City Finally Releases Plan to Prevent Destruction of Landmarks, with Many Specifics Lacking
After months of agitation by Village Preservation and other groups, the City has finally acknowledged it has a problem with its oversight of landmarked buildings, which has too often resulted in the destruction of protected historic properties on its watch. Late on Friday they released a plan to take additional steps to tighten oversight of the current system, with some steps that pointed in the right direction and included elements of the proposals advocated by Village Preservation, allied elected officials, and fellow preservation organizations, but fell short in other areas and lacked specifics in some key respects.
While pointing to many of the problems Village Preservation and allies identified, the proposed solutions are almost all vaguely worded promises to “do more,” such as “share more data,” “enhance existing coordination,” and “increase the types of applications” that will undergo additional scrutiny, without offering any specifics about when that would apply. There is also nothing in the plan about ensuring those who violate the law suffer sufficient penalties to discourage such behavior, requiring that destroyed landmarks be reconstructed as they were (the Landmarks Preservation Commission currently has the power to do so, but doesn’t always exercise it), and ensuring that bad actors with proven faulty track records and older buildings with known vulnerabilities receive a stricter level of scrutiny to ensure further damage is not done. Additionally, we have seen little positive movement or commitments on the restoration of already damaged landmarked buildings under the city’s oversight, such as 16-18 Gay and 16-20 Christopher Street (adjacent to the already destroyed 14 Gay Street, and under the same ownership) and 10 Fifth Avenue.
This administration’s stated mantra of “Get Stuff Built” reflects the acceleration of a philosophy that began under its predecessors, to expedite construction at any cost, no matter the consequences. The plan released Friday may include some hopeful indications about addressing these problems, but lacking specifics, doesn’t provide real assurances that “Keep Stuff Standing” will be an equally important goal of this administration.