Working on Landmarked Buildings Historic Buildings Need TLC

Historic landmarks offer striking examples of New York City’s rich architectural heritage and the vintage architecture is one of the New York’s greatest charms. But not all landmarked buildings are commercial or public structures—many house co-op or condo communities. While these historically and architecturally significant buildings are highly desirable places to live, they come with some unique concerns when it comes to maintenance and restoration projects.

What it Takes

Not every building that applies for historic landmark status gets its wish. If the owners of a building in New York City are considering asking for landmark status, there is a process that needs to be followed, starting with filing a Request for Evaluation of Landmark Potential with the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). 

“Potential landmarks and historic districts are identified by the Landmarks Preservation Commission through surveys and other commission-initiated research. Commission surveys and research may include properties suggested by members of the public through Requests for Evaluation. Surveys serve as inventories of the city’s significant buildings, and as planning tools that enable LPC to establish priorities and set goals for designating the next generation of landmarks and historic districts,” says Damaris Olivo, the director of communications with the LPC.

There are 92 historic districts across the city, with the Upper West Side and Upper East Side each home to more than 2,000 landmark buildings. 

“The Landmarks [Preservation] Commission are building preservationists, and they care about the original design and what it was tailored for,” says Wayne Bellet, owner of Manhattan-based Wayne Bellet Construction Co., Inc., which has done hundreds of restoration projects of historic buildings in Manhattan. “I admire what they do.” 

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Comments

  • I am president of a small co-op (8 resi units + 1 co-op commercial + 1 co-op rental) in the SoHo historic district. Our landmarked building, along with a number of others in the neighborhood, is the subject of a lawsuit alleging non-compliance with ADA legislation. The suit was filed by an out-of-state law firm that advertises on national TV on behalf of a serial plaintiff in Westchester County, who as far as we know has never visited the building. While our O&D insurer will defend our case in this particular situation, they have indicated that we must address future ADA compliance to avoid suits that may arise down the road. Has the Co-operator, or the author, encountered similar cases, and, if so, what advice can you bring to our situation? We are loathe to alter the historic appearance of the building with ramps or elevators, especially since the entrance to the building has only one step up from the sidewalk. We are also interested in knowing how "grandfathering" may affect our situation, especially since any alterations we may undertake to comply would also be subject to Landmarks approval. Thank you for any guidance the Cooperator and/or the author can provide.