Under the Microscope: The New York Times and Mayor Bloomberg's Landmarks Problem

Over the course of 6 days from November 26 to December 2, 2008, The New York Times ran a series of articles a series of articles "examining the workings of New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission." Click on the links below for copies of the full articles, plus online features on the Times's website.

The judge called the agency’s inaction “arbitrary and capricious” and ordered it to start making timely decisions on every designation request.  To allow such proposal’s “to languish is to defeat the very purpose of the L.P.C. and invite the loss of irreplaceable landmarks.” 
~ “An Opaque and Lengthy Road to Landmark Building Status,” 11/26/08

Preservationists say the phenomenon [of pre-emptive demolitions] is only one sign of problems with the city’s mechanism for protecting historic buildings … In the case of the Dakota Stables, some preservationists have accused the landmarks commission of deliberately dragging its heels. 
~ “Preservationists See Bulldozers Charging Through a Loophole,” 11/29/08

..many preservationists and at least one commission member argue that the landmarks commission has not been aggressive enough in protecting churches from the overheated real estate market of the last few years. 
~ “Houses of Worship Choosing to Avoid Landmark Status,” 12/1/08

…preservationists and politicians assert that, under a mayoral administration that has emphasized new construction – from behemoth stadiums to architecturally bold condo towers – big developers have too often been allowed to lead on the dance floor.  Some accuse the landmarks commission, charged with guarding the city’s architectural heritage, of backing off too readily when important developers’ interests are at stake.
~ “Preservation and Development in a Dynamic Give and Take,” 12/2/08

This series was bookended by two New York Times editorials:

The Landmarks Preservation Commission should be a vital part of the planning process in New York City. Instead, it has become a bureaucratic black hole, the place where requests for evaluation — the formal nominations of buildings or districts to be landmarked — go to get filed and forgotten.
~ “The Missing Landmarks Commission,” 10/18/08

We urge Mayor Michael Bloomberg to give preservation more weight in city planning. The next landmarks chairman should come from preservation circles. The commissioners need more independence and authority. There needs to be better communication with the Buildings Department to prevent the confusion that has sometimes resulted in the destruction of a building slated for landmark consideration. ... Landmark decisions should be made expeditiously and transparently with a clear public record of the commission’s decision-making.
~ "Improving the Landmarks Process," New York Times editorial, 12/6/08

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