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Home : Advocacy : Intro 775 : Latest News : 06/08/16

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City Council Approves Intro. 775-A, Landmarks "Drop-Dead" Deadline Bill

Many of our most beloved landmarks took longer to designate than Intro. 775 would allow, such as (l. to r.) the Woolworth Building, Rockefeller Center, and the Empire State Building.

Today the City Council voted 38 to 10 to approve the amended Intro. 775, an unnecessary and harmful bill which would make landmark designation harder and demolition of historic properties easier.  It would for the first time impose “drop dead” deadlines for the designation of individual landmarks and historic districts by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.  If the LPC fails to act within the prescribed timeframes, the buildings or districts would be removed from consideration as potential landmarks and demolition permits could be immediately issued.  No testimony was allowed at the Council’s Land Use Committee meeting and vote on the legislation yesterday, though GVSHP and allied community groups were there with signs urging the committee members to vote no, and the prior day held a press conference on the steps of City Hall urging rejection of the measure.

The bad news:  By automatically deeming a building or district not landmarked if the LPC does not vote within one year on proposed individual landmarks and two years on proposed districts, the bill encourages powerful developers to delay and try to run out the clock, and discourages the Commission from considering or moving quickly to calendar (and provide preliminary protections for) complicated, controversial, or larger designation proposals.  More than half the buildings designated by the LPC over the fifty one years of its existence took longer to designate than Intro. 775 would allow.  Once the deadline for designation passes, the proposed historic building or site is automatically removed from the calendar, or consideration for landmark designation.  While the LPC can reconsider the building or site for designation, the process of adding a building or district to the “calendar” must, under the law, take several days; during that time a developer can file for demolition permits which would pre-empt any subsequent attempt to landmark the site, thus ending the possibility of designation.

The good news:  Following our turning out hundreds to the City Council public hearing on the measure last September and generating thousands of letters to City Councilmembers in opposition, the bill was amended to remove one of its most odious provisions – a five year ban on reconsidering any building or district for potential landmark designation if the deadline is not met.  And eloquent and impassioned critiques of the bill were given by City Councilmember Corey Johnson, Rosie Mendez and Ben Kallos.  Councilmembers Johnson, Mendez and Kallos have been working tirelessly with us to try to address preservationists’ concerns about the bill, and joined us for and helped organize Monday’s press conference about the bill. We owe them a great debt of gratitude.

There is some very important additional good news.  Conversations between preservation organizations and the LPC indicate that the LPC believes that it can, if necessary, get around the “drop dead” provisions of Intro. 775’s deadlines and keep buildings or districts under consideration for designation without any gap in coverage which would allow demolition permits to be issued.  The LPC has indicated that they believe they have the option to de-calendar and re-calendar a proposed individual landmark or district contemporaneously before the deadline is hit. This way there would be no gap in coverage (as opposed to passing the deadline, having the site automatically de-calendared, and then beginning the process of re-calendaring), and the clock on the one-to-two year deadlines would be re-started.  The LPC indicated that they believe that if necessary they can repeat this process. 

It would require vigilance and extraordinary action on the part of advocates and the Landmarks Preservation Commission to ensure that this happens.  But it would be an important and in some cases necessary way to circumvent the pro-demolition provisions of Intro. 775 and prevent historic properties worthy of consideration for landmark designation from being lost. 

Of course the City Council should have scrapped Intro. 775 altogether, or amended it as proposed by preservation organizations including GVSHP to require the LPC to vote within a prescribed timeframe on all proposed designations, but allow the Commission to vote yes, no, or to continue to consider when more time is needed.  The sponsors of the legislation refused to consider this reasonable option.

Previous: 6/02/16

Home : Advocacy : Intro 775 : Latest News : 06/08/16

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