UPDATE 12/5: The New York Times is reporting that the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission has dropped its plan to remove 96 sites from landmark consideration.
The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) has announced an Administrative Action to “de-calendar” 94 proposed Individual Landmarks and two proposed Historic Districts from its roster (see map and list). These properties have been “Calendared” or “Heard But Not Designated” for at least five years.
No one likes a back log – we all agree on that. However, there are more efficient and transparent ways to address the backlog than to simply eliminate it. The wholesale removal of these properties without considering each one’s merits would be a severe blow to the properties and to our landmarks process in general. Each landmark has its own story and the LPC is proposing to wash right over them. A series of public discussions to evaluate each of these 96 properties and sites would be a more considered, fair and transparent approach. By contrast, a radical de-calendaring effort could send an unfortunate message that jeopardizes any future effort to designate them.
Furthermore, the properties and sites that the LPC is proposing to remove from its calendar represent years of research, work and support from New Yorkers, elected officials, community groups and the Commission itself. To broadly reject all of this work out of hand with an administrative action is disrespectful of all that effort and dismissive of the judgment of previous Landmarks Commissioners and staff. If these 96 properties and sites are de-calendared, the Commission will not be notified, and any proposed work or demolition may occur as-of-right.
Those wishing to voice their opposition to this action should contact LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan via firstname.lastname@example.org and also NYC Mayor deBlasio.
The Commission will be voting on December 9th to remove these properties from current consideration. As of now, there will NOT be an opportunity for public testimony on this item at the Public Meeting. Contact the Historic Districts Council for information about a rally at the Municipal Building on the day of the Public Meeting.
What “Calendaring” Means
When the LPC receives a Request for Evaluation (and it receives hundreds of requests annually), senior staff and the Commission Chair determine whether the property (or area) meets the criteria for designation. The full Commission reviews such potential landmarks at Public Meetings, where it can vote to schedule a Public Hearing on properties for further review. Thus, an item is put “on the calendar” for a future Public Hearing. Sometimes, properties are not acted upon immediately or even for several years for a variety of reasons, but “calendaring” is a definitive sign that the LPC feels a property merits consideration as a landmark, and can be a very powerful tool in the preservation of significant buildings and districts.
Once a building is put on the LPC’s calendar, the Department of Buildings is notified and the building is tagged as such in their records. If a building owner applies to the Department for a construction, alteration, or demolition permit for a calendared building, they will notify the LPC, which then has 40 days to consider the case and, if necessary, to vote on the building’s designation. In other words, if a building is calendared, LPC has 40 days to act to designate it to prevent the issuance of a Buildings permit.
This procedure has led to such last-minute rescues as the Elkins House, Crown Heights North’s oldest house, at 1375 Dean Street, and the Elwell or Father Divine House, an Italianate villa at 70 Lefferts Place in Clinton Hill, which were both literally saved from demolition permits by lightning-fast designation votes by the LPC in October and December 2006, respectively.
Photo: One of the buildings threatened with removal from the LPC’s Calendar, the former Loew’s 175th Street Theatre. With a capacity of 3,600 seats, the theater opened its doors to the public in 1930 as the third largest movie theater in America. The building was the last of the five “Wonder Theatres”, grand, exotically-designed flagship theatres of the Loew’s movie theater empire, to be constructed. It was calendared in 1970.