Advocates From Harlem To Hollis Call For New Chair Of NYC Landmarks Commission

March 26, 2018

New York History Blog reports that the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) has proposed to overhaul its rules under the guise of “increasing transparency.”

Dissenting organizations argue that the proposed changes will actually eliminate transparency, take away public oversight, and give more decision-making to Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan who, acting at the direction of the Bill de Blasio administration, has proven hostile towards historic neighborhoods and the Landmarks Law.

A hearing on the proposed changes will be on March 27, 2018 at 9:30 at 1 Centre Street.

Twenty-four neighborhood groups, as part of Human-scale NYC network, have also written Speaker Corey Johnson, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and Council Member Ben Kallos as of March 20th, 2018, asking them to act on behalf of the public and halt the proposed rule changes. The groups also ask the electeds to support their call for the appointment of a new LPC Chair with historic preservation experience.

The opposition letter presents eleven arguments demonstrating how the LPC, under the de Blasio administration and Chair Srinivasan, has turned away from its regulatory mission and is instead undermining the Landmarks Law. Furthermore, if rule changes are even needed, the signers ask that the city’s professionally-staffed preservation organizations be consulted for their own proposals about what rules may or may not need changing.

At issue is a collapse in public confidence in the current Chair of the LPC. According to advocates, the Chair has admitted in a public hearing that her decision-making on landmarks and historic districts is politicized and “not really about the merits of the case” (City Council Hearings 47-52). Moreover, Chair Srinivasan was quoted in the Daily News as instructing her staff “to take off their preservation hats for a while.” Signers of the opposition letter ask: what then is the point of having an LPC under such a regime? See the full text of their letter here.

Human-scale co-founder Lynn Ellsworth points out that changing the LPC rules in such an anti-landmarks environment is “like asking the fox to design the henhouse.” We know better.

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Organizations signing off on the letter as of press time include: Artists Studio Affordability Project; Audubon Park Alliance; Bowery Alliance of Neighbors; Brooklyn Heights Association; Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense Fund; Central Park West Association; Chelsea Reform Democratic Club; Committee for Environmentally Responsible Development; East Harlem Preservation; Human-scale NYC; Inwood Preservation; Lower East Side Dwellers; Moving Forward Unidos; Neighbors for the Preservation of 158th Street; Riverside Edgecombe Neighborhood Association; Save Central Park; Save Inwood Library; Tribeca Trust; 29th Street Association; Queens Preservation Council; Riverside Oval Association; Union Square Community Coalition Board; Save Chelsea; and the West Village Committee.

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