New study asks if landmarking has run amok in the city

Steven Spinola
President, Real Estate Board of New York

A recent study by the Real Estate Board of New York found that a total of 11,857 – or 28 percent – of Manhattan properties are designated landmarks.  In some neighborhoods, such as the Upper West Side and Greenwich Village/SoHo, the level of designated properties has reached a staggering 70 percent.  This high percentage of landmark designations has significant and concerning economic implications for our City now and in the future.  

Simple economics state that when demand is steady, and supply is limited, the price of goods increases.  In this case, as the ability to supply housing is constricted through increased inappropriate landmarking, housing prices increase—further exacerbating the problem of affordable housing in the city.  Real estate development is one of the most important economic drivers for our City.  It produces affordable housing, good-paying jobs, and is a critical source of tax revenue. 

Landmarks’ regulations also impose real and significant costs to property owners. Owners must spend time and resources on the administrative and discretionary process that landmarks designation represents, while also paying the hard costs of complying with landmarks standards.  This is an especially heavy burden on those buildings that have a population whose income is unable to support the cost of complying with the largely unsubsidized landmark regulations.

Additionally, landmarks affect efforts to create a more sustainable New York. As property owners attempt to increase energy efficiency in landmarked buildings, it is becoming increasingly harder to find affordable fixtures that comply with landmarks standards.

REBNY supports the preservation of truly remarkable buildings.  But we also believe that this sort of planning should be more appropriately aligned with the City’s planning, housing, and economic development efforts so that we don’t neglect the needs of future generations.

Other key findings of the study include:

  • 93% of all landmarked properties in Manhattan are located in historic districts, indicating how this broad brush approach to landmark designation undermines the landmark process by capturing numerous properties that have no historic significance, by including buildings that lack any architecturally noteworthy style or that have been so significantly altered that they lack distinction
  • 48 vacant lots and 50 parking lots representing approximately 2.6 million square feet of development potential are landmarked in Manhattan

To read the full study, go to REBNY’s homepage at and scroll down to “REBNY Study Reveals Excessive Landmarking of Manhattan Properties Stifling Economic Growth” and then click “Read the Study.”

In other REBNY News:

Don’t forget to donate much-needed whistles and battery or crank-operated radios for NYC Seniors. REBNY’s Residential Brokerage Division partnered with the NYC Department for the Aging for REBNY’s Annual Summer Donation Drive 2013, which ends Monday, Sept. 9. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy and with the summer heat, the needed crank or battery-operated radios will help keep seniors informed in the event of brownouts and whistles and will allow for notification of emergency officials and neighbors during an emergency. Each summer thousands of elderly New Yorkers die in heat waves across the city. Donations will benefit New Dorp Beach Senior Center Friendship Club on Staten Island. Items can be dropped off at the reception area of REBNY, 570 Lexington Avenue, from 11 am to 4 pm Monday to Thursday and from 11 am to 2 pm on Fridays. Please include batteries with the radios. For more information, contact Jeanne Oliver-Taylor at

The industry’s best residential deals are wanted for REBNY’s 25th Anniversary Residential Deal of the Year and Charity Gala. The submissions deadline is Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013. Your re-sales, new development sales and rental transactions that have closed or will close between Sept. 14, 2012 and Sept. 12, 2013 are eligible. The prestigious Henry Forster Award and Most Promising Residential Rookie Salesperson of the Year Award will also be announced during the celebration on Oct. 24, 2013 in the Grand Ballroom at The Pierre Hotel, 2 East 61st St. Tickets are $525 per person or $5,000 per table. Corporate sponsorships are still available. For more information, go to or email Jeanne Oliver-Taylor at