Conference unites preservationists from around NYC
by Michael Perlman
Mar 10, 2020 | 1199 views | 0 0 comments | 95 95 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Historic Districts Council (HDC) hosted its 26th Annual Preservation Conference at John Jay College over the weekend. Hundreds of preservationists from the five boroughs networked and discussed strategies to save historic buildings and districts.

“Since last year’s conference, preservationists fought hard to protect the city’s character,” noted HDC president Daniel Allen, highlighting Bay Ridge’s first historic district and the landmarking of Tin Pan Alley. “Each advancement has something in common; a fierce group of preservationists holding rallies, sending e-blasts, writing letters, bothering elected officials, and testifying at hearings.”

Attendees included Rego-Forest Preservation Council, Docomomo, South Street Seaport Coalition, 300 East 25th Street Block Association, Lower East Side Preservation Initiative, NY Preservation Archive Project, Greenwich Village Preservation, Park Slope Civic Council, Iron Hills Civic Association, Save Chelsea, Bronx Borough Landmarks Committee, Mott Haven Historic Districts Association, and Hart Island Project.

This event follows the recent “Six To Celebrate” ceremony recognizing Rego Park, East Flatbush, Center Park Slope, Bronx Preservation Committee, Todt-Dongan Hills, and Landmarks of the Future Citywide.

There are over 37,000 landmarked buildings and sites in New York City, including over 1,400 Individual Landmarks, 149 Historic Districts, 120 Interior Landmarks, and 11 Scenic Landmarks.

“New York is a vibrant city whose history is revealed through its built environment,” said Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) chair Sarah Carroll in her keynote address. “I believe that preservation is integral for the dynamism of this city and is a significant factor in New York City being a global destination.

“Preservation is more than just protecting our historic buildings, but about providing life to these buildings, so they can continue to be relevant tomorrow,” she added.

A recent goal of LPC is to identify buildings that reflect more recent city history.

“It is vitally important that we think ahead and protect these properties that continue to represent the city’s changing nature, as well as the diversity of our social and cultural history,” Carroll said. “We need to nurture preservation in less represented communities that may not have the architectural icons that earlier districts had, but have equally strong historic and cultural value.”

A presentation by HDC executive director Simeon Bankoff made the case that New Yorkers inherit the city and need to pass it down to future generations in a recognizable shape.

Meanwhile, attendees highlighted the need for more preservation-friendly people in public office, having buildings over a certain age automatically be given landmark consideration, and requiring LPC to hold public hearings when community support for designation reaches a certain threshold.

Suggestions also included implementing citywide planning that includes preservation and sensitive contextual development, modifying mayoral appointments of commissioners, and strengthening community board oversight.

One panel discussion reflected upon HDC’s preservation work, and featured Angel Ayón, Gregory Dietrich, Christian Emanuel, and Vicki Weiner. Emanuel, a real estate broker, was a dormant preservationist until his parents, commercial tenants at the Bank of Manhattan Company tower in Queens Plaza, were facing eviction as what was once Queens’ first skyscrapers was threatened with demolition.

They partnered with HDC and rallied support from the community and elected officials, and the building was landmarked within a year. Today, Emanuel is on HDC’s board of directors.

Another session focused on landmarking success stories told by advocates. Panelists included Kelly Carroll, George Calderaro, Julia Charles, Jim Protos, and Keith Taylor.
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