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Landmarks Pulls Plan to Remove 100 Sites From Consideration

December 5, 2014 11:56am | Updated December 5, 2014 4:24pm
The Landmarks Preservation Commission has pulled a plan to remove almost 100 sites from landmark consideration after an outcry from the city's preservation community. Included in the list was the iconic Pepsi-Cola sign in Long Island City.
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DNAinfo/Jeanmarie Evelly

MANHATTAN — The Landmarks Preservation Commission has yanked a plan to remove almost 100 sites from landmark consideration after an outcry from the city's preservation community.

Preservationists complained that Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration was being secretive about the action, which DNAinfo first reported after the details were released on Thanksgiving eve.

Sources say several preservationist groups were in intense conversations with the LPC over the last few days.

"In response to a community request for more time, the commission will take a pause to consider feedback on aspects of the proposal," said LPC spokeswoman Damaris Olivo.

The LPC had planned to pull the landmarks from the list — including the Bergdorf Goodman building in Manhattan and the Pepsi-Cola sign in Long Island City — without formal public input at a Dec. 9 meeting.

The LPC had said the action was necessary to clear its backlog, including sites that had been under consideration for as long as 40 years.

But preservationists argued that rather than remove the sites in one fell swoop, the LPC should hold hearings for each site and make a decision about whether it should be confirmed as a landmark.

"We think this is a really positive step for transparency," said Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council, a preservation group, after he learned of the LPC's decision to put the decision on hold.

Removing the buildings from the LPC's calendar would deny them the small amount of protection the designation provided. The Department of Buildings notifies the LPC whenever building or demolition permits for a building on the group's calendar are requested. The LPC then has 40 days to make a determination about landmark status.

Bankoff said the preservation community was willing to help the LPC clear the long list of items on its calendar, as long as it's done with public input.

"We want to work with the LPC to resolve this issue of a backlog," said Bankoff. "No one likes a backlog."

Even if these 95 sites and two historic districts were removed, Olivo said more than 100 sites still remain on the calendar.

Michael Henry Adams, a historian who is the author of "Harlem Lost and Found," said the action to remove so many items would have shaken faith in the actions the LPC takes to consider a building.

"Had these buildings been taken off the calendar it would have left them open to criticism that they put these buildings up for consideration frivolously," said Adams.

Olivo said the decision to pull the plan for now does not mean the proposal is dead.

LPC chair Meenakshi Srinivasan said in a statement that the agency remains committed to "clearing a backlog of items that have sat idle for decades so that we can focus on today's preservation opportunities."