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Debate on the Merits of Landmarking Rages On

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The Landmarks Preservation Commission had an active 2013, designating numerous individual landmarks as well as three new historic districts—the Bedford-Stuyvesant/Expanded Stuyvesant Heights Historic District, the West End-Collegiate Historic District Extension, and the just-approved South Village Historic District. And, since it was such a good year for designation, it was an equally good year for the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) and the city's historical preservationists taking shots at each other. (Our favorite example came in September, when REBNY released a report stating that rampant landmarking would "increase the cost of living in New York, and further homogenize much of the borough's neighborhoods," to which the Historic District Council's Simeon Bankoff replied, "I was unable to comment about REBNY's fresh new pro-affordable housing stance as I was distracted by a fleet of flying pigs and an ice emergency in Hell.")

This month, the two sides went at it again, via guest editorials on City Land. After REBNY president Steven Spinola wrote that, "Preservationist groups, civic organizations and local neighborhood associations have taken advantage of the loose standards and rules governing the process to control the scale of entire neighborhoods and, in many circumstances, block the development of individual sites," Landmarks Commission chair Robert Tierney responded with a boilerplate letter about how the LPC is proud of its work, works closely with landlords and city agencies, etc. Then, of course, Simeon Bankoff got in on the action, and that's when the real fun started.

Some choice quotes of Bankoff's:

· "[The] community effort which brings about the political will needed for landmarking usually comes from the private investment of individual residents who work to uplift their homes and their neighborhoods."

· "Almost anywhere in the City could be exploited to make more money in the short-term. Central Park would make someone a fortune as a parking lot."

· "In an age where 'Brooklyn' has become a valuable global brand, it takes a willful obliviousness to ignore the beneficial effects of landmark designation."

· "The real estate industry is not suffering because of landmark designation ... They're just not getting EVERYTHING they want. So, like any hungry beast, from the Minotaur to a house cat, they are complaining loudly that they are not getting fed RIGHT NOW with WHAT THEY WANT. That doesn't mean the rules governing the city are bad, broken or even need reform. It just means they're hungry."
· HDC Defends NYC Landmark Preservation [City Land]
· Proposed Reforms to Improve the Landmarks Preservation Commission [City Land]