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Construction & Design

Pol wants locals to have more say on landmark work

Council Member Helen Rosenthal is set to introduce a bill tomorrow (Thursday) that would increase community input on renovation plans for landmarked buildings or buildings in historic districts.

Currently, developers who want to modify a landmarked or historic building present their plan to the local community board and then to the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC).

If a developer makes a significant change to the plan after the LPC presentation, the community has no formal opportunity for input.

Council Member Rosenthal’s bill would require all developers modifying a landmarked building or a building in a historic district to notify the community of all significant changes to their plan after their initial presentation to the LPC.

Significant changes include a change in footprint, an increase in height, or a significant change in the exterior design elements or materials.

In FY 14 LPC received 13,237 permit applications; 95 percent of those were issued by LPC staff, and five percent (441 permits) required a full public hearing. This bill would apply only to the LPC permit applications that already require a full public hearing.

Nearly 33,000 buildings citywide and 25.67 percent of buildings in Manhattan are protected by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission.

“Landmarked buildings and historic districts are essential to the identity and cultural heritage of New York City. Developers who modify these buildings currently get community board input for their first design, but not for any subsequent design that may have substantial changes,” said Rosenthal.

“Furthermore, the current policy of sharing the initial design with the community board is only that, policy, and could easily change under a future administration less committed to gaining invaluable insights from the community. My bill will codify existing policy and continue to engage the community should there be substantial changes to the project.”

Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer said, “It isn’t fair to surprise the public by significantly changing an application after it’s been aired for public comment. Giving Community Boards a second look when plans change is an important step to ensure transparency in the Landmarks permit process.”

Brewer is working on a slate of reforms to strengthen the 50-years-old Landmarks Law and simplify the review process.

The legislation, co-sponsored by council members Dan Garodnick, Brad Lander and Stephen Levin, calls for a public web database of all actions by the Landmarks Preservation Commission and would allow online applications for landmark status.

The proposed laws also calls for a 90-day limit for responses to applications for landmark status and a 180-day limit for historic districts applications.

In recent years, the real estate has become increasingly vocal about the growing number of historic districts and landmarked buildings, a situation that, they argue, hampers the development of affordable housing.

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