Confessions of a Former NYC Landmarks Preservationist

Brooklyn Magazine: The Podcast gets a rare inside look into the inner workings of the New York Landmark Preservation Commission from a former staffer and it is fascinating. Listen in browser and read the transcript here

I can get into a couple of examples, but the most recent one that comes to my mind was earlier this summer in Bushwick, and this goes to my question of how safe is a building once it’s landmarked anyway? We have the Lipsius-Cook Mansion on Bushwick Avenue. It’s landmarked. I think it was landmarked in 2013. And it’s deteriorating. It’s deteriorating to the point where it’s triggering something called demolition by neglect. Basically a property owner intentionally allows a property to suffer deterioration to the point where demolition may become necessary. We’re talking about 130-year-old Romanesque Revival structure in Bushwick. It’s gorgeous, it’s crumbling, it’s landmarked. What’s going on there?

Oh, man, that building… I first moved out to Bushwick, used walk by it every single day. I treasure that. I don’t know exactly what’s going on with it. But demolition by neglect is kind of a funny thing. It can be beneficial because it allows landmark, LPC or other landmarks agencies to say, “Hey, your building’s falling apart. We’re monitoring this now. You’re going to start getting fined.” Or, “We’re watching it.” And things of that nature. And so it can actually get people to fix their property versus intentionally letting it rot away. But then you have shitty homeowners that are just like, “Well, I don’t care. I’m just going to let it rot away. It’ll still be cheaper for me to absorb these fines for as long as I need to and then I can just tear it down.” In New York City, land is so expensive, that’s kind of how that ends up happening.

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