Big developers have formed a new lobbying group called the Responsible Landmarks Coalition, aimed at curbing the application of the city’s landmark laws, the New York Observer reports. A project of the Real Estate Board of New York, the group includes “influential real estate and labor organzations,” and plans to grow quickly.
Their concern arose from recent projects like the Downtown Brooklyn historic skyscraper district. “Creating a far-reaching historic district,” the argument goes, “elevates unspectacular buildings beyond their worth.” A slide show on the group’s website makes the point, juxtaposing photos of the kinds of landmarks they support—the Dakota, classic skyscrapers, rows of brownstones—with those they don’t: gas stations, empty lots, and nondescript structures.
Of course, the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission hardly rubberstamps every application that crosses its desk; just this week, it rejected a proposed historic district in southern Clinton Hill. However, in April, 850 properties were added to the Park Slope Historic District, making it the largest in the city, ahead of Greenwich Village.
Preservation can be beneficial even from a business perspective. One advocate “pointed to numerous studies that find preservation increases or maintains property values (partly because of supply and demand issues) as an argument for its value,” the Observer reports. “‘Preservation is jobs, too,’ she said. And with only four percent of the city protected by the Landmarks law, ‘that leaves plenty of room for everybody else.'”
But that number doesn’t affect all parts of the city the same—”more than 12 percent of Manhattan [falls] under preservation protection,” the paper reports, “as well as large swathes of Brownstone Brooklyn.”
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