Why this Blog Exists

To make the case for expanding the Park Slope Historic District

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Shocker: Politics Impact Landmarking

Today's New York Times delivers the shocking news that the actions of the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission are sometimes affected by political factors:

Last week the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission voted 6 to 3 to give landmark protection to the 100-year-old B. F. Goodrich tire company building on Broadway just north of 57th Street, but not to a connected building around the corner designed by the same architect at the same time. Some commission members on both sides of that unusual divided vote cried foul, complaining that politics played an inappropriate role.

The building that was not designated was in the path of a proposed development by the Extell Development Corporation. Extell "had warned that a landmark designation for the smaller building would endanger the project".

Four City Council members "signaled that the council might overturn a commission decision to confer landmark designation on the second building because they did not want to jeopardize a hotel tower planned for the site at Broadway and 57th Street."

The article also notes that "in the 2009 election cycle, Extell made campagn contributions to three of the four councilmembers who questioned the designation of both buildings, as well as to other councilmembers."

The article concludes with the perspective of a professional preservationist:

Preservationists also said the commission should not have taken Extell’s concerns into account. “The landmarks commission is not supposed to be considering the development potential of the site,” said Andrew S. Dolkart, the director of Columbia University’s historic preservation program.

Of course the news that politics and development potential affect landmarking isn't that shocking to anyone familiar with the boundaries of the current Park Slope Historic District. In our previous post we cited identical examples here in Park Slope, where buildings are excluded from the historic district even though they are immediately adjacent to other buildings that were designed by the same architect and built at the same time. We suspect these buildings were excluded in 1973 precisely because of the "development potential of the site", i.e. their location within 100' of 7th Avenue.

We will review additional examples in subsequent posts.

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