Monday, October 20, 2008

Lost New York: Landmarks Preservation Commission Missing Inaction

From the New York Times editorial page, Saturday, October 20, 2008, “The Missing Landmarks Preservation Commission”: “The Landmarks Preservation Commission should be a vital part of the planning process in New York City. Instead, it has become a bureaucratic black hole, the place where requests for evaluation — the formal nominations of buildings or districts to be landmarked — go to get filed and forgotten.” For a full version of the editorial, see below.

Change is a fact of life in New York City. But, for the last 45 years, since the shocking demolition of the old Pennsylvania Station in the 1960s finally prompted a response from City Hall, we’ve had an authority to referee change as it affects the treasures of our past—the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). Except that today the LPC appears to have let developers—and our development-friendly Mayor—overrun the field.

Writes the Times: “Moving as slowly as it does — and nearly always without public hearings — the landmarking process is routinely outflanked by developers. What is clearly missing is the political will needed for the landmarks commission to do its job. For that, it must have the full backing of the mayor, who appoints the commissioners.”

Where is the LPC? And, more to the point, where is Mayor Bloomberg when it comes to protecting our city’s historic Landmarks? Or responding to the hundreds of public requests for buildings to become new Landmarks and Historic Districts? If the problems identified by the Times—the “bureaucratic black hole,” the maddening silence preceding the bulldozer—resonate all too well with you, then speak up! Send a letter to the editors (letters@nytimes.com), telling them about the buildings in your community that have been overlooked, threatened and lost as a result of LPC inaction (visit http://www.landmarkwest.org/advocacy/cecpp/landmarksatrisk.htm for examples citywide). Then, send a copy of your letter to Mayor Bloomberg! Print out your email and fax it to 212-788-2460. Also post your letter in the "Comments" section of this blog. Make the most of this opportunity—maybe your only opportunity—to be heard.

October 18, 2008

New York Times Editorial

The Missing Landmarks Commission

Late last month, the Museum of Arts and Design reopened in its new home at 2 Columbus Circle. That home is the controversial reworking of Edward Durell Stone’s eccentric building — much loved and much hated by New Yorkers ever since it was finished in 1964.

The Times’s architecture critic, Ada Louise Huxtable, dubbed Stone’s original building “a die-cut Venetian palazzo on lollipops.” To us, it looked almost Moroccan, as if the casbah had gone high-rise.

Brad Cloepfil’s bland redesign — which somehow suggests the technological polish of a desktop computer — will stir no such emotions, except as a potent symbol of the failure of the preservation process in this city.

Despite a public debate over the fate of Stone’s building, the Landmarks Preservation Commission never held a public hearing. The commission’s chair — with the encouragement of the Bloomberg administration — had the matter shelved. In June 2005, the city issued a permit to destroy the old facade and rework the building.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission should be a vital part of the planning process in New York City. Instead, it has become a bureaucratic black hole, the place where requests for evaluation — the formal nominations of buildings or districts to be landmarked — go to get filed and forgotten.

There are hundreds of requests from all across the city waiting to be acted upon. Some have been held up for years. Moving as slowly as it does — and nearly always without public hearings — the landmarking process is routinely outflanked by developers. What is clearly missing is the political will needed for the landmarks commission to do its job. For that, it must have the full backing of the mayor, who appoints the commissioners.

No one wants to see the city frozen by overly rigid landmarking. But New York is such an extraordinary place because of both its past and its future. The commission — in full consultation with the public — should play a critical role in balancing the two.

1 comment:

art said...

Sounds like new york :P