Meenakshi Srinivasan, the chair of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, announced today that she is resigning from her position. The Times-Ledger broke the news, and the LPC has confirmed her resignation. She was appointed in 2014 by Mayor Bill de Blasio, who called her a “talented, dogged public servant and a leader with know-how” in a statement; prior to that, she was the chair and commissioner of the Board of Standards and Appeals.
“I am honored to have served as Chair of the Landmarks Preservation Commission for the past four years and to have had the opportunity to serve the City for the past 28 years,” Srinivasan said in a statement. “I am proud of what we have accomplished—promoting equity, diversity, efficiency and transparency in all aspects of LPC’s work, and working with the administration to make preservation a critical part of the city’s planning process. It’s been an intense, challenging, and incredibly rewarding experience. I’ve been very fortunate to work in three agencies and chair two commissions involved with the City’s land use and built environment, and to have played a role in shaping this incredibly diverse and dynamic City.”
Her tenure at the commission has been marked by criticism, particularly from preservation-minded New Yorkers, who have taken issue with decisions that affect the larger scope of what the LPC does. Critics have argued that she was largely there to help execute the mayor’s pro-development agenda, regardless of the cost to the city’s history. (As chair, Srinivasan is the only paid member of the full commission, and serves at the pleasure of the mayor.)
An LPC spokesperson says that Srinivasan’s exit has been in the works for some time now. “After nearly three decades of government service, it was time to move on to other challenges,” they said.
Earlier this year, a New York Daily News column noted that one of her first actions upon her arrival at the LPC was to direct the staff to “take off their preservation hats.” In 2014, she was forced to abandon a plan to decalendar the nearly 100 items on the LPC’s backlog. That resulted in months of hearing and nearly 30 of those properties receiving designation. Srinivasan has also overseen some well-received initiatives, including the opening of the New York City Archaeological Repository and the development of an enhanced map of designated properties.
More recently, the LPC began consideration of sweeping changes to its own rules, which the commission argued would make the process of managing designated properties more efficient. Preservationists and elected officials railed against those changes, and following a March public hearing, nine preservationist groups called for the outright withdrawal of the proposal.
“Chair Srinivasan took a very active role in determining how the LPC regulated landmark properties,” the Historic Districts Council’s Simeon Bankoff says. “The LPC, under her guidance, seemed to take its direction from administration priorities, which was a disappointment to many communities who were trying to have more a voice in the process.”
“Now more than ever, the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission needs a leader who understands the value of preserving and protecting our city’s history, its heritage and culture, its sense of place and its livability. We have seen a disturbing drift in recent years, accelerated under the de Blasio Administration, in which preservation has been undervalued and the Landmarks Preservation Commission was more geared towards greasing the skids for developers than protecting what New Yorkers love about their city,” Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, tells Curbed NY. “The Chair’s resignation is an opportunity to get us back on the path towards truly valuing the special qualities which make our city so distinctive and wonderful, which includes preserving and protecting its history.”