Demolition Freeze Proposed for NYC

demolition freeze

Rizzoli bookstore on April 4th had an outdoor protest to oppose the likely demolition of the beloved 57th Street building. This event stirred Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer into action, she created a bill that would prevent the demolition of buildings such as Rizzoli from happening again in the future.

The bill, which is still being drafted would make all buildings that apply for a demolition permit go through a 30-day review process. The Landmarks Preservation Commission would administer the review. Also, only buildings older than 50 years would be qualified to be submitted for this process.

If passed, this 30-day review would apply to 80% of all city buildings and 91% of buildings in Manhattan. Even if the age of the building was upped to 80 years or older, more than half of NYC buildings would still be subject to review, as 80% of NYC buildings were built before 1965. With so many buildings up for potential demolition reviews by the LPC it should be noted that not all of these buildings meet the historical relevance criteria for landmarking.  

With so many buildings being subjected to the proposed standard of 30-day review, construction would thereby be halted. The proposal is leaving the construction community worried and has them keeping a close eye on this bill. Brewer is known to support legislation such as this, she had previously signed a bill that would have had the similar effect on the Upper West Side when she was the City Council Representative in that area.

Thinking forward, does the LPC have the manpower to accomplish such a large undertaking? There would have to be a large amount of staff to be able to facilitate all of the reviews that would need to take place to keep up with the 30-day time frame. The commission already receives 200 requests for designation and 11,000 applications for existing landmarks to be altered annually.

"I'm not trying to landmark 80% of the city," Brewer said. "I'm trying to spark a serious discussion and improve the landmarks process for the benefit of all."

The bill would help the LPC find historically relevant buildings before it’s too late and they are sadly demolished, like the Rizzoli Bookstore. However, the bill is very broad and it may not gain the support it would need from the rest of the City Council. That doesn’t change the need for a different process in landmarking. The common problem is the lack of a proper system that designates a certain time frame for case hearings.

Items can be in the calendar for the LPC for decades, any development or landmarking on sites that awaiting answers are held up in the antiquated system.