Last November the Landmarks Preservation Commission announced a plan to remove nearly 100 buildings from consideration for designation. When a building passes the Commission’s initial review and is found to meet their basic requirements for designation, it is put on their calendar for a public hearing. At the time a building is “calendared,” it receives provisional protections under the New York City Landmarks Law until approved or denied as a landmark. For various reasons, the Commission has built up a backlog of items that were calendared but never designated, some of which have been languishing in limbo for decades.
While FRIENDS recognized the good intentions behind clearing the backlog, we joined many other preservation groups in questioning the transparency of such a broad action. Shortly after the announcement, and following considerable push-back from the public, the LPC agreed to postpone the de-calendaring vote indefinitely so that they could come up with a more judicious way to handle these items. During this time, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer met with a variety of stakeholders with the goal of formulating a “clear, consistent, and transparent designation process.” The result was the Proposed Backlog Action Plan for the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which was released on April 2nd, 2015, cosigned by FRIENDS. As a result, on June 19th, the Wall Street Journal reported that the LPC would indeed hold public hearings on each of the 95 items in the backlog!
There is only one building on the Upper East Side included in the list of items that have been calendared for over 5 years, and that is 412 East 85th Street. The house was built circa 1860 and is a rare example of a wood clapboard building in Yorkville, a remnant from the area’s agrarian past. It is one of a mere seven wood-frame buildings on the Upper East Side, and the only one that is not protected by the Landmarks Law. FRIENDS has been working hard to get the building designated, and with the support of both the owners and Council Member Ben Kallos, we look forward to a public hearing sometime this fall!