Passage of Int. 775-A Changes the NYC Landmarks Law
Tuesday, July 5, 2016
On June 8, 2016, Int.775-A was passed by the New York City Council by a 40 to 10 vote. It was signed into law on June 28 by Mayor De Blasio (Law number 2016/076). This local law changes the New York City’s administrative code to establish a time period for the Landmarks Preservation Commission to take action on an item to be considered for designation as a landmark, interior landmark, scenic landmark or historic district. A property must be designated within one year. With “written concurrence of the owner,” the time period can be extended for no more than an additional 12 months. Historic Districts have a time limit of two years, with no extensions. Properties that are already “calendared” (formally scheduled) have a deadline of 18 months. The bill was sponsored by Peter Koo (Chair, Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Uses). Our local Council Members Dan Garodnick, Rosie Mendez and Corey Johnson voted “no” on this bill.
The law, heavily backed by developers, was prompted by a small backlog of items that have been waiting for LPC action for many years, and developer/owner concerns that there was too much uncertainty and lack of transparency in the process, which had no stated deadlines. In the past year, the LPC successfully implemented a “backlog initiative” to clear up the backlog, and has made significant progress. The LPC requested that the deadlines be imposed as “rules” rather than by law.
Preservation groups opposed the proposed changes, concerned that hard deadlines will encourage developers to delay the process so that the deadline will be missed and proposed items will become vulnerable to demolition. The need to get the property owner’s consent for an extension is also a concern. Properties are landmarked because they have architectural and/or cultural significance and are deemed worthy of preservation. This goal is sometimes at odds with the desires of the property owner. The Empire State Building, Grand Central Terminal and the Murray Hill Historic District would not have been landmarked under these new rules.
Some of the onerous terms of the original bill were removed after the public hearings. Originally the law would have imposed a five-year moratorium for reconsideration of properties that fail to win landmark status, but this was taken out of the bill. In order to appeal a decision, however, it would be necessary to produce additional documentation supporting a landmark designation.
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NYC Council website pages for Int 0775-2015, Version A