The debate over landmarking has finally come to a head. The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) composed a three page signatory letter confronting landmarking policies developed by the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) which allow for any building erected more than thirty years ago to be conserved as a landmark. Today will mark REBNY’s first public announcement to speak out regarding transparency in the landmark process, lack of public input for what buildings should become landmarks, and that the increasing number of landmarks have weakened Manhattan’s economic growth. In response to the historic districts created by the LPC on West End Avenue in Manhattan and in the Downtown Brooklyn Skyscraper District in particular, REBNY has formed the Responsible Landmark Coalition.
“We’re concerned that if you apply the concept of landmarks preservation too much, you restrict housing and impinge on other aspects of city life,” said the president of the New York City Building Congress, Richard Anderson, in an interview with the New York Observer.
The Responsible Landmark Coalition has also teamed up with the Building Congress, the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, and residential landlord groups such as the Rent Stabilization Association, the Council of New York Cooperatives and Condominiums, and the Community Housing Improvement Program to advertise how excessive landmark creation is an illogical investment for the city because it eliminates the potential for construction of Manhattan apartments. Advertisements on the newly launched website show various landmarked townhouses beside images of rundown, industrial buildings turned landmarks. Above each reads, “The Landmarks Law is BROKEN when these are both landmarks.”
Peg Breen, president of the Landmarks Conservancy who receives funding to renovate landmarks in Manhattan, argues that these claims have to been blown out of proportion. She adds that only 4% of the city is protected under the Landmark Law and that surveyed loan recipients said that they didn’t feel that landmarks increased their costs. In fact, the Landmark Conservancy believes that historic districts increase property values and still allow new development to occur.