Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Day at the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission

Yesterday the closing of Our Lady of Vilnius led me on another fun-filled adventure: a public hearing of the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission! It was so much fun that I was surprised that more of the general public did not attend. The staff was courteous and hospitable and the presentations interesting and entertaining, melding architecture, history and culture.

The paradigm was a little bit like divorce court: the preservationists extol the authenticity, aesthetic and architectural merit and the cultural importance of the sites and structures. In opposition, the owners present as beleaguered stewards who have been forced to remedy profound defects in their impulsively acquired properties by despoiling their architectural purity. God bless the commissioners who have to address the reality at the center of a cyclone of spin.

The four Dominick Street houses, though separate applications, were accorded one presentation. Representatives of preservation organizations spoke in support of the applications. Three out of four owners were in attendance, all speaking in opposition to the proposal. One of the owners came with a retinue consisting of his wife, an attorney, an architect, a structural engineer and a guy to set up an easel for the visuals.

It was a great opportunity to learn about our fair city and to witness an effort to see that it doesn't disappear in an orgy of self-reinvention. Regarding the suspects: the usual ones were absent. I asked a preservationist if she knew who filed the application. She didn't know for sure, but suspected that it was "internal." In a surreal touch, one of the preservationists resembled Ms. Marple more closely than I.

No comments: