IRT POWERHOUSE AND OTHER SITES COULD BE QUIETLY REMOVED FROM LANDMARK CONSIDERATION

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The IRT powerhouse could be removed from consideration for landmark status.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission will hold a hearing next week to remove about 100 properties from consideration for landmark status, a process the commission said will “streamline” its work. But critics say that the city is taking action that could endanger several important historic sites without a public hearing. Landmarks West says:

“The effect will be to wipe the slate clean – that is, to erase nearly a hundred proposed landmarks and historic districts that have been extensively researched, documented, and formally heard by the Landmarks Preservation Commissioners over the years.”

A meeting (though not a full public hearing) about this will take place on December 9 starting at 9:30 a.m. on the 9th floor of 1 Centre Street.

When sites are nominated by the LPC or the community to be given landmark status, the staff researches their history and a public hearing is held. If no decision is made the property will still be considered “calendared,” a limbo status that can persist for years. It does offer some protection, however, because if the site is considered for demolition or reconstruction the LPC gets 40 days to consider them for landmark status.

Of the 96 sites being considered, 80 have been on the calendar for at least 20 years, according to the commission. Sites that get “decalendared” can be re-nominated by the community.

On the Upper West Side, two sites could be decalendared: the 110-year-old powerhouse on 11th avenue between 58th and 59th that we wrote about here, and St. Michael’s Episcopal Church on 99th. The powerhouse could be a gold mine for Con Ed, which owns it, if it’s sold to a developer. But preservationists say it’s too important historically to tear down. The full list of sites is here.

Landmarks West is urging people to take action: “Call the LPC (main number: (212) 669-7700) and email Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan at comments@lpc.nyc.gov to demand that she schedule public hearings on any de-calendering of proposed individual landmarks and proposed historic districts.”

HISTORY, NEWS | 22 comments | permalink
    1. AC says:

      a process the commission said will “streamline” its work.

      The only thing it will streamline is the demolition process, which will allow the developer to rebuild a tall Condo Building.

    2. Bruce Bernstein says:

      St. Michael’s is a beautiful church and should be protected.

    3. Harriet says:

      Too bad this didn’t happen while the West End Ave Historic District was being considered. It would have been much better if that had been “wiped off the slate.” It’s already a disaster for many of us. We can never again install new windows, no matter how bad they get. We have been told that the only windows we could install must be approved by the Historic District, they must be 12 small panes of glass, like the original 1924 windows, and must come from an approved supplier. Who do you think is benefiting from this? Certainly not the community or the residents of these buildings. Just a few people trying to make extra money on a Landmark Designation by paying off someone somewhere to “get the contract” for all those potential windows. I have 30 year old aluminum windows which are getting too heavy for me to lift. I can’t replace them.

    4. webot says:

      This is just another example of the bad old days of machine democrat politics back in the power seat.

      And with it closed door back room deals.

      Ironically all those critics of Bloomberg would never have stood for this. Under Bloomberg, who had was not beholden to anyone, everything was out in the open – literally city hall looked like a tech company with no private offices and figuratively.

      Now BDB who criticized Mayor Bloomberg , is now doing everything he can to keep the public out of the conversation.

      Again, I wish this was not true – I am a remain a supporter of President Obama and loathe the far right wing. However, when it comes to local politics nothing is worse then the NYC democrats. The lunatics are running the asylum

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        seriously? you’re claiming the Bloomberg Administration was transparent? how about how he bought a third term? how about the CityTime scandal? how about the tens of millions quietly spent on consultants at Dept of Ed? or people jumping on and off Bloomberg’s private payroll?

        • webot says:

          Brice –

          missing the point as usual. Move forward, not backwards. the point is BDB criticized Bloomberg for this an yet his administration is far more secretive and filled with back door dealings. I know first hand.
          I am a strong proponent of landmarking and this particular issue is galling to me.

          If they want to clear LPC’s clogged backlog, then landmark the buildings already!

          • Bruce Bernstein says:

            oh sorry, my bad… I thought that you had said:

            “Under Bloomberg, who had was not beholden to anyone, everything was out in the open – literally city hall looked like a tech company with no private offices and figuratively.”

            oh wait.. you DID say that…

            • webot says:

              lets just say some folks have a myopic view on the world. sad really…however, I stand by my statements and refuse to feed the trolls – well really just one.

              Anyway.. with regard to what is important in this post, it is true that owners are sometimes unduly burdened by LPC requirements (approvals to change a doorknob, paint color, window) but the alternative is far worse with wholesale demolition of historic buildings if the area is fashionable and the zoning allows bigger.

              Its particularly upsetting when you see Landmarks give a developer or owner such a hard time (at huge additional cost) and then a few feet away outside of a historic district a similar building gets torn down without any input.
              I would propose a compromise: sort of a Landmarks Light – something in the middle – where pretty much all prewar buidlings cannot be torn down without some public input – YES I am asking for MORE government interference – and or some encouragement – tax incentives, bonuses, etc – to at least keep the facade and historic nature of the building.

              As it stands LPC has too much control over landmarked buildings and districts and not enough control over everything else.

          • ScooterStan says:

            Re Webot’s “the point is BDB criticized Bloomberg for this an yet his administration is far more secretive and filled with back door dealings.”

            ABSOLUTELY! DNAinfo said that reporters were BARRED from a hearing on this matter, and it is an open secret that de Blasio despises the media (one proof: his nasty remarks about the media after it got his wife’s buddy Noerdlinger off the payroll).

            Yes, Mayor Bloomberg might have been a bit too cozy with the developers, perhaps, BUT his administration’s various re-zonings enabled developers to beautify previously decrepit parts of our city (wait till Hudson Yards is completed, and what about the condos on the Williamsburg shoreline, etc).

            On the other hand, if deBlasio IS playing footsie with developers by getting something like the ConEd Powerhouse de-calendered it is only to win them over so they will help him accomplish his promised affordable housing goals…and those afforable buildings ain’t never goin’ to become architectural must-sees.

            • webot says:

              Scooter’s comment: “deBlasio IS playing footsie with developers by getting something like the ConEd Powerhouse de-calendered it is only to win them over so they will help him accomplish his promised affordable housing goals…and those afforable buildings ain’t never goin’ to become architectural must-sees.” – is 100% on point, that is exactly what this is all about.
              He is cutting deals with the developers he claims to despise to basically ignore FAR and height restrictions in exchange for tons of subsidized housing. Have not heard about this? NO, because it’s all back room deals going on right now, ignoring zoning, height restrictions, etc. Perhaps a deal is already in the works for the IRT Powerhouse site.

              In my view, I do not think everyone needs to live in Manhattan subsidized by others, and now at the sacrifice of our historic structures which create the city the like no other -see those sepia pics from a few days ago. We can house twice as many people at half the price in other boroughs or even more folks outside the City.

        • ScooterStan says:

          Re: “how about how he bought a third term?”

          Hmmm, not quite sure how Mike “bought” a third term as he was NEVER accused of any sort of $$$ dishonesty. Yes, he did get Chris Quinn, as City Council Speaker, to do a bit of arm-twisting in return for his possible support of her planned run for Mayor. AND Bloomberg actually was approved by the city electorate in a fair-n-square election (okay, narrowly, as Bill Thompson almost beat him, but that confirms that the election was NOT rigged).

          Re: “how about the CityTime scandal?”
          CityTime may have happened under Mayor Mike, but it was NOT HIS DOING! It was perpetrated by a Long Island slob who thought he and his fat wife could rip off the city. Yes, Bloomberg’s underlings should have paid closer attention, but CityTime was NOT the Mayor’s fault.

          Re “how about the tens of millions quietly spent on consultants at Dept of Ed?”
          And where was Chancellor Joel Klein on this? Perhaps Rupert Murdoch’s current BFF should have seen this waste…unless he approved of it in the first place!

            • ScooterStan says:

              As the NYT article cited above notes, the Bloomberg charities gave $500,000 to The Harlem Children’s Zone!

              Imagine: not $50; not $500; not $5,000; not $50,000 BUT $500,000!!! To a relatively unknown organization!

              And so the CEO, Geoffrey Canada (who, b/t/w, is a darling of the uber-liberal pro-charter-schools anti-UFT crowd) testified on behalf of the term-limit extension.

              THIS IS BUYING VOTES?!?!?! Was there a tit-for-tat secret agreement? Was this a resurgence of the old Tammany ‘enjoy yer Christmas turkey and remember us next election!’ shtick?

              Seems doubtful. If nothing else, Mike Bloomberg was classy…and, b/t/w2, a trait that BdB has YET to exhibit.

    5. pedestrian says:

      The recently discovered secret plan of the LPC to “decalendar” proposed landmarks and historic districts that have been heard is a glaring example of disturbing trend wherein city agencies see the public as an enemy. The public didn’t find out about the “decalendering” plan as a result of a public notice but by running down rumors and whispers of what was to come. (Even elected officials were kept in the dark and scrambled for any information when constituents called them for clarification.) A last minute “briefing” was hastily scheduled by the LPC, but not noticed, after a number of phone calls to the LPC seeking information on the growing rumors. This is not how the process should work. It is a disgrace and is in direct contradiction to the spirit, if not the letter, of the Landmarks Law. It is also an affront to the thousands of hours community members, landmarks experts and others have sacrificed in an effort to preserve the arc

    6. robert says:

      I would strongly urge all of the “self appointed” community activists to go to the NYC campaign fiancé broad website. Take look at your local and city wired Dem politicos donners. Foster Ratner, SL Green etc are all over Stringer and de Balz’s contributions list. Not just the companies/industry PACs but all the senior people in real estate arelisted by name.
      These politicos shoot their mouths off about
      “the terrible real estate people” in NYC but they are in their pocket, and have taken their $$$.
      While I think St Michaels is a beautiful site, among others on the list there is no reason this process should take years.
      If the LPC can’t move on a site in 20 years then maybe it isn’t worth landmarking

      • Pedestrian says:

        The LPC didn’t move on those landmarks because special interests like ConEd and the RC Church used their political clout to thwart the will of the people and the obvious fact that these buildings and districts should be saved. Now because of more political pressure from those same quarters the buildings and districts will be handed over to them and it will be over. That is not how this process is supposed to work.

    7. Gene says:

      If the IRT Powerhouse is such an architectural landmark and positive addition to the neighborhood, then why is it used as a de-facto 24-hour parking lot for out-of-town tour buses? If this hulking monstrosity is really something worth preserving, then surely its current condition does not reflect that status.

      • webot says:

        Gene – you are right in your question as to why this grand industrial age beauty is treated so badly. The answer: it shouldnt, and perhaps that is the plan to ignore it, invest no money in it so it gets to the point where no one objects to its demolition. That tactic has worked in Manhattan before, the best example is Penn Station itself.

        I still think the City lost much with the loss of the Con Ed plant below the United Nations – for.. a vacant lot.

        For a great example of adaptive re-use , Google the Tate Modern in London. An old power plant now Britain’s most popular modern art museum. Even Jersey City is planning to restore its Powerhouse.

    8. Randy Kadish says:

      I originally supported the law that created the LPC, as I believed (and still do) that many buildings should be preserved. Little did most of us know that that law is now being used to strip building and co-op owners of their private property rights.
      My building is in a designated landmarks district. The building is unattractive building and doesn’t fit into the surrounding architecture. In addition, because we have only 36 units, we are under increasing financial pressures, and yet the LPC will not permit us to sell the building to a developer who will put up a more attractive building, nor will the LPC allow us to add 5 stories to the top of the building even though the building was originally designed to be higher than it is. (Because of World War Two construction on the building was stopped.)

      • 92nd Street says:

        Everyone knows that. Any property zoned within LPC loses the right to alter the facade in any way. It’s called protecting the building, which is the entire point of Landmarks.