Keeping up the spirit of landmark laws

By Ed Konecnik

In its latest effort to obtain NYC Landmark status, the Broadway-Flushing Homeowners’ Association asked the homeowners to vote in favor of or against seeking landmark designation. This request for a vote disingenuously implies that homeowners have input and can participate in the landmarking process. According to the law, landmark designation is not the subject of a vote by the community or homeowners and notification to homeowners is not required.

In a response to my concerns regarding landmark designation, the Law Department of New York City apprised me that “a formal application process does not exist. The commission considers eligible buildings and districts for designation in response to suggestions from many sources, including groups and individuals as well as the observations of commission members and staff. While the Landmarks Commission seeks and encourages community and property owners’ participation and support when considering proposed landmark designations, neither is a required condition for the designation of a landmark.” The letter continues “…the determination as to whether a building or a district is to be landmarked is not the subject of a referendum or vote by the community or property owners.” It is clear the wishes and desires of the homeowners are superfluous.

If these facts are not sufficient to prompt a pause in the cause for designation, consider the regulations and restrictions on private property. Designation requires homeowners to apply for and receive permits for most work and to consult with architects or contractors approved to work on historic buildings. It also requires them to wait 20 to 90 days for a permit which will give permission to paint wood, masonry or handrails a different color; install exterior light fixtures; install new window sashes or frames; paint doors and door frames a different color; replace roofing material; install yard lighting, etc. Please visit the NYC Landmark Commission website for a complete list.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I am no longer a homeowner but have lived in Flushing and was a member of the Broadway-Flushing Homeowners’ Association for over 30 years. I implore my neighbors to get informed and assert their common sense.)

Invoking landmark laws to resolve problems resulting from un-enforced building codes, inadequate zoning laws, indiscriminate variances, corruption and lack of oversight is disingenuous. This is neither the intent nor spirit of the landmark laws. The focus of the association and our elected representatives should be on improving, updating and enforcing zoning and building codes and not on limiting the rights of the homeowners and creating fertile ground for more bureaucratic corruption. Restricting and regulating homeowners’ property rights may stifle their proclivity to enhance and enrich the “gracious sense of place” they created in the first place.

Ed Konecnik


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