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Landmarks Commission 'Wastes Board's Time' by Ignoring Votes, Members Say

By Emily Frost | April 6, 2016 6:23pm | Updated on April 7, 2016 6:31pm
 A stretch of buildings in the West End-Collegiate Historic District.
A stretch of buildings in the West End-Collegiate Historic District.
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DNAinfo/Emily Frost

UPPER WEST SIDE — By the time Community Board 7 weighs in on whether changes should be made to a local landmark, the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission often has already made its decision — rendering the board's vote irrelevant and a waste of time, members complained.

On Tuesday night, Board 7 reviewed eight proposals to alter landmarked buildings — with the changes ranging from replacing windows to adding height to a rooftop — at its full board meeting.

Yet all but two of them had already been voted on by the LPC, either earlier that day or in late March. 

The commission voted on issues related to 322 Central Park West326 West 77th St. and 25 Central Park West during a daytime hearing Tuesday, while voting on 225 West 86th St., 315 Central Park West and 266 West End Ave. at a March 22 hearing. 

"They (the LPC) meet once a week, we meet once a month, so occasionally we get lucky with the timing," said the board's Preservation Committee co-chairman, Jay Adolf, who described the problem as "ongoing."

Former board chairman Mark Diller said that during his tenure, as well as that of the current and past chairs, "we tilted at that windmill," and tried to push the commission to change its schedule." But "still the LPC said, 'Sorry we’ve got to move on,'" and voted without the full board's recommendations considered, he said.

The LPC does factor the committee's initial vote into its decisions, but oftentimes the full board later ends up overturning the committee — making CB7's final verdict moot. 

"They generally treat the committee’s resolutions as the board’s voice. They treat the committee resolution as 'CB7 voted to approve [or] CB7 voted to disapprove,'" Adolf explained.

The full board is made up of 50 members, while the committee often consists of fewer than 10, members noted. Additionally, the full board's review also gives the public another chance to weigh in, they said. 

"Is there any reason to waste this board’s time?" board member Ken Coughlin said. "What we’re voting on has no import, apparently."

The board agreed to again try to push the commission to change its calendar to better sync up with full board meetings, as well as to raise the issue with other boards throughout the city facing the same issue. 

The LPC did not immediately return a request for comment. 

UPDATE: An LPC spokeswoman who responded after the story was published said Community Board 7 specifically requested that the commission hear applications after the Preservation Committee reviewed them. Therefore, the LPC hearings are scheduled after the commission receives a resolution from the committee. 

However, Community Board 7 disagreed, with Preservation Committee chairman Jay Adolph saying the board had long lobbied the LPC to wait until after the full board had met to vote.

"We respectfully disagree that we requested LPC to proceed on our committee resolutions rather than allow for full board review of LPC applications in our district," he said in an email Thursday.

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