05 April 2011

My problems with the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission are deep. While I don't dispute the motive of preserving the character of neighborhoods and buildings, I do have problems with the manner in which they are pursued. For one, their principles are only applied politically. If you want to gut a designated landmark and build a 40 story office tower on it, that is deemed appropriate. Yet heaven forefend one propose an addition on the back of a brownstone! They seem consistent in their caprice.

I just came across their updated Rowhouse Manual http://www.nyc.gov/html/lpc/downloads/pdf/lp_rhmanual.pdf. In true LPC fashion, they have missed a great opportunity. A truly essential element to all building today is the manner in which they conserve energy. In New York the energy efficient renovation of historical structures is a huge opportunity to reduce our environmental footprint. The rowhouse manual is solely concerned with how things look, not how they work. There is no discussion of how one might improve performance while maintaining the historical character. While I understand that the manual's primary mission is an understanding of best practices for preservation, some discussion of other building practices would make a large contribution, at least through broaching the subject to the public. LPC has again missed the tenor of the times and remain mired in their 19th century Disneyland vision.

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