Landmark preservation deserves full transparency

By Michael Perlman

Below is an open letter sent to the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission:

On behalf of Rego-Forest Preservation Council, we would like to extend our gratitude in response to the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s cancellation of the proposed administrative hearing on Dec. 9, 2014, which would have likely resulted in the de-calendaring of nearly 100 landmark-worthy individual properties and two landmark-worthy districts.

We feel that if the Landmarks Preservation Commission was to engage in a massive de-calendaring, it would set a risky precedent, where those properties may undergo demolition as-of-right, and the public would speculate that future calendared properties may be de-calendared and also demolished. New York City residents, community groups, elected officials, and preservationists at large work tirelessly to research, propose, and advocate for new landmarks, which have largely resulted in those properties to have been calendared.

The public is routinely presented with the opportunity to testify on hearing items, but a “commissioner only” vote on a massive de-calendaring would have appeared as if the public has no voice in the landmarking process, or as if we inhabited the days of protests before witnessing the classic Pennsylvania Station’s demolition.

Our landmarks and potential landmarks are a unique contribution to our city’s architectural and cultural history, diversity, and aesthetics, and are cornerstones in the eyes of NYC residents who experience their communities first-hand. As per the Landmarks Law, which enables the public to provide testimony for properties, the public needs to have a say in the future of the nearly 100 individual properties and the two districts, which have been calendared.

Upon reviewing the listing of the proposed de-calendaring items, our boroughs would lose their identity and distinctive qualities of a livable community. Some cases in point are the Ahles House and the Douglaston Historic District Extension in Queens, the IRT Powerhouse and Loew’s 175th Street Theater in Manhattan, the 5466 Arthur Kill Road House and Garner Mansion in Staten Island, the 65 Schofield Street House and the Samuel Babcock House in the Bronx, and St. Barbara’s Roman Catholic Church and St. Augustine’s Roman Catholic Church and Rectory in Brooklyn.

We strongly encourage the Landmarks Preservation Commission to schedule public hearings for all of the calendared items, beginning where there is most pressure to alter, sell, or redevelop the site, or where development patterns in the surrounding community could compromise the site’s integrity or longevity. May the Landmarks Preservation Commission and New Yorkers work as a team, to emphasize how a governmental body and their constituency can operate cohesively for our city’s improvement. Thank you for your consideration.

Michael Perlman

Chairman, Rego-Forest Preservation Council

Forest Hills