent deserving sites from being designated show a lack of faith in the diligence of LPC and ignore the progress they has made in the past year and a half.

A definite deadline will not deter the Commission from landmarking deserving properties, but it will ensure that the sites are well-researched, calendared, and voted on in a timely fashion so that they are not allowed to fall by the wayside for decades.

Organizations that support these changes include 32BJ, the Partnership for New York City, the Building Trades Council, the Rent Stabilization Association, and the Manhattan and Brooklyn Chambers of Commerce. Additionally, Peg Breen, President of the Landmarks Conservancy recently told the New York Times that her organization would also support the bill, with modifications.

“Timelines provide predictability and, as we all know, deadlines help get things done,” she said.

Bringing timelines to the landmarking process is a sensible and overdue measure that will add predictability to way we designate tomorrow’s landmarks and ensure that the same diligence carried out by the current LPC will be continued by future administrations.

The legislation’s vast array of support from community, labor, and business leaders shows that reasonable timelines proposed for the designation of new landmarks will be beneficial to homeowners, businesses and all New Yorkers.

*** This article first appeared in REAL ESTATE WEEKLY on September 9, 2015

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