Restoring Vintage Buildings When Home Is History

Your home defines you. It’s where you spend most of your time. It’s where you hang your hat. It’s where you make precious memories with friends and family. And what your home looks like – whether it’s made of glass and steel or brownstone and brick, and what era it’s from – speaks volumes about you as a person. 

In cities with rich cultural and architectural histories like New York, the mix of old and new is something to behold. Many architectural styles are represented across town, from brownstones and clapboard rowhouses to single-family homes to sleek towers and ornate prewar co-op buildings. And while New York City grows and new developments break ground, the city also protects and preserves architectural reminders of the past through the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). Those include historical sites, parks and buildings, both commercial and residential.

 Residential buildings in landmark districts are highly desirable properties. The buildings are historic reminders of the past, feature vintage charm that can’t be replicated, and the resale value of units within them can often be extremely high. But living in a historic property or building also comes with its own set of potential headaches. If you want to fix something, it’s not always a simple process. Many maintenance and restoration projects – especially on the facade of a building – must be approved by the LPC.

History and How it Works

The New York City Landmarks Commission was created in 1965 via legislation signed by then-Mayor Robert F. Wagner after several notable historic landmarks – the original, richly ornamented Pennsylvania Station in particular – were demolished. According to the Commission’s website, the purpose of the Landmarks Law was to safeguard buildings and places in the city but also “to stabilize and improve property values, foster civic pride, protect and enhance the city’s attraction to tourists, strengthen the economy of the city and promote the use of historic districts, landmarks, interior landmarks and scenic landmarks for the education, pleasure and welfare of the people of the city.”      

Today, the LPC is made up of 11 commissioners who are appointed by the mayor, and oversees  more than 36,000 landmark properties. Most are situated within 141 historic districts across all five boroughs. There are also 1,398 individual landmarks (among them the Woolworth Building, and the iconic Cyclone rollercoaster in Coney Island), 119 interior landmarks (including the Empire State Building lobby and Grand Central Terminal’s grand concourse), and 10 scenic landmarks (including both Prospect and Central Park). 

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