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Tonight, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP), the Greenwich Village Block Associations, and other community groups will hold an open forum on New York University’s proposed 2031 expansion plans.

According to GVSHP, the plan indicates, “the potential for a very large expansion of the university in and around its core facilities in the Village, East Village, and NoHo during that time period — roughly double its rate of expansion over the last several decades.”

The forum will be an opportunity to find out more about the plan from the perspective of community groups, including concerns regarding how NYU is adhering to its commitments to a set of planning principles developed with community input.  It is also an opportunity to find out more about the process by which this plan is being reviewed and how you can be a part of it.

A flyer for the forum can be found here, and more background information can be found here.

Preservation Vision NYC was a year-long project that gathered professionals and activists from New York City’s historic preservation community to discuss the movement’s future over the next 20-30 years.  The project consisted of an online survey, a number of roundtable discussions, a weekend retreat, and a one-day workshop.

The project culminated in a report, intended to organize the results of these events and provide a guide for the movement going forward.  It outlines the main priorities for the movement established during the Preservation Vision process:

  • address environmental sustainability
  • undertake serious research
  • expand incentives
  • implement more land use regulations
  • strengthen the Landmarks Law
  • contribute to community livability
  • focus messaging & branding
  • expand alliances & diversity
  • identify new sources of funding
  • enhance education

Download the full report here.

Also, on a related note, Historic Districts Council Executive Director Simeon Bankoff is taking questions about preserving NYC’s historic districts this week at the NY Times City Room blog.

Scary news for preservationists – Crain’s reports that last week, an Illinois appellate court struck down the city of Chicago’s landmarks ordinance.  The law was passed in 1968, three years after New York City’s, and like NYC’s law, Chicago’s requires permission from the mayor’s appointed Commission on Chicago Landmarks to alter or demolish any designated landmark building.

According to Crain’s, the standards used to determine landmark status were the issue in the court case – Appellate Court Judge James Fitzgerald Smith wrote, “We believe that the terms ‘value,’ ‘important,’ ‘significant,’ and ‘unique’ are vague, ambiguous, and overly broad.”

While the ruling does not immediately invalidate the ordinance and technically involves only two of the city’s landmark districts, the decision could be applied to all of the city’s landmark areas, leaving them vulnerable to legal challenge, according to Crain’s.  The Daley administration is considering appealing the case to the Illinois Supreme Court.

On December 1, Task Force member organization Historic Districts Council hosts its Monday Morning Coffee Talk series, and this one is focused on navigating New York City’s Board of Standards and Appeals:

In New York City, one body has the power to grant exceptions to certain local building laws and regulations on a case-by-case basis: the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA). Once granted, such special permissions, known as variances, provide building owners and developers with legal, alternative approaches to the city’s Zoning Resolution, Building and Fire Codes, Multiple Dwelling Law, and Labor Law. The BSA also hears appeals made by property owners, community groups, elected officials and the like who believe that a given commissioner or agency head has issued a ruling that is thought to be illegal.

Comprised of five mayoral-appointed commissioners, the BSA is considered to be one of the most obscure but powerful bodies in city government. Yet many neighborhood advocates who have opposed or closely monitored construction projects in their neighborhoods have had to appeal to the BSA at one time or another. BSA Vice-Chair Christopher Collins will explain the basic steps of presenting to the Board, from how to navigate their procedures and requirements to the most effective approach to formulating arguments.

8:30-10:30am, Neighborhood Preservation Center, 232 E. 11th St.

Email lbelfer[at]hdc.org to RSVP.

The Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council and the Municipal Art Society have been advocating for an historic district in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn since 2006. Neighborhood volunteers catalogued and photographed roughly 1,100 buildings, which formed the basis of a report to the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC).

Tomorrow (Tuesday, October 28) from 1:30-3:30pm, the LPC will holding a public hearing at the Municipal Building on the proposed historic district, which includes roughly 870 properties. Read more about it at the MAS website. View a map of the proposed district here (PDF).

Task Force member organization The Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance, which focuses on the outer boroughs, has announced it’s 2008 Preservation Awards. This year’s honorees are:

-David Carnivale, an architect and preservationist who saved the 1678 Lakeman-Cortelyou house in Staten Island

-Castle Coalition, a resource for businesses and residents fighting eminent domain around the country and in New York neighborhoods such as Downtown Brooklyn, Prospect Heights, Willets Point, and 125th Street

-Crown Heights North Association, for its work on the Crown Heights Historic district and promotion of the neighborhood’s architecture

-Historic District Council’s League of Preservation Voters, an initiative to facilitate an informed dialogue in City Council races that encourages community input on local development and preservation concerns

-Juniper Park Civic Association, which Fought valiantly to save an 1847 Richard Upjohn country gothic church, which has been moved and will be reassembled

-Assembly Member Rory Lancman, who has cosponsored much legislation protecting homeowners and worked to provide greater oversight of the DOB.

-Barnett Shepherd, founder of the Preservation League of Staten Island

-South Brooklyn Legal Service, which was instrumental in litigation preventing NYC from destroying the Duffield Street Abolitionist homes in Downtown Brooklyn via eminent domain

The awardees will be honored on Thursday at 6pm at a fundraiser for the organization at the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace, 28 East 20th Street. Tickets are $40 and must be paid for in advance by mailing a check to:

Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance Foundation
c/o Neighborhood Preservation Center
232 East 11th St.
New York, NY 10003

Yesterday, the Landmarks Preservation Commission approved revised plans for the redevelopment of the Domino Sugar Factory on the Williamsburg waterfront. The new plan includes less glass on top of the historic factory building, and saves the complex’s iconic sign, as shown in this rendering, via the NY Observer.

Developer Michael Lappin of CPC Resources implied in a statement that the new design may threaten some of the planned affordable housing: “The reduction in size translates into a loss of more than 20,000 square feet of residential space or over 20 apartments. This presents an economic challenge that we must meet to fulfill our firm commitment to develop 660 affordable housing units,” he said.

The NYC Economic Development Corporation today announced the selection of three Brooklyn non-profit organizations, including Community-Based Planning Task Force members Neighbors Allied for Good Growth (formerly Neighbors Against Garbage), to redevelop two former firehouses.

The Brooklyn Philharmonic will turn one site on Degraw Street in Cobble Hill into the BP Music Center, which will house the orchestra and serve as a community cultural center.

NAG and the People’s Firehouse will turn a second site in Williamsburg into the Northside Town Hall Community Center and Cultural Center, which will contain the offices of both organizations, and meeting space, exhibition and performance/rehearsal space for local arts organizations. According to EDC, all three organizations plan to preserve the character and appearance of the 19th Century firehouse buildings.

“Good economic development should always be accompanied by development that makes communities more attractive places to live and work. I am pleased that EDC was able to assist in this remarkable effort to redevelop these historic firehouses for use by and service to their communities,” said EDC President Seth W. Pinsky. “The projects will also provide growth opportunities for three important not-for-profit community cultural organizations.”

Wednesday, May 28 is the second annual Preservation Lobby Day in NYC. At 2pm, over 40 preservation organizations will gather on the steps of City Hall to advocate for a restoration of $300,000 to the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s budget.

In 2006, the City Council allocated $250,000 in additional funds to the LPC, allowing the agency to hire five new full-time staff researchers. Last year, that amount increased to $300,000. However, this year, the Mayor has not included this funding in the LPC’s 2009 budget. Including the extra $300,000, the LPC’s budget comprises less than one-hundredth of one percent of the entire city budget, however this small amount can make a huge difference in the way the agency functions.

The organizations involved ask that anyone wishing to join the rally bring a sign or prop illustrating your favorite undesignated neighborhood or building so that the Council and the public can see all of the various sites across the city that require the LPC’s attention.

The Municipal Art Society has created a video supporting LPC funding, which you can watch here.

Cornell University’s Preservation Planning program is offering a four-session “shortcourse” on preservation and sustainability for professionals in the public and private sectors and students, taking place in the first week of June.  According to the website “Each one-day course addresses a different aspect of sustainability—green building, environment, equity and economics— through the strategies, tools and ethos of historic preservation.”  The schedule is as follows:

  • 6/2 Green Preservation: Tools and Strategies for a More Sustainable Re-Use
  • 6/3 Equity: Historic Districts and Fluid Communities: The Case of Jackson Heights
  • 6/4 Economics: New Life for Vacant and Abandoned Housing: The South Bronx
  • 6/5 Rivers Lost, Resources Rediscovered: The Bronx and Sawmill Rivers

Registration is $110 per course, or $440 for all four.  Check out the online schedule for more details about topics, locations, and professors.

Since 2000, The Community-Based Planning Task Force has been leading the effort to create a more meaningful role for communities in New York City’s planning and decision-making processes.

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