Coalition of Unions and Trade Organizations Call for Timelines for NYC Landmarking Process via Intro 775

-- REBNY, 32BJ SEIU, Building and Construction Trades Council, and the NAACP, among others, will testify at September 9 hearing in support of common-sense measures to bring transparency and clarity to the City’s landmark designation process --

In advance of a New York City Council Committee on Land Use hearing tomorrow, Wednesday, September 9th, a broad coalition of supporters –– including 32BJ SEIU, the Building and Construction Trades Council, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), among many others –– have announced their support for Intro 775, a set of new common sense measures that will standardize the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s (LPC) review process for designating new landmarks.

The bill will create timelines for the LPC’s process of designating new landmarks and require the LPC to eliminate the backlog of buildings it has “calendared” for consideration as landmarks, but on which it has not yet held a hearing.

For individual landmarks, Intro 775 would require the LPC to hold a public hearing within six months of calendaring the building for consideration, and take final action within six months of the public hearing. For historic districts, the time period would be twice as long, with a one year period between calendaring and a public hearing and an additional year for final action.

"Bringing timelines to the landmarking process is a sensible and overdue measure that will add predictability to the way we designate tomorrow's landmarks and ensure that the same diligence carried out by the current LPC will be continued by future administrations," said John Banks, President of the Real Estate Board of New York.  "The legislation's vast array of support from community, labor, and business leaders shows that the reasonable timelines proposed for the designation of new landmarks will be beneficial to homeowners, businesses and all New Yorkers."

“This bill will create a more transparent process for the landmarking process that we believe is good for New York City,” said Hector Figueroa, President of 32BJ. “Creating a timeline for these decisions will allow residents, workers and building owners in future landmark buildings and historic preservation districts to have a clear understanding of the future of their buildings and help them plan for it.”

“This legislation is a sensible, long overdue step forward that would prevent buildings from languishing for years or decades in the backlog of properties being considered by the Landmarks Preservation Commission for landmarking,” said Jolie Milstein, President of the NYS Association for Affordable Housing (NYSAFAH). “A clear and rational timeline for this process would provide clarity for building owners, while also ensuring that properties considered by LPC to be unfit for landmarking can be devoted to new uses, such as affordable housing for low- and middle-income New Yorkers. As the City Council considers this legislation, we hope Council members will consider the impact it could have on the production of affordable housing as well as good urban planning.”

The LPC’s records show that 61 properties have been calendared for over 20 years, with 26 properties having been calendared since the 1960s.

“It should not take 20 years to determine if a property is fitting for the designation,” said Frank Ricci, Director of Government Affairs at the Rent Stabilization Association.  “Without passing this bill, the City is enabling the designation process to drag on indefinitely, which slows down owners’ abilities to make vital improvements to properties in the interim.”

“The landmarking process as it exists today has created a climate of uncertainty for property owners, and subjects even minor repairs to review and costly delay by the DOB and LPC,” said Gary LaBarbera, President of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York. “This proposed legislation will introduce much-needed predictability to the process, facilitating the restoration, remediation and rebuilding of properties and creating well-paying construction jobs in the process.”

“Landmarking has become a highly political process that can leave building owners in limbo for years, potentially resulting in deterioration of the very properties that advocates are seeking to preserve. This bill would impose some discipline on the Landmarks Commission that is only fair and reasonable,” stated Kathryn Wylde, President & CEO of the Partnership for New York City.

“We support this common sense bill that will streamline a byzantine portion of New York City’s land use process,” said Louis Coletti, President of the Building Trades Employers Association. “Preserving the heritage and legacy of our City is very important, but we must not allow other vibrant and dynamic properties to languish in bureaucracy.”  

Intro 775 would also require the LPC to determine whether to designate items (both individual landmarks and historic districts) that are currently on the calendar within 18 months of the effective date of the local law. This effort is already underway: in early 2014, LPC had a backlog of over 3,400 calendared properties, which has now been reduced to 1,700 under the current administration. The LPC has also announced a plan to deal with a significant portion of its backlog of proposed individual landmarks — 61 of which have been calendared for over 20 years, and 26 of which have been calendared since the 1960s — over the next 18 months.

“Owners of properties that have been calendared for possible landmark designation deserve nothing less than a timely up or down vote,” said Richard T. Anderson, President of the New York Building Congress.  “While the Landmarks Preservation Commission has recently demonstrated its commitment to speeding things up, this legislation would provide far greater certainty and predictability to the process.”

“The landmarking process is often unnecessarily drawn out and delayed, which can lead to frustration for home and business owners alike,” said Carlo A. Scissura, President & CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. “The Landmarks Preservation Commission has done a phenomenal job recently in reducing its backlog of properties for review, and this legislation will only help to further expedite the process and make it more efficient by establishing practical deadlines.”

Intro 775 also proposes that if the LPC considers a building for landmarking but does not designate it, the property in question could not be reconsidered for landmark status for a period of five years.  This would ensure that a property is not repeatedly re-calendared, effectively bypassing the timelines put in place by the legislation.

“It’s hard enough for small businesses to make ends meet in New York City, and they appreciate anything that the City can do to provide more clarity and transparency,” said Nancy Ploeger, President of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce.  “This bill would make the landmarking process more predictable, and if LPC doesn’t designate a property that it’s considering, it also gives owners a bit of breathing room to more easily make repairs and renovations without worrying about being recalendared.”

“Predictability is of the utmost importance to the boards and the home owners in cooperatives and condominiums, and for the last 50 years the landmark designation process has been confusing and inconsistent,” said Mary Ann Rothman, Executive Director of The Council of New York Cooperatives & Condominiums.  “Intro 775 would bring much needed timeframes to this process, and will give owners a clear idea of what to expect when LPC is considering a property for landmarking.”

“Building owners hoping to develop or sell their property are frequently left in the lurch by an unpredictable landmarking process,” said Tucker Reed, President of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. “This common-sense bill wouldn’t just fix that problem – it would strengthen the Landmarks Preservation Commission itself by holding it to the same standards as other City agencies, all while keeping thoughtful preservation protections in place. Without this fix, we’ll continue to see often-underutilized buildings remain that way for far too long. That’s a system that stifles the economic growth and prosperity of the city, and it’s time to change it.”

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and BOMA/NY will also be among the organizations testifying at the hearing on September 9th.  

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