Preservationists lambast REBNY affordable housing data

October 28, 2013 02:45PM

UPDATED, 6:30 p.m., Oct. 28: A group of affordable housing, neighborhood and preservation advocates lashed out at the Real Estate Board of New York today, gathering in front of the organization’s headquarters at 570 Lexington Avenue to protest its “sham attack on landmarking.”

The assembled crowd took issue with REBNY’s recently released report finding that only five of the 53,000 units of affordable apartments created in the past 10 years were in buildings that were landmarked.

However, speakers at the event contended, the process of landmarking can actually protect the social and economic diversity of neighborhoods.

REBNY’s claims are “hypocritical given their opposition to other efforts to preserve the diversity of New York’s neighborhoods,” the groups said in a statement.

Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation pointed to two affordable housing developments that secured landmark designation — Westbeth at 55 Bethune Street in the West Village and 505 Laguardia Place in Greenwich Village — as evidence that landmarking can preserve affordability.

“REBNY opposes landmark protections because they want to preserve their ability to tear down and build anything they want, anywhere, any time, no matter the consequences for our city or our neighborhoods,” he said in a release.

REBNY, however, defended the report’s findings in a statement to The Real Deal.

“The data and facts clearly show that only five affordable units have been built over the last 10 years in landmark districts in Manhattan and less than 2 percent of all the housing built in Manhattan was in landmark districts,” Steven Spinola, president of REBNY, said. “Creating large, poor quality historic districts covering hundreds of blocks clearly takes away the opportunity to build housing. We would hope that the next mayor and City Council would take into account the impact on affordable housing when it considers future historic districts.” — Julie Strickland