New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission

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Coordinates: 40°42′47″N 74°00′14″W / 40.71295°N 74.00377°W / 40.71295; -74.00377

The demolition of Pennsylvania Station was a key moment in the preservationist movement, which led to the creation of the Commission

The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission is the New York City agency charged with administering the city's Landmarks Preservation Law. The Commission was created in April 1965 by Mayor Robert F. Wagner, Jr.[1] following the destruction of Pennsylvania Station the previous year to make way for the construction of the current Madison Square Garden. The Commission is responsible for protecting New York City's architecturally, historically, and culturally significant buildings and sites by granting them landmark or historic district status, and regulating them once they're designated. It is the largest municipal preservation agency in the nation.[2]

The Landmarks Preservation Commission consists of 11 commissioners, and is required by law to include a minimum of three architects, a historian, a city planner or landscape architect, a realtor and at least one resident of each of the five New York City boroughs.[2]

According to the Landmarks Preservation Law, a building must be at least thirty years old before the Commission can declare it a landmark.[3] City law also allows for the Commission's decision to be overturned if an appeal is filed within 90 days.[4]


The goal of New York City's landmarks law is to preserve the aesthetically and historically important buildings, structures, and other objects that make up the New York City vista. The Landmarks Preservation Commission is responsible for deciding which properties should be subject to landmark status and enacting regulations to protect the aesthetic and historic nature of these properties. These regulations are generally designed to allow property owners to continue to use and maintain their properties, while preserving the important architectural characteristics of the properties.[citation needed] The commission preserves not only architecturally significant buildings, but the overall historical sense of place of neighborhoods that are designated as historic districts.[5] The commission is responsible for overseeing a range of designated landmarks in all five boroughs ranging from the Fonthill Castle in the North Bronx, built in 1852 for the actor Edwin Forrest, to the 1670s Conference House in Staten Island, where Benjamin Franklin and John Adams attended a conference aimed at ending the Revolutionary War Staten Island.

The Commission helps preserve the City's landmark properties by regulating changes to their significant features.[6] The role of the Commission has evolved over time, especially with the changing real estate market in New York City.[7]


The Astor Library was the subject of the Commission's first public hearing in 1965

The Commission was created in 1965 through groundbreaking legislation signed by the late Mayor Robert F. Wagner in response to the mounting losses of historically significant buildings in New York City, most infamously Pennsylvania Station.[1]

The Landmarks Preservation Commission's first public hearing occurred in September, 1965 over the future of the Astor Library on Lafayette Street in Manhattan. The building was designated a New York City Landmark. Subsequently, the building was adaptively reused as The Public Theater.[8] Twenty-five years later, the Commission was cited by David Dinkins as having preserved New York City's municipal identity and enhanced the market perception of a number of neighborhoods. This success is believed to be due, in part, to the general acceptance of the commission by the city's developers.[5]

The Commission was headquartered in the Old New York Evening Post Building from 1980 to 1987.[9]

In 1989, when the Commission and its process was under review following a panel created by Mayor Koch in 1985,[10] a decision was made to change the process by which buildings are declared to be landmarks[11] due to some perceived issues with the manner by which the Commission operates[1] as well as the realization that the destruction feared when the Commission was formed was no longer imminent.[10]

In its first 25 years of existence, the Commission designated 856 buildings, 79 interiors and 9 parks or other outdoor places as landmarks, while declaring 52 neighborhoods with more than 15,000 buildings as historic districts.[1]

As of April 16, 2014, There are more than 31,000 landmark properties in New York City, most of which are located in 110 historic districts and 20 historic district extensions in all five boroughs. The total number of protected sites includes 1,332 individual landmarks, 115 interior landmarks and 10 scenic landmarks. Some of these are also National Historic Landmarks (NHL) sites, and many are National Registered Historic Places (NRHP). [2]


One of the most prominent decisions in which the Commission was involved was the preservation of New York City's Grand Central Terminal with the assistance of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.[12] In 1978, the United States Supreme Court upheld the law in Penn Central Transportation Co., et al. v. New York City, et al., stopping the Penn Central Railroad from altering the structure and placing a large office tower above it.[13] This success is often cited as significant due to the Commission's origins following the destruction of Pennsylvania Station, referred to by some as architectural vandalism.[1]

In 1989, the Commission designated the Ladies' Mile Historic District.[14] 1990 marked the first time in the Commission's history that a proposed landmark, the Guggenheim Museum (one of the youngest declared landmarks), received a unanimous vote by the Commission members.[3] The vast majority of the Commission's actions are not unanimous by the Commission members or the community with a number of cases including: St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church, Bryant Park and a number of Broadway theatres resulting in challenges.[15] One of the most controversial properties was 2 Columbus Circle, which remained at the center of a discussion over its future for a number of years.[16]

Cultural landmarks, such as Greenwich Village's Stonewall Inn are recognized as well, not for their architecture, but rather for their location in a designated historic district.[17]

In a heatedly discussed decision on August 3, 2010, the Commission unanimously declined to grant landmark status to a building on Park Place in Manhattan, and thus did not block the construction of Cordoba House.[18]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c d e Paul Goldberger (1990-04-15). "Architecture View; A Commission that has Itself Become a Landmark". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-17. 
  2. ^ a b c "About the Landmarks Preservation Commission". Landmarks Preservation Commission. Retrieved 23 April 2014. 
  3. ^ a b "Guggenheim Museum Is Designated a Landmark". The New York Times. 1990-08-19. Retrieved 2008-03-17. 
  4. ^ David W. Dunlap (1987-11-05). "5 More Broadway Theaters Classified as Landmarks". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-17. 
  5. ^ a b David W. Dunlap (1990-04-29). "Change on the Horizon for Landmarks". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-17. 
  6. ^ "Apply for a Permit". Landmarks Preservation Commission. Retrieved 23 April 2014. 
  7. ^ Tarquinio, Alex (October 3, 2007). "New Buildings That Embrace the Old". The New York Times. 
  8. ^ "Papp Proved that Landmarks Law Works". The New York Times. 1991-11-13. Retrieved 2008-03-17. 
  9. ^ Diamonstein, Barbarlee, The Landmarks of New York III, Harry Abrams, 1998, p. 283.
  10. ^ a b David W. Dunlap (1987-12-27). "Advisory Group to Determine Future of Landmarks Board". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-17. 
  11. ^ David W. Dunlap (1989-02-06). "Panel Urges Deadlines for Votes on Landmarks". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-17. 
  12. ^ "Some Grand Central Terminal Secrets Revealed". The Gothamist. 2008-03-07. Retrieved 2008-03-17. 
  13. ^ Paul Goldberger (1977-06-24). "Office Tower Above Grand Central Barred by State Court of Appeals". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-17. 
  14. ^ "Ladies' Mile District Wins Landmark Status," The New York Times, May 7, 1989.
  15. ^ David W. Dunlap (1988-11-11). "Chairman Plans to Leave Panel on Landmarks". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-17. 
  16. ^ Alan S. Weiner (2003-10-13). "The Building That Isn't There". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-17. [dead link]
  17. ^ David W. Dunlap (1999-06-26). "Stonewall, Gay Bar That Made History, Is Made a Landmark". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-17. 
  18. ^ Hernandez, Javier C. (2010-08-03). "Mosque Near Ground Zero Clears Key Hurdle". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-08-07. 

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