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Homeowners should have a say in landmark designations

By Ed Konecnik

I have lived in Flushing for over 30 years and have supported the Broadway-Flushing Homeowners’ Association’s efforts to improve and enforce zoning and building codes, as well as the Rickert-Finlay Covenant. I cannot, however, support its quest to permit an unelected, unaccountable bureaucracy to usurp a portion of our property rights—that is, to impose landmark designation.

In an effort to obtain New York City Landmark designation, the association requested the homeowners to vote for or against seeking landmark designation. 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 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, to consult with architects or contractors approved to work on historic buildings, 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.

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. 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.

The character and “sense of place” the association cites that distinguishes our neighborhood consists of many elements. Among them are the increasing number of local store front signs, ads, and posters that are undecipherable to many residents. In the interest of “preserving our neighborhood,” perhaps BFHA should instead seek landmarking of the English language.

I implore my neighbors to get informed and assert their common sense.

Ed Konecnik

Flushing

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