May 23, 2014
The Council of the City of New York
New York, NY 10007
Re: Ms. Meenakshi Srinivasan, Appointment as a member of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission
Members of the Council of the City of New York:
Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts, founded in 1982, is an independent, not-for-profit membership organization dedicated to preserving the architectural legacy, livability, and sense of place of the Upper East Side.
Our neighborhood lays claim to institutions of global-renown, spanning decades of cultural investment from the Met to the Guggenheim on Museum Mile. The most-visited scenic landmark in the world, Central Park, is right in our back yard. We are also proud of our livable, lovable streetscapes like Lexington Avenue, which boasts its own institutions — the generations-old “mom and pop” shops. From white brick to brownstone, we cherish the Upper East Side’s distinctive sense of place. It is what makes this neighborhood, and this city great.
While we protect over 2,000 historic buildings, the Upper East Side is by no means “frozen in amber” as claimed by some opponents to preservation. Our districts include new buildings such as the synagogue on East 63rd Street and a residential building at 91st and Madison Avenue in Carnegie Hill. We have honored new construction with our Excellence in New Design Award, recently bestowed upon 135 East 79th Street this year. As demonstrated by our 2001 exhibit, we welcome Landmarks of the Future.
Some would have you think that preservation is at odds with our Mayor’s aim to preserve and increase affordable housing. The City & Suburban First Avenue Estate, designated not only for its architectural merit, but its significance in the history of affordable housing, is a great example of how the goals of these two interests are happily met. We applaud the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s recent vote to deny the owner’s hardship application to demolish these century-old model tenements and we hope that the administration will defend that crucial decision in any future litigation. While we fight strenuously to save these two landmark buildings, rent-regulated tenants fight to save their homes. We are in this together.
Our concerns are not limited by the boundaries of the Upper East Side. We need a comprehensive land use plan for the entire city, neighborhood by neighborhood — one that incorporates zoning, transportation, infrastructure, affordable housing, AND historic preservation in equal measure. While you will hear a variety of recommendations of ways to improve the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the most important is that the Commission have the freedom and means to carry out its mission, as set forth in the Landmarks Law, “to stabilize and improve property values; foster civic pride; protect and enhance the City’s attractions to tourists; strengthen the economy of the City; and promote the use of historic districts, landmarks, interior landmarks, and scenic landmarks for the education, pleasure and welfare of the people of the City.”
We very much look forward to working together toward these important goals.
Watch the hearing in it’s entirety by clicking here.