What Happened in 1965?

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

On April 19, 1965, Mayor Robert F. Wagner signed the Landmarks Law of New York City, and the era of historic preservation began. Since then, almost 1,400 individual landmarks, 115 interior landmarks, 10 scenic landmarks, 109 historic districts, and 10 historic district extensions located throughout all five boroughs have been designated.

  How to Propose a Landmark

What Is The NYC Landmarks Law?

The NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission was established by the Landmarks Law in 1965 to:

  • Safeguard the city's historic, aesthetic, and cultural heritage
  • Help stabilize and improve property values in historic districts
  • Encourage civic pride in the beauty and accomplishments of the past
  • Protect and enhance the city's attractions for tourists
  • Strengthen the city's economy
  • Inform the people of New York City about the value of landmarks for their education, pleasure, and welfare

The Landmarks Law can be found in Chapter 74 of the New York City Charter:

§ 3020. Landmarks Preservation Commission

  1. There shall be a landmarks preservation commission consisting of eleven members. The membership of such commission shall include at least three architects, one historian qualified in the field, one city planner or landscape architect, and one realtor. The membership shall include at least one resident of each of the five boroughs.
  2. (a) The members of the commission shall be appointed by the mayor for terms of three years, provided that of those members first taking office, three shall be appointed for one year, four for two years, and four for three years. Each member shall serve until the appointment and qualification of his or her successor. The terms of members first taking office shall commence on the date of their appointment. (b) Before making any appointment of a member who is required to be an architect, historian or city planner or landscape architect, the mayor may consult with the fine arts federation of New York and any other similar organization. In the event of a vacancy occurring during the term of a member of the commission, the mayor shall make an interim appointment to fill out the unexpired term of such member, and where such member is herein required to have specified qualifications, such vacancy shall be filled by interim appointment of a person having such qualifications, in the manner herein prescribed.
  3. The members of the commission other than the chair, shall serve without compensation, but shall be reimbursed for expenses necessarily incurred in the performance of their duties.
  4. The mayor shall designate one of the members of the commission to be chair and one to be vice-chair. The chair and vice-chair shall serve as such, until a successor or successors are designated. The commission shall appoint an executive director who shall devote full time to his or her duties. The commission shall submit an annual report on its activities to the mayor.
  5. The commission may employ technical experts and such other employees as may be required to perform its duties, within the appropriations therefor.
  6. The commission shall have such powers and duties as shall be prescribed by law with respect to the establishment and regulation of landmarks, portions of landmarks, landmark sites, interior landmarks, scenic landmarks and historic districts.
  7. In order to provide an opportunity for comment, in advance of any hearing on a proposed designation of a landmark, landmark site, interior landmark, scenic landmark or historic district, the commission shall send a notice of the proposed designation and the hearing to the city planning commission, all affected community boards and the office of the borough president in whose borough the property or district is located. 8. All landmarks, landmark sites, interior landmarks, scenic landmarks and historic districts designated by the commission pursuant to any applicable law shall be in full force and effect from and after the date of the action of the commission. Within ten days after making a designation, the commission shall file a copy of such designation with the city planning commission and the council. Within sixty days after such filing, the city planning commission shall (a) hold a public hearing on any such designation of a historic district and (b) shall submit to the council a report with respect to the relation of any such designation, whether of a historic district or a landmark, to the zoning resolution, projected public improvements, and any plans for the development, growth, improvement or renewal of the area involved. The city planning commission shall include with any such report its recommendation, if any, for council action with respect to any such designation of a historic district.
  8. All landmarks, landmark sites, interior landmarks, scenic landmarks and historic districts designated by the commission pursuant to any applicable law shall be in full force and effect from and after the date of the action of the commission. Within ten days after making a designation, the commission shall file a copy of such designation with the city planning commission and the council. Within sixty days after such filing, the city planning commission shall (a) hold a public hearing on any such designation of a historic district and (b) shall submit to the council a report with respect to the relation of any such designation, whether of a historic district or a landmark, to the zoning resolution, projected public improvements, and any plans for the development, growth, improvement or renewal of the area involved. The city planning commission shall include with any such report its recommendation, if any, for council action with respect to any such designation of a historic district.
  9. The council may modify or disapprove by majority vote any designation of the landmarks preservation commission within one hundred twenty days after a copy of such designation is filed with the council provided that the city planning commission has submitted the report required above or that sixty days have elapsed since the filing of the designation with the council. All votes of the council pursuant to this section shall be filed by the council with the mayor and shall be final unless disapproved by the mayor within five days of such filing. Any such mayoral disapproval shall be filed by the mayor with the council and shall be subject to override by a two-thirds vote of the council within ten days of such filing.
  10. (a) There shall be a panel, independent of the commission, consisting of five members appointed by the mayor with the advice and consent of the council in accordance with the procedures in section thirty-one. Such panel shall review appeals from determinations of the commission denying applications for certificates of appropriateness, based on the grounds of hardship, to demolish, alter or reconstruct improvements that are exempt from real property taxes, provided that such appeals may be brought only with respect to applications made under applicable law on the grounds of hardship applicable only to tax-exempt properties.
    (b) Within a reasonable time period, the mayor shall submit to the council a proposed local law establishing the procedure, including the standard of review, for reviews by such panel. If such a local law is not enacted within one year of the effective date of this subdivision, the mayor shall promptly establish by executive order the procedures for reviews by such panel. Such panel shall not review appeals from determinations of the commission until the effective date of such a local law or executive order; provided, however, that any of the applications described in paragraph a of this subdivision that are denied by the commission after the first day of January, nineteen hundred ninety and prior to the effective date of such local law or executive order may be appealed to such panel during a sixty-day period commencing on the effective date of such local law or executive order.
    (c) The provisions of this subdivision shall not be construed to alter or amend the provisions of chapter three of title twenty-five of the administrative code and the judicial interpretations thereof.
    (d) The failure to appeal to the panel for review of a determination of the commission described in paragraph a of this subdivision shall not preclude the commencement of a judicial action or proceeding for review of such a determination; provided, however, that no such action or proceeding may be brought during the pendency of an appeal before the panel. Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this subdivision, the commencement of a judicial action or proceeding for review of a determination of the commission shall preclude the appeal of such a determination to the panel. Any party, including the commission, aggrieved by a final determination of the panel may commence a judicial action or proceeding for review of such determination of the panel.
  11. In addition to the powers conferred by this chapter, the commission shall have the powers specifically conferred upon it by chapter thirty-seven of the charter.
There are four types of designations:

Individually Designated Landmarks There are almost 1,400 individual landmarks that include Carnegie Hall in Midtown Manhattan, the Louis Armstrong House in Queens, the Wonder Wheel in Coney Island, the Bronx Borough Courthouse, and the Alice Austen House in Staten Island.

Interior Landmarks There are 115 interior landmarks that include the Marine Air Terminal at LaGuardia Airport, the RCA Building Lobby at Rockefeller Center, the Sailors' Snug Harbor Chapel in Staten Island, the Crotona Play Center in The Bronx, and the Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower in Brooklyn.

Scenic Landmarks There are ten scenic landmarks: Bryant Park, Verdi Square, Riverside Park and Riverside Drive, Central Park, Fort Tryon Park, Morningside Park, Prospect Park, Eastern Parkway, Ocean Parkway, and Magnolia Grandiflora (a designated tree).

Historic Districts are areas of the city that possess architectural and historical significance, and a distinct “sense of place.” There are 109 historic districts, with 19 historic district extensions. Examples include: Ladies’ Mile in Manhattan, Cobble Hill in Brooklyn, St. George-New Brighton in Staten Island, Jackson Heights in Queens, and Longwood Historic District in The Bronx.

 

What is the NYC LPC?

The NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission is the mayoral agency responsible for identifying, designating, preserving, and regulating New York City's architecturally, historically, and culturally significant buildings and sites. The landmarks law of New York City, considered among the most influential in the nation, stipulates that the Commission must be comprised of at least three architects, a historian, a realtor, a planner or landscape architect, as well as a representative of each borough. The agency consists of eleven Commissioners and approximately 50 staff members, including architects, architectural historians, restoration specialists, planners, and archaeologists, as well as administrative, legal, and clerical personnel. Although it is one of the smallest New York City agencies, the Commission is the largest municipal preservation agency in the United States.