Proposed Changes to the Demolition Process in Manhattan

The printed word is dying.  Newspapers are becoming a dying relic, and bookstores everywhere are shuttering their doors.  To the dismay of many New Yorkers, the famous Midtown bookstore Rizzoli Bookstore became another casualty April 15th when the century-old building will be shuttered for good and demolished to make way for new construction.  After a failed attempt to landmark the building to ensure its preservation, supporters are now calling for a change to the landmarking process.

In response to this furor, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer recently introduced legislation that would require the Landmark Preservation Commission review all plans to raze buildings more than 50 years old.  Every building would be publicly evaluated for landmark status for 30 days before demolition.  Proponents argue that this change would ensure old buildings similar to the Rizzoli Bookstore won’t befall a similar fate.

Not everyone is on board with the proposal.  While some argue that landmarking is a crucial way to retain the spirit of New York City, others see it as too much of a good thing.  Just last summer, the Real Estate Board released a scathing review of the Landmark Preservation Commission that heavily criticized Manhattan’s existing landmarking policies as overreaching and stifling to the economic growth of the city.  One-third of the borough is already landmarked, the Board pointed out, and vetting proposed construction work through the LPC adds weeks onto the already drawn-out permit approval process–assuming the work even meets the LPC’s stringent requirements.  At best, critics say of Brewer’s proposal, reviewing every old building before demolition will just add more delays and another layer of bureaucracy to the process.  At worst, even more of Manhattan will be landmarked, leaving the city with even less room to grow.

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