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'Special Architectural Districts' Could Be Coming to NYC

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A big concern often for New Yorkers is new buildings rising in their neighborhood that are totally out of character with the rest of the architecture in that area. Now, one elected official is looking to remedy that problem. Tony Avella, a state senator who represents parts of Queens, is set to introduce legislation that will call for the creation of special architectural districts that will be different from historic districts, which are monitored by the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), The Times Ledger reports.

"When it comes to protecting the aesthetic integrity of these beautiful neighborhoods throughout New York, every day that passes threatens the existence of these valued communities," Avella said in a press release. "There needs to be another way through which residents can protect the character of their neighborhoods outside of being granted historical status, which, in New York City, the LPC has been reluctant to do."

The legislation hasn't been formally introduced yet, but in essence it will allow residents to put together a detailed plan explaining the architectural characteristics of their neighborhood. This will then be considered by the local zoning authority —plans will go through a public review process, and then eventually be enforced by the Department of Buildings in the case of New York City, and other equivalent agencies in different parts of the state.

The Historic Districts Council, an advocacy group for historic neighborhoods, is in favor of the idea, though the group didn't want to comment on the legislation itself because it hasn't been made available yet. Simeon Bankoff, the executive director of the Council said it's great to expand the tools that residents have available to them to preserve the character of their neighborhoods. He also highlighted how cities like Los Angeles have preservation districts in place that are similar to the idea of a special architectural district.

Avella's plan to introduce this legislation follows repeated efforts by residents in the Broadway-Flushing neighborhood in Queens trying to get their neighborhood declared a historic district. The LPC has rejected their application on several occasions saying the group did not make a strong enough argument.

How special architectural districts diverge from historic districts is the fact they don't need to have a cultural or historic significance per se. Architectural districts are more geared towards maintaining a stylistic homogeneity than for example making a comment about preserving homes from the 18th century.

Already neighborhoods like Forest Hills Gardens have certain guidelines that homeowners in the neighborhood have to adhere too, and this new legislation would enable more neighborhoods to do the same.

Avella to introduce bill establishing architectural districts [Times Ledger]