Controversial bills to change Landmarks Law attract 53 speakers to joint council committee hearing

May 7, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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‘There is a need for more transparency, more timeliness’

By Linda Collins
Brooklyn Daily Eagle

MANHATTAN — “There is a need for more transparency, there is a need for more timeliness,” Council Member Brad Lander told representatives of the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) at a public hearing in Manhattan on Wednesday, on proposed changes to the Landmarks Law.

Other comments included the following:

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“Few of the bills will advance the cause of preservation and several will hurt it. Let’s save the law that saves landmarks,” said Christabel Gough of the Society of Architects.

“There needs to be a list of all old items on your website. Twenty-five years is too long to wait. I’m not happy with how you’re dealing with my district,” said Councilmember Robert Jackson of Harlem about the LPC website.
“These bills don’t uphold the Landmarks Law. These bills seek to dismantle it,” said Tara Kelly of the Upper East Side Historic Districts.
“The LPC should not be an arm of the EDC (Eonomic Development Corp.),” said Andrea Goldman of the Municipal Art Society (MAS).
As seen above, some strong opinions, both pro and con, were expressed at Wednesday’s joint meeting of two City Council committees — Housing & Buildings and Land Use — on the 11 bills proposed by the Council to change the Landmarks Law.
The public hearing on the bills, which lasted approximately four hours (this writer only stayed for two-and-a-half hours), attracted more than 20 councilmembers off and on and a crowd of those wishing to speak at the public hearing.
“There are 53 speakers waiting to be heard,” said Leroy Comrie, Land Use Committee chair, who declined to ask his 15-plus questions of the LPC and DOB representatives “in the interest of time.”
No vote was taken or even scheduled to take place as this was the first of what could be several hearings, according to Leroy Comrie, Land Use chair and co-chair of the joint hearing with Erik Martin Dilan, chair of Housing & Buildings. 
Many groups said they still had questions in regard to the 11 bills and they and the Council agreed to meet and work together on the issues.
The speakers also expressed dismay at having such short notice of the hearing, but Comrie insisted everyone had two weeks notice.
“It is impossible to thoughtfully evaluate so many [bills] of such great magnitude in just the few days allotted before this hearing. We believe that these proposals require additional study by all stakeholders, said the MAS’s Goldman at the hearing. 
In a followup report, she wrote, “Many would agree that the Landmarks Commission, like many city agencies, could function more efficiently and transparently. However, the MAS believes the best way to make this happen is through discussion with a variety of stakeholders, including the LPC, to identify specific issues and develop explicit solutions. We want to ensure that any proposed solutions are not worse than the problems the proposed bills are intended to address.”
Commented Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council, also in a followup report, “The implementation of a timeline may relieve some concerns about how LPC responds to requests, but the reality of the bill is it stifles the opportunity for the LPC to properly evaluate requests and set priorities.”

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