In the fall of 2015, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission held a series of four special public hearings to deal with its backlog of 95 items that have been on its calendar since before 2010. Now, the next step, a public meeting, will be held on Tuesday, February 23.
The backlog’s 95 items include 93 individual and interior items along with two historic districts – the proposed Douglaston Historic District Extension in Queens and the proposed Sailors’ Sung Harbor Historic District on Staten Island. Some of the backlog items have been there for 50 years, since shortly after the creation of the LPC. According to the commission, 85 percent of them were calendered 20 or more years ago.
Initially, the commission proposed clearing the backlog by simply de-calendaring all of the items. Public reaction was swift and largely negative. So, the commission did a re-think and proposed the process that is currently underway.
At the hearings in the fall, items were organized by borough and split into groups – one each for the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens; three groups for Staten Island; and four groups for Manhattan. At those hearings, elected officials and members of the public were given three minutes apiece per group to address as many items as they wanted in that group.
According to the LPC, the hearings accounted for over 300 speakers and nearly 12 hours of verbal testimony, plus thousands of pages were submitted to the official record.
At the public meeting in February, the commissioners will decide on one of three options for each of the items.
The first is prioritization for designation, which means the commissioners will vote at a subsequent (and yet announced date) on the designation of that item.
The second is removal from the calendar by issuing a no action letter. That means the item will be removed from the LPC’s calendar without prejudice and the process for considering its designation could begin again in the future.
The third is voting not to designate. That removes the item from the calendar, with prejudice, as the move is based on the merit (or lack thereof) of the item.
“Last summer the Commission embarked on an initiative to, in less than 18 months, address a backlog that was created over a 50-year period,” said LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan. “After a very successful, transparent and efficient hearing process, the agency has spent months analyzing all of the testimony submitted by the public and conducting further research on all 95 items. I’d like to thank Borough President Gale Brewer for her support for addressing the backlog and for her important role in bringing different stakeholders together to support her recommendations to the Commission regarding this process.”
“As one of our country’s oldest and most diverse cities, New York has a wealth of historic, cultural, and artistic treasures in its streetscape that are worth preserving for future generations,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. “The Landmarks Law works to do just that, when we work together and devote the right resources to the task. I’m thrilled that I and my staff could help the Landmarks Preservation Commission devise and pursue this backlog plan, and I look forward to learning which backlogged buildings and spaces will become city landmarks.”
The LPC expects to complete all action on backlog items by the end of 2016.