Historic Districts Council
|This article relies largely or entirely upon a single source. (October 2010)|
The Historic Districts Council (HDC) was founded in 1971 as a coalition of community groups from the designated historic districts of New York City—of which there were only 18 at the time—primarily to work on special projects and networking. In the late 1970s, its focus shifted to helping advance district designations; in the 1980s its advocacy role expanded and finally, in 1986, HDC became an independent, incorporated organization with its own officers. HDC is one of several preservation organizations that reside in the Neighborhood Preservation Center. HDC’s first full-time executive director was hired in 1992. HDC's current executive director is Simeon Bankoff.
HDC is the only citywide advocate for New York’s designated historic districts and for neighborhoods meriting preservation. A nonprofit organization with a small professional staff and a working board, HDC is dedicated to preserving the integrity of New York City’s Landmarks Law and to furthering the preservation ethic. HDC is an independent, nonpartisan organization not connected to the city government, to any other preservation organization or to any individual neighborhood group, although they work with all of them.
As advocate for New York’s over 100 designated historic districts, HDC advises community groups about preservation issues and consults with building owners about what Landmarks Preservation Commission regulations mean. So when owners of individual landmarks or buildings in designated districts—the same regulations apply to both categories—want to make changes to their property that affect its external appearance, they must under the law apply to the LPC for approval to make those changes. The applications are often approved at staff level. But when the proposals are complicated or do not suggest a clear-cut solution, they go to public review. Every month, a committee of HDC examines every proposal scheduled for review—about 400 a year—and then drafts testimony which is read at the commission’s public hearing. HDC is the only organization in the city that covers all applications.
As advocate for neighborhoods not designated but meriting protection, HDC advises community groups that come to us because they are seeking historic designation. An HDC staff member meets with them in their neighborhoods to talk about what designation means and advises them how to proceed. They then make concrete suggestions and then counsel groups on how to apply for designation, on what kind of research is necessary and how to get it done. HDC always stress the importance of community support and help local groups obtain it.
Sometimes HDC initiates the designation process itself, usually in nonresidential areas that do not have local community leaders. In those cases, HDC sponsors the work that would otherwise be done by a community group.
HDC also sponsors applications to New York State and National Registers of Historic Places. Listing on these Registers often helps move the designation process forward at the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
To preserve the integrity of the Landmarks Law, HDC monitors behavior of city government and the LPC, taking issue with actions and policies when as they see needed. HDC testifies before the City Planning Commission, the Art Commission, the Board of Standards and Appeals and the City Council, usually on the effect a proposal would have on historic neighborhoods.
Financing comes from grants by such government entities as the New York State Council on the Arts and the New York City Council as well as from private foundations, funds and corporations; from fund-raising events and from individual donations. More than 700 Friends of HDC contribute on a regular basis and participate in our public activities. To help support HDC's fight to preserve NYC architectural and cultural history go to http://hdc.org/friends.htm and become a friend of HDC.
For a full list of HDC programs and events: http://hdc.org/events.htmhttp://hdc.org/calendar.htm