Wednesday, November 26, 2008

New York Times Runs Expose on Landmarks Preservation Commission: Should Chairman Tierney Resign?

There is a great story in today's Times -- by one of its most dogged and thorough arts reporters, Robin Pogrebin -- on the maddeningly slow pace of the New York City Landmarks Commission's work. Anyone who has had anything remotely to do with preservationism in this town knows what this article is all about. It's tight and smart -- and it makes you wonder what next year's mayoral election is going to look like.

(I know, I know: no one is going to vote for or against Mayor Bloomberg on the basis on what his political appointee, commission head Robert B. Tierney, has or hasn't been doing during his five years as the chair of the LPC. But if you look at the news landscape lately, there have been a lot more articles focusing on city government, such as the pieces last week on how Bloomberg said the city couldn't afford the $400 rebates for homeowners and the City Council forced his people to admit that the mayor didn't have the legal authority to withhold their distribution.)

The question, meanwhile, as a result of Pogrebin's piece is whether Chairman Tierney should step down.

Highlights of the article:

A six-month examination of the commission’s operations by The New York Times reveals an overtaxed agency that has taken years to act on some proposed designations, even as soaring development pressures put historic buildings at risk. Its decision-making is often opaque, and its record-keeping on landmark-designation requests is so spotty that staff members are uncertain how many it rejects in a given year.

In dozens of interviews, residents who have proposed historic buildings or districts for consideration said they were often stonewalled by the commission, receiving formulaic responses or sometimes no response at all.
And there's this:
On some occasions the commission has taken so long to act that the building in question has been demolished or irretrievably altered.
And there's this:
“He’s a guy who’s had no demonstrable interest in historic preservation, who has the most important preservation job in New York City,” said Anthony C. Wood, author of “Preserving New York: Winning the Right to Protect a City’s Landmarks" (Routledge, 2008), and a party to the suit.

Also troubling to critics is the fact that the commission does not document the resolution of each nomination or even quantify how many it defers or rejects. Asked how many Requests for Evaluation they received in the last fiscal year, commission officials said they fielded roughly 200 in addition to nominations generated by the agency itself and its neighborhood surveys. They add that about one quarter never reach the commissioners (other than Mr. Tierney).
It's a great read. Let's hope for change. Yes we can.

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