Celebrating 51 Years of Landmarking

Mayor Robert F. Wagner signs the New York City Landmarks Law, April 19, 1965. Photo: Margot Gayle/NY Preservation Archive Project

Mayor Robert F. Wagner signs the New York City Landmarks Law, April 19, 1965.
Photo: Margot Gayle/NY Preservation Archive Project

Fifty-one years ago today, on April 19, 1965, the New York City landmarks law went into effect.  A year-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of the landmarks law has been spearheaded by Landmarks50, an incredible coalition of which GVSHP is a member, led by Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel, the chair of the Historic Landmarks Preservation Center.

As we look back on this momentous occasion, let’s take a look at how far we have come in those fifty one years in seeking to preserve the heritage and historic built environment of our city.

According to the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), there are more than 35,000 landmark properties in New York City, including 138 historic districts and historic district extensions, 1,355 individual landmarks, 117 interior landmarks, and 10 scenic landmarks.

Want to know what and where every one of those landmarked properties are?  Check out the new interactive LPC map which provides information on and links for every landmark designation in New York City (the new map is a significant improvement over using NYCityMap for such information, as chronicled recently on our blog).

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NYC landmarks map

In 1969, there were four historic districts in Greenwich Village, the East Village, and NoHo, and just a handful of individual landmarks.  Today there are sixteen historic districts or historic district extensions in these neighborhoods, and scores of individual landmarks, covering more than 3,500 structures.  These include some of the first designated landmarks and historic districts in New York

The landmarks law is over a half century old, but a significant amount of progress has been made in the last decade and a half.

The landmarks law is over a half century old, but a significant amount of progress has been made in the last decade and a half.

City, such as St. Mark’s-in-the-Bowery Church, which celebrated its 50th landmarks anniversary yesterday, and 57 Sullivan Street, which was landmarked just last week.

The four original historic districts were found in Greenwich Village and the South Village, with one very small historic district in the East Village.

Today the original Greenwich Village Historic District has been expanded twice, the St. Mark’s Historic District expanded once, and new historic districts added in the Meatpacking District, the Far West Village, the South Village, and NoHo.

In the East Village, the small St. Mark’s Historic District has been joined by the exponentially larger East 10th Street and East Village/Lower East Side Historic District, expanding tenfold the number of buildings in that neighborhood covered by historic district protections.

To get more specific information on the progress which has been made on expanding landmarks protections (as well as zoning protections) in the neighborhood, you can check out GVSHP’s ‘Accomplishments Map’ (you can also just zoom into the Village/East Village/NoHo on the LPC map), or our report “Ten Years, A Thousand Buildings Landmarks, A Hundred Blocks Rezoned.”

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GVSHPs ‘Accomplishments Map’ showing progress on landmark designations and zoning protections in our neighborhoods.

You can also look through a list of every landmarked site or historic district in our neighborhoods here on our website.  The list links to the designation reports for each site or district, which contains valuable information about their history and why they were designated, as well as photos in many cases.

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Designation report for the South Village Historic District, the most recently designated historic district in our area.  Such reports often contain a wealth of historic information about each building.

We’ve also been particularly focused on securing landmark designation for Federal-era (1790-1835) houses in our neighborhood, including more than one-hundred twenty of them since 1999.  Read GVSHP’s report here for more details on each one.

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Seeking landmark designation of Federal houses has been a high priority of GVSHP’s. More than 120 have been designated in our neighborhood in the last 17 years.

Our part of New York contains among the highest concentrations of landmarked properties in New York City, much to the chagrin of our friends at the Real Estate Board of New York, who believe that landmarking is “out of control” covering roughly 3% of all properties in New York as it does.  Of course the Village, East Village and NoHo are some of the oldest and most historically significant parts of NewYork, so it’s no surprise that they contain such a high concentration of landmarked properties.

But we’d be lying or naïve if we said that what is or is not landmarked is purely a reflection of historic, architectural, or cultural significance.  Landmark designation typically requires years of organizing and activism to achieve, and our neighborhoods have been singularly dedicated to this cause.

And though much of our neighborhood is landmarked, there are clearly some gaping holes in those protections, and some undeniably historic areas which lack the landmark protections they need.

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Sullivan Street between Houston and Prince Streets, in the third and final phase of GVSHP’s proposed South Village Historic District.  This landscape is virtually unchanged from more than a century ago.

For example, the third and final phase of GVSHP’s proposed South Village Historic District still very much lacks landmark protections.  Decisions will likely be made in the next few weeks that will determine if this area ever receives the landmark protections it deserves.

If you would like to urge the City to landmark it, click here.

If you would like to take action on another advocacy campaign and continue the proud tradition of more than half a century of successful preservation advocacy in our neighborhoods, click here.

 

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Andrew Berman

Andrew Berman has been the Executive Director of GVSHP since 2002.

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