Update

 #1The BHA sought to protect the north side of Montague Street between Cadman Plaza West and Clinton Street as part of the Borough Hall Skyscraper District (BHSD).  When this side of “Bank Row” was excluded by the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) from the district when it was designated in 2011, the BHA did not give up its quest.  With our continued advocacy, the LPC has calendared a public hearing in October 2016 on the designation of 181 and 185 Montague Street  as individual landmarks. 

Formerly the People’s Trust Company Building and now housing a Citibank branch, 181 Montague Street was built between 1903 and 1906, while 185 Montague was built in 1930 as the National Title Guarantee Building and is considered to be an important precursor to Rockefeller Center. Together with 177 Montague Street, where the Chase branch is located, the three buildings constitute, in the view of noted architectural historian Francis Morrone, the most important assemblage of commercial architecture to be found anywhere in New York City.  They form three distinct but compatible styles: a Renaissance palazzo, a Roman Temple, and an Art Deco skyscraper.  Their designation as individual landmarks will preserve a vital and dignified piece of Brooklyn Heights.


About This Issue

2.2.1_LANDMARKS_225541226_aba7623e0e_oThe BHA’s powerful advocacy led to the passage of the Landmarks Law, followed by the designation of Brooklyn Heights as NYC’s first historic district. That was in 1965 and, to this day, preserving the neighborhood’s architectural integrity remains a primary mission of the BHA.   In 2011, the BHA followed up on the earlier success when the LPC created the Borough Hall Skyscraper District, which protects 21  buildings near Borough Hall that form the core of Brooklyn’s downtown office district. Furthering our mission, the BHA Landmarks Committee serves the Brooklyn Heights Historic District in a stewardship capacity, educating owners regarding the workings of the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) and interfacing with applicants to the LPC who propose alterations to buildings within the historic district.

2.2.1_LANDMARKS_SIDNEY_PLACE_225541220_7182461886_oThe Committee is comprised of experienced architects, historic preservationists and architectural historians who bring a breadth of expertise to their work. Committee members review most projects in our District that involve a public hearing at the LPC, providing knowledgeable testimony at the hearings. The BHA is a well-respected and influential voice in all preservation matters, and our Landmarks Committee serves as a valuable resource for residents needing information or advice.

Learn More 2.2.1_LANDMARKS_HIST_DISTRICT_SIGN

The BHA’s Landmarks and Preservation Committee can be contacted at committee@thebha.org.

Update

Mayor de Blasio signed Intro 775-A into law in June 2016 that amended the city’s Landmarks Law.  It constitutes a revised version of the original legislation, Intro 775.  For the first time, it imposes strict deadlines on the Landmarks Preservation Commission for completing work on individual and historic district designations.  Under the law, the LPC will have one year from the point of calendaring an individual building and two years for historic districts to approve the designation. If the deadline is not met, the individual building or district must be withdrawn from the LPC’s consideration, effectively giving property owners an opportunity to alter or demolish their structures. The earlier version of the bill would have placed a five-year moratorium on reconsidering an item after a deadline is surpassed, but this provision was removed.  Reconsideration of the item will require the LPC to formally re-calendar it, which would likely be a rare occurrence.

About This Issue

2.2.2_INTRO 775_LPC-1-600x400Legislation has been introduced to the City Council, called Intro 775 that would impose fixed deadlines on the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) within which the agency could hold public hearings and schedule votes to designate historic properties. If the commission does not act within this period, the property would be subject to a 5-year moratorium during which it could not reconsider the property for landmark designation.

A Ticking Clock Opposed by the BHA

For individual buildings, the LPC would be required to hold a hearing within 180 days of receiving a Request for Evaluation and schedule the designation vote within an additional 180 days following the hearing.  For historic districts, separate one-year periods would be established for the public hearing and the designation vote.

The legislation’s prime sponsors, David Greenfield (Brooklyn District 44) and Peter Koo (Queens District 20), promote Intro 775 as a means to make the LPC more accountable and to remove prolonged uncertainty from property owners in the absence of these deadlines.  The legislation’s opponents, which include the BHA and many other community organizations and citywide preservation groups, have criticized the measure for providing property owners with the ability to hold up the LPC’s process in order to achieve their goal of altering or demolishing their property.

The Council’s Land use Committee held a day-long hearing on September 9, 2015, at which Meenakshi Srinivasan, the LPC Chair, expressed strong concern about the City Council imposing deadlines and advocated that the agency handle the situation through the LPC’s own internal rule-making.  She expressed confidence that the LPC could meet the bill’s timeframes for individual landmarks but testified that historic districts require more time than what the legislation allots.  The Real Estate Board of New York, which is the voice of the real estate industry, testified in favor of the legislation.  They were greatly outnumbered by opponents, which were uniformly opposed to the 5-year moratorium.  Council Member Greenfield stated that the committee will make changes to the bill before it goes to the full council for a vote.

Learn More

The BHA’s letter urging continued opposition to Intro 775A by its elected officials can be found here.