Albany Victories on Tax Credits and Residential Cap

Thanks to help from all our members, it looks like the State Legislature will extend the State Historic Tax Credits and not lift a State cap on the size of residential development.  These are major wins.

While nothing is final until the State Budget is passed, we have learned from Albany contacts that our City Senators and Assemblypersons stood with us on both issues. Please thank your  Senator and Assemblyperson and Speaker Carl Heastie .

This was the second time the de Blasio Administration tried to lift a longstanding State cap on the size of residential development, without telling the public or requiring any debate. Lifting this cap would be the first step to City-proposed upzonings in residential areas throughout the boroughs. Contextual areas throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn where residents achieved height limits on side streets would be vulnerable. This would also increase pressure for larger buildings in historic districts. 

Both the Real Estate Board of New York and Regional Plan Association supported lifting the cap, suggesting that the larger buildings would contain affordable units. There was no analysis of how many currently affordable units would be lost or how area schools, streets and transit would be impacted. Nor was there a public discussion of the contributions of historic and contextual districts to a livable City. ( read more )

The Conservancy will remain alert in case there is another push to lift these restrictions before the Legislative session ends. Many thanks to the entire NYC delegation, especially State Senators Liz Krueger and Brad Hoylman, and Assemblypersons Daniel O’Donnell and Jo Anne Simon. Borough President Gale Brewer also appealed to Assembly Speaker Heastie on our behalf.

The State Preservation Tax Credits were set to expire at the end of 2019. Without extending them now through 2024, developers and home owners might have delayed or stopped restoration projects. The Credits have been a boost to homeowners in certain lower income areas and to the state’s economy, sparking numerous economic development projects in older commercial buildings. Our thanks to the Preservation League of New York State for coordinating lobbying efforts with numerous preservation colleagues and monitoring activities at the Legislature. ( read more )
Municipal Building
Spirited Debate on Proposed LPC Rules Changes

The Conservancy spoke out ( link to testimony ) against changes to the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s (LPC) Rules that will add a layer of complicated bureaucracy and reduce public input, at an LPC hearing on March 27. Over 125 people packed the hearing room, offering several hours of testimony, some in favor, but much against the complex amendments. 

Conservancy staff and board have been reviewing the LPC’s proposal for many months. The agency set forth goals of increased transparency and predictability for the public and a more efficient schedule for the volunteer Commissioners who hear items at public hearings. However, we did not find that the proposal met those goals.

The Rules overhaul reorganized the text, and codified policies the staff have been following in issuing permits and decisions that the Commissioners have regularly made at hearings. The result is a series of complicated guidelines that would be extraordinarily difficult for most building owners to comprehend. We recommended that the LPC expand and update its permit application guide and Rowhouse Manual, and offer similar manuals for other building types. 

Much public outcry against the Rules amendments is in response to the plan to allow more applications to be reviewed at staff level, without a public hearing. This would reduce the opportunity for residents and Community Boards to know what work will take place in their neighborhoods and comment on it. We’ve found that local input is often a valuable contribution, with information about a building that only a neighbor can know. We recommended that certain LPC applications still have a public hearing at the Community Board and that the LPC improve and expand information about applications on its website.

The Commissioners did not comment on the Rules amendments or the testimony. In response to a request from Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, the Commission will keep the record open for six weeks;  additional comments can be submitted here . The vote has not been scheduled.

Lower Manhattan
Conservancy Testifies on Plaza Renovations at 140 Broadway

The Conservancy commented on a proposal at a March 20 Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) hearing to renovate the plaza at 140 Broadway, a mid-century modern masterpiece in the Financial District. Skidmore Owings & Merrill’s 1968 skyscraper is probably best known for the 28-foot tall, red Isamu Noguchi cube that sits in the plaza. 

An early version of the proposal elicited a strong negative reaction, as it would have installed a series of planters with benches along the Cedar Street side of the plaza, culminating in an especially large planter at the corner with Broadway. This alteration would have dismantled the balanced composition of building, plaza, and cube that make this landmark significant. The proposal presented at LPC called for a more modest group of planters, without the corner disruption. The Conservancy’s testimony supported the more limited plan, and the Commission approved it.

The most controversial part of the proposal is outside of the Landmarks Commission’s purview: the owners have asked the Department of Transportation for the right to install additional planters and benches at the edge of the property line along Broadway, where food cart vendors have set up for many years. Several of the vendors and their representatives spoke at the hearing, but the LPC did not take up this issue.
The proposal also envisioned a row of new lighting stanchions set a few feet in from Cedar Street, delineating the perimeter of the landmark designation and installation of new granite pavers throughout the plaza. The Commissioners had a lively discussion about whether to allow new granite to replace the existing, non-original granite, or insist on travertine, the historic plaza material. We asked that any new interventions be treated with the lightest touch, to maintain the plaza’s historic open character. In the end, the Commissioners rejected the lighting, and approved the granite, pending further research on contemporary granite and travertine.
Save the Date
The 28th Lucy G. Moses Preservation Awards

The Conservancy invites you to the presentation of the Lucy G. Moses Preservation Awards, our highest honors for outstanding preservation. This year we honor John H. Beyer , architect and founding partner of Beyer Blinder Belle, as well as the owners and stewards of historic buildings across the City, who completed extraordinary restoration and reuse projects in 2017.

WHEN:  Tuesday, May 8, 2018
Ceremony begins at 6:30 p.m., reception to follow

WHERE:   St. Bartholomew's Church - 325 Park Avenue, Manhattan


RSVP by May 5
Questions: Jenna Smith at 212.995.5260 or

Preservation Project Awards
54 Bond Street 
321 and 323 Canal Street
Child’s Building and Ford Amphitheater at Seaside Park
The Hadrian
Highland Park Boulder Bridge
Public Bath No. 7
Shepard Hall, The City College of New York
South Bronx Job Corps Center
St. Bartholomew’s Church
St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Chelsea
The University Club of New York

photos: (top row, left to right) 54 Bond St., 321 and 323 Canal St., Public Bath No. 7, Child's Building, South Bronx Job Corps Center. (bottom row) Highland Park Boulder Bridge, Shepard Hall - The City College of New York, The University Club of New York, St. Peter's Episcopal Church, and The Hadrian.
Tourist In Your Own Town
A Staten Island Gem, The Alice Austen House

This month, in honor of Women's History Month, we visit the Alice Austen House at 2 Hylan Boulevard in the Rosebank section of Staten Island. Alice Austen (1866-1952) was one of America’s first women photographers. She was an outstanding shutterbug, often working outside, where over the course of her life she captured over 8,000 images. WATCH VIDEO

Her Staten Island home, also known as “Clear Comfort” was built in 1690 as a one-room Dutch farmhouse. In 1844, the house was purchased by Alice’s grandfather who expanded and remodeled it in the Gothic Revival style. 

The house now operates as a museum commemorating Alice’s great work, offering rotating exhibits, lawn festivals and children’s photography classes. It is also a part of the City’s Historic House Trust. Learn more about Alice Austen, her photographs and the historic house she lived in.  Watch our video , then plan your visit .

Mystery Landmark
Did You Identify This Mystery Landmark?

It's Macomb's Dam Bridge , spanning the Harlem River between West 155th Street in Manhattan to East 162nd Street in the Bronx. Alfred Pancoast Boller was the consulting engineer when it was constructed in 1890-95. It was once known as Central Bridge until 1902 and is the third-oldest bridge in the City. In 1813 Robert Macomb requested a dam to be built at the spot for his grist mills and nearby citizens petitioned for a bridge to be built as part of the structure. The span opened in 1816 with a toll, where some of the money went to fund education projects. That damn and bridge was removed in 1858 to make way for a toll-free Central Bridge, which was eventually replaced with the current structure. It was designated a City Landmark in 1992 .

The building was correctly identified by Jeff Chapp and his favorite landmark is the lobby of the Cunard Building in Lower Manhattan.
This month’s Landmark News is sponsored by   Stribling and Associates
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