What Landmark Designation Means For Building Owners
What is an historic district?
An historic district is an area of the city that has been designated by the Landmarks Preservation Commission because it has a special character of a special historical or aesthetic interest which causes it to have a distinct “sense of place.”
Historic districts may contain a variety of building types and styles from several different eras. For example, the “sense of place: in the Metropolitan Museum Historic District is derived from a mixture of architectural styles ranging from Queen Anne to Art Deco.
How large are Historic Districts?
Historic districts range in size from small groups of historic buildings to areas containing hundreds of properties.
My building is located in an historic district. Do I need the Commission’s approval to make changes?
Yes. Every designated structure, whether it is an individual landmark or a building in a historic district, is protected under the Landmarks Law and subject to the same review procedures. If you want to perform minor work or make alterations to your building (with the exception of the ordinary repairs and interior alterations mentioned below), you must obtain the Commission’s approval before you begin the work.
Are there any types of work that do not require the Commission’s approval?
Ordinary external repairs and maintenance, such as replacing broken window glass or removing painted graffiti, do not require the Commission’s approval. A Landmarks Commission permit for interior work is required in the following cases:
- When the work requires a permit from the Building Department or,
- When work on the interior affects the exterior.
Can buildings in an historic district be demolished or altered?
As is the case for all the City’s landmarks, when permission is sought to demolish or alter a landmark building, a review process is required. Change will occur, but this change is monitored to ensure that the irreplaceable special qualities of the district are not unnecessarily destroyed.
Can I change my house?
Yes. You can build an addition or renovate the interior of your home. The Landmarks Preservation Commission reviews proposed changes to the exterior of a building in a district and is particularly concerned with alterations that are visible from the street. The LPC does not control alterations to the interiors of houses in Historic Districts.
Landmark district designation ensures that change and new development will enhance, not detract, from a district’s special qualities. Existing zoning and building codes apply, and all Douglas Manor deed restrictions would be enforced.
Can I change my garden?
Yes. Only city zoning and deed restrictions apply. Landmark designation does not regulate landscape design.
How does landmark designation affect property values?
There are over 70 historic districts in New York City. Increased real estate values have followed historic district designation in each case.
What do I have to do if I want to renovate or add on to a house in an historic district?
For a simple change, like a minor renovation and application is sent to the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. By law, the LPC must respond within 20 days of receiving the application. For alterations that require a building permit, the LPC is required by law to respond within 90 days.
If I have a house with aluminum siding or other features that are not “historic” will they have to be removed?
No. Anything that exists at the time of designation will be allowed to remain.
I own a building lot in the district and want to build a modern style home. Can I?
Yes. Any style is permissible in an historic district, as long as the LPC feels it is compatible with existing buildings. Plans for a new house are presented to the LPC for review. The LPC’s decision is rendered by a panel of design professionals, and based on the assumption that any new building will enhance and not detract from a district’s special qualities.
What are some of the factors that the Landmarks Preservation Commission considers when it reviews my application?
The staff of the Commission reviews your proposal to evaluate the effect of the proposed changes on the architectural and historical character of your building and/or the historic district.
I own a 1970’s building in a historic district. Why does the Landmarks Commission review changes to my building?
To preserve an historic district’s special character, the Commission reviews changes to all buildings within its boundaries.
The Commission must review the proposed changes to your building to make sure that the overall design is sensitive to the scale and character of the historic district and that the alterations will not detract from the special qualities of the surrounding buildings in the district.
If you apply to the Landmarks Commission to make changes to your building, the Commission will take into account the fact that your building is a contemporary structure. You will not be asked to alter your design to make it look “old fashioned.” If you want to put in new windows, for example, you will not be asked to install multi-paned wooden windows if they did not exist before.
Can the Landmarks Commission make me restore my building to the way it looked when it was first built?
No. The Commission reviews only changes that the property owner proposes to make.
Will the Landmarks Commission make me repair my building?
There was concern when the Landmarks Law was passed that certain owners might allow their historic buildings to deteriorate to such a degree that the buildings would be in danger of losing their significant features or even of falling down.
To help prevent such “demolition by neglect,” the Landmarks Law requires that designated properties be kept in good repair. This provision is similar to the Buildings Department’s requirement that all New York City buildings must be maintained in a safe condition.
Would creation of an historic district prevent houses in the historic district from being used for community facilities, such as churches, temples, day care centers or group homes?
No. Landmark designation does not affect use. Zoning in the district permits community facilities. However, the existence of an historic district ensures that the exterior of a home converted to these other uses would maintain its residential character.
Will landmark designation prevent all alterations and new construction?
No. Landmark designation does not “freeze” a building or an area. Alterations, demolition, and new construction continue to take place, but the Landmarks Commission must review the proposed changes and find them to be appropriate. This procedure helps ensure that the special qualities of the designated buildings are not compromised or destroyed.
In addition, new construction may occur when an owner of a vacant lot or building of no significance in an historic district wished to construct a new building on the site. The Commission has approved such proposals when the design of the infill or replacement building was appropriate to the character of the historic district.
Who enforces the Landmarks Law?
The Landmarks Preservation Commission enforces the Landmarks Law and has staff assigned to handle violations. Anyone can report a violation by calling the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
I want to sell my landmark building. Must I tell the Landmarks Commission?
No, you do not need to tell the Commission that you are selling your building. Landmark designation places no restrictions on an owner’s right to sell his or her property.
What if I can’t afford to replace an expensive feature of my home, like a slate roof?
The Landmarks Preservation Commission staff would assist you in finding a solution to such a problem. Organizations like the Landmarks Conservancy, for example, provide technical assistance, grants and low interest loans for homeowners with financial constraints.
If I sell my building, should I tell the new owner that the building is a landmark?
Yes. Even though the Landmarks Commission registered the designation in the building’s chain of title, it will help the new owner to comply with the Landmarks Law.
Is being designated a New York City landmark different from being listed on the National Register?
Yes. The National Register of Historic Places is a list of buildings and sites of local, state, or national importance. This program is administered by the National Park Service through the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation. The National Register has no connection to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, although many of New York City’s individual landmarks and historic districts are also listed on the National Register. The Douglaston Hill district has been named to The National Register of Historic Places.
For more information, contact the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation.
MAKING CHANGES TO LANDMARK BUILDINGS:
When a Permit is Required
When do I need approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission to make changes to my designated building?
The Commission must approve in advance any restoration, alteration, reconstruction, demolition, or new construction affecting any designated property, including buildings in historic districts.
You need Landmarks Commission approval before you begin work on the exterior, if your proposed project requires a permit from the Department of Buildings. Landmarks Commission approval is also required for any project that will affect the exterior appearance of a designated building, even if a Department of Buildings permit is not needed for the proposed work.
I am considering making changes to my building, but I have some general questions about the Commission’s policies. What should I do?
You may call the Landmarks Commission’s Preservation Department if you need information about the application process, details about the type of drawings or other materials that may be required, or general guidance.
Once you have filed an application form and your application has been assigned to a Preservation Department staff member, a meeting with the staff member may be arranged. This meeting provides an opportunity for you to discuss your plans in more detail.
I want to enlarge my building. May I consult with the Landmarks Commission about my proposal before I file an application?
Yes. If you plan to file an application to enlarge your building or to construct a new building in an historic district, you may arrange to meet with a member of the Commission’s Preservation Department to discuss your proposal. Such a meeting may be helpful if you have questions about the Landmarks Commission’s policies or procedures.
How do I apply to the Landmarks Commission?
You may obtain am application form and a copy of the Instructions for Filing by calling the Landmarks Commission or by picking up the materials at the Commission’s offices. After completing the form and adding your descriptive materials, you may mail or drop off your application.
What material and information should I include with my Landmarks Commission application form?
The descriptive materials needed to complete your application should illustrate the existing conditions of the building and the proposed changes. Depending on the type of work proposed, the descriptive materials could include drawings, photographs and photomontages of street fronts, samples of proposed materials and/or written specifications.
Who should sign the application form?
The application form must be signed by the owner of the property.
What happens after I file my application?
The application is given a docket number and assigned to a member of the Preservation Department staff. If the application is incomplete, the staff member will contact you and explain what additional materials are needed. Depending on the complexity of the proposal, the staff may suggest that you and your architect or contractor come to the Commission’s office to discuss the proposed project. A meeting at the property may also be arranged.
The staff member will then review the proposal to evaluate the effect of the proposed changes on the architectural and historic character of the building and/or the historic district.
If the staff believes that the proposed work would detract from your building’s significant architectural features, the staff may be able to suggest alternatives that would satisfy your practical requirements while maintaining the architectural integrity of the building. The staff member will also provide guidance regarding materials and restoration or construction techniques, if needed.
What types of permits does the Landmarks Commission issue?
The Commission issued Certificates of No Effect, Permits for Minor Work, and Certificates of Appropriateness. The type of permit issued depends upon the proposed work. After you submit the completed “Application Form for Work on Designated Properties,” the Landmarks Commission staff will determine which type of permit could be issued based on your description of the proposed work.
The permit is issued in the form of a letter from the Landmarks Commission to the applicant. The permit describes the proposed work and explains why it has been approved. A permit card is sent with the letter; the card must be posted prominently at the building while the work is underway.
If the permit is denied, the Landmarks Commission sends a letter to the applicant stating the reasons why the proposed work was found to be inappropriate. The applicant may then choose to revise the proposal and submit a new application.
1) Certificate of No Effect: A Certificate of No Effect on Protected Architectural Features, or “CNE”, is issued by the Landmarks Commission when the proposed work requires a Department of Buildings permit but does not affect the protected architectural features of a building.
Examples of work for which a CNE is needed are interior renovations that require Department of Buildings permits, installation of plumbing and heating equipment, and other changes that the Landmarks Commission determines do not aversely affect significant features of the building.
The Landmarks Commission reviews such proposed work in order to make sure that it will not affect protected features or detract from the special character of and historic district. For instance, the vent of a kitchen exhaust fan might cut through a significant decorative feature of the fa�ade or an interior partition might partially block a front window. If the Landmarks Commission finds that a proposed alteration would affect a building’s significant protected features, the staff member may be able to help the applicant revise the proposal to achieve a satisfactory solution.
2) Permit for Minor Work: A Permit for Minor Work, or “PMW”, may be issued by the Landmarks Commission when the proposed work will affect significant protected architectural features but does not require a Department of Buildings permit.
Examples of such work include window or door replacement, masonry cleaning or repair, and restoration of architectural details. When evaluating an application for a PMW, the Landmarks Commission reviews the proposed changes to determine whether they are appropriate to the building and/or the historic district.
3) Certificate of Appropriateness: A Certificate of Appropriate neww, of “C of A”, is needed when the proposed work requires a Department of Buildings permit and will affect significant protected architectural features. Additions, demolitions, new construction, and removal of architectural features, such as stoops and cornices, usually require a C of A.
When the proposed work does not require a permit from the Department of Buildings, but has been denied, a PMW by the Commission, the owner may apply for a Certificate of Appropriateness.
The Landmarks Law requires that a public hearing be held for each C of A application. At least six Commissioners must vote in favor of an application in order for it to be approved. The Landmarks Commission conducts C of A hearings every month, usually on the fourth Tuesday of the month. Notice of each Landmarks Commission hearing is published in the “City Record” for ten days before the hearing, and Community Boards are notified of applications affecting properties within their districts.
At the hearing, the applicant is given the opportunity to explain why he or she believes that the application should be approved. The public may also comment on the proposed work. The applicant and the public may also submit written statements before the hearing.
In many cases, the Commissioners discuss and vote on a C of A application on the same day that the public hearing is held. Sometimes, however, they request additional information about the proposal before voting.
Usually, the Commissioners will make a decision on a C of A application based on “presentation” or “design development” drawings of a proposed project. After the Commissioners vote to approve an application, the applicant may be required to submit construction drawings in order for the approval to become final. The actual C of A permit is not issued until the staff has reviewed the final construction drawings to make sure that the final plans are consistent with the proposal approved by the Commissioners.
When will the Landmarks Commission make a decision about my application?
Once the staff has confirmed that an application is complete, the Landmarks Commission will make a decision as quickly as possible. The Commission must make its decision within the following time periods:
Certificate of No Effect, 30 working days
Permit for Minor Work, 20 working days
Certificate of Appropriateness, 90 working days
In most instances, a decision is made in much less time. The period of time needed to process a complete application depends on such factors as the complexity of the proposed alteration and whether a site visit is needed.
If you desire to have more time to prepare additional information or to revise a proposal in response to issued raised by the Commissioners or the staff, you may submit a written statement extending the Landmarks Commission’s time to make a decision on the proposal.
When the Commission reviews an application for a Certificate of Appropriateness, what factors does it consider?
The Landmarks Commission assesses the effects of the proposed work on the significant features of the landmark and the compatibility of the proposed changes with the building’s appearance and character. The Commission considers the building’s architectural, historical, and cultural significance and its architectural style, as well as the proportions, materials, textures, and colors of the existing and proposed designs, among other factors.
In an historic district, the Landmarks Commission also considers the effect of the proposed work on neighboring buildings and on the special character of neighboring buildings and on the special character of the district.
For example, even if a proposed addition to a landmark does not exceed zoning limits regarding height and bulk, the Landmarks Commission may deny a permit for the addition if it finds that the design and materials would detract from the landmark’s architectural significance.
I need a Department of Buildings permit for my proposed project. Do I have to file with the Department of Buildings before applying to the Landmarks Commission?
You may file with the Department of Buildings first only if you are applying to enlarge your building or to construct a new building in an historic district.
For other types of work requiring permits from the Department of Buildings, such as storefront installations, cornice replacements, and interior alterations, you may file your application with the Landmarks Commission first, if you wish.
However, the Commission’s permit cannot be issued until you have supplied the Department of Buildings application number to Commission.
Will the Department of Buildings issue a permit before the Landmarks Commission has approved my application?
No. The Department of Buildings will not issue a permit in response to your application unless you have first received a Landmarks Commission permit for the proposed work.
I want to enlarge my building, and I need a permit from the Department of Buildings. Should I file an application with the Department of Buildings before I apply to the Landmarks Commission?
Yes. The Landmarks Commission cannot complete its review of applications to enlarge buildings or to construct new buildings in historic districts until the Department of Buildings has reviewed plans for consistency with the Zoning Resolution and determines whether any special permits or waivers would be required to carry out the proposed work. Any objections found will be listed on an Objection Sheet.
The Department of Buildings gave me an Objection Sheet. Should I give the Landmarks Commission a copy of this sheet?
Yes, if you are filing an application to enlarge your designated building or to construct a new building in an historic district.
The Commission will not certify your application as complete (and consequently cannot schedule your application for a public hearing) until it has received a copy of the Objection Sheet.
The Objection Sheet summarizes the results of the Department of Buildings’ review of your application. The Landmarks Commission must review the Objection Sheet to make sure that you will not be required to alter the plans filed with the Commission in response to the Department of Buildings’ objections.
The Department of Buildings gave me a docket number when I filed my application. Should I include this number on my Landmarks Commission application form?
Yes. The Department of Buildings gives each application a “BN” (Building Notice), “ALT (Alteration), or “NB” (New Building) number, depending on the type of work proposed. You should include this number on your Landmarks Commission application form.