Most likely you will never attend a NYCLPC hearing unless you have a building that is up for alteration, you object to the alteration that your neighbor is making on their building, or you represent a preservation organization. My attendance was self motivated by my desire to learn more about all aspects of historic properties. I wanted to know who it was that watched over the sea of historic buildings and districts and who it was that could change the face of the city with a thumbs up or decisively keep a building from alterations with a thumbs down.
As I walked into the hearing room on my first visit I felt at least one person must be wondering what committee I was on, what architectural firm I was with, or what position I held with the Commission. It brought a slight discomfort that I was expected to be Someone, but I allowed them to keep guessing as I quietly took my seat and pulled the agenda print-out from my bag. The list of buildings being considered for alterations on a given hearing date is conveniently posted on the NYCLPC website about 3 weeks prior; this gives anyone interested time to look over any proposals that are of interest, visit the properties and view supporting papers the Friday before.
PRESENTATIONS & DEVELOPMENT
Presentations usually included the tenant/owner and the architect of the building in question. Numerous Coroplast boards covered with photographs of before and after renditions and architectural drawings were displayed and discussed occasionally accompanied by PowerPoint. Commission questions to the presenter followed relating to materials being used, changes in the skyline and street view, architecture and preservation of existing material. A discussion among the Commissioners and an announcement of their determination closed each presentation.
CONSTRUCTION & HISTORY OF BUILDINGS
Quite a few buildings up for discussion that day were built in the 1800s and the Commission took the time to thoroughly consider things like whether or not the brick that a store owner suddenly discovered behind a façade should remain exposed. Along with learning about the basics of historic building construction, several presenters went through the entire history and evolution of their building. I was able to get a feel for the area in which the building was situated and learned about the people who make up this great city. Some presenters were just doing what was necessary to move on with construction while others were very concerned about the preservation of their building and wanted to gain the Commission’s assistance in alteration designs.
Believe it or not, the Commission runs through this routine 24-26 times three or four times a month. As part of New York House Histories communications, I plan on sharing some of the details of select buildings that come before the Commission. If you are interested in a particular area of the city let me know. In the meantime take a visit to the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission website at http://www.nyc.gov/html/lpc/html/home/home.shtml It is an amazing educational experience about those who regulate the city skyline.