The Real Deal New York

City’s landmarking process not worth preserving: experts

But developers, activists have wildly varying takes on how to change the system

May 20, 2014 05:55PM

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From left: Meenakshi Srinivasan, the new commissioner of the Landmark Preservation Commission and the Brooklyn Heights Historic District

From left: Meenakshi Srinivasan, the new commissioner of the Landmark Preservation Commission and the Brooklyn Heights Historic District

The future of landmarking in New York is still unclear, but something needs to change, a group of panelists concluded during a Tuesday morning Crain’s forum on the topic.

Besides the consensus that the system needs to be changed, those on the Crain’s panel on Tuesday morning had strikingly different viewpoints.

Some panelists at the form complained that the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission doesn’t provide a clear time frame on their decision making process and doesn’t have clear designations for what makes a building or area historic. The panelists representing this developer viewpoint said that landmarking stifles development and economic growth. A recent Real Estate Board of New York Study supported the view, showing that landmarking was hurting housing development, with only five units of affordable housing being created in landmarked districts.

On one hand, those in favor of the policy said that landmarking attracts tourists as well as hi-tech firms, since older buildings are in higher demand than newer, glass buildings from young tech companies.

Nikolai Fedak, founder and editor of New York YIMBY and one of the panelists on Tuesday, argued that the focus should be on the people living in the city.

“Do buildings make up the character of a neighborhood,” Fedak asked, “or do people?”

The commission will soon be headed by Meenakshi Srinivasan, who is the former chairwoman of the New York City Board of Standards and Appeals and an architect. [Crain's] – Claire Moses

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