Keeping History Alive The Landmarks Preservation Commission

The Dakota. The San Remo. The Ansonia. Greenwich Village. Gramercy Park. DUMBO. New York City and its five boroughs are home to buildings and neighborhoods that are celebrities in their own right, and preserving the historic character and impact of those buildings is an important part of preserving the city's legacy for the future. One group wholly devoted to preserving (and sometimes improving) that legacy is the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission, the governing body responsible for designating neighborhoods and buildings as official historic landmarks.

Protect & Preserve

"The purpose of the commission is to protect and preserve the city's great architecture and history," says Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) Chairman Robert Tierney. "The way we do that is to confer landmark designation on individual buildings and on historic districts. Once they are subject to that designation, they are protected by the landmarks law—and the Landmarks Commission carries out the landmarks law."

Because many of the city's residential buildings are landmarks or are in landmark districts, their maintenance and operation often falls under the jurisdiction of the LPC. Tierney says the exact number of condo and co-op communities that have been declared landmarks is unknown, but of the 24,000 buildings that do have the designation, he says the "overwhelming majority" are residential properties. And many of those, he says are multiple-dwelling, which would include "almost exclusively" condos and co-ops.

A Landmark Beginning

The commission was founded in 1965 by Mayor Robert Wagner, and given the power to confer protection on landmark buildings and neighborhoods, shielding them from destruction by development or neglect. The law was enacted in the wake of concerns over the destruction of important structures—most notably the 1963 demolition of the original Penn Station to make way for Madison Square Garden. Since its creation in 1965, LPC has granted landmark status to some 24,000 buildings, including 1,181 individual landmarks, 120 interior landmarks, nine scenic landmarks and 90 historic districts in all five boroughs.

The loss of Penn Station's historic architecture (and the public outcry against it at the time) was one of the key events that led to the establishment of both the landmark law and the commission in order to protect New York's "architectural, historical and cultural heritage."


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