Claire Holt/COURTESY Beyer Blinder Belle
In his 35 years at Beyer Blinder Belle, managing partner Frederick Bland has become one of the city’s foremost preservation architects. He has worked on such prominent projects as Grand Central Terminal, Rockefeller Center, Ellis Island, and, most recently, the refinery component of the New Domino complex in Williamsburg. But as of today, he will begin shaping the city’s historic fabric on a much grander scale as the newest member of the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
“It certainly fits my skill sets and my interests,” Bland told AN after his appointment was affirmed at a City Council committee hearing this morning. Bland will replace Jan Pokorny, the former commission chair and preservationist pioneer who had been serving in absentia for the past year or so before passing away in May. The council also reappointed commissioners Joan Gerner and Christopher Moore.
Robert Tierney, the current chair of the commission, commended all three colleagues and their commitment to preservation in the city. “The mayor has really strengthened the commission with these appointments,” he said in brief remarks at the council chambers.
For a moment, it seemed as though Bland might be too qualified to join the commission when Diana Reyna, chair of the Rules, Privileges, and Elections Committee, pointed out the potential for conflicts of interest. But after a quick review of his signed agreement with the city, which the Conflict of Interest Board approved, Reyna gave her assent. The agreement stipulates that Bland will recuse himself from any decisions involving his firm as well as any that could involve a financial interest.
Bland said that he will miss the challenges offered by bringing projects before the commission, though joining it provides a world of new ones. “I, personally, have to be out of it, which is somewhat painful,” he said. “But I have also enjoyed a level of success bringing projects to the commission. I can’t do that anymore and I’ll miss it.”
Bland joined Beyer Blinder Belle upon graduating with a masters in architecture from Yale in 1972. At the same time, he moved to Brooklyn Heights—the city’s oldest historic district, as he is fond of pointing out. He eventually joined the Brooklyn Heights Association and became its president in the early 1990s. He has also been involved with the New York Fund for Architecture, the Evergreens Cemetery, and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, where he currently serves as the chair.
As the commission’s newest member, Bland hopes to push for greater enforcement, especially with the city’s historic properties growing at a rapid rate. “There’s a lot more ground to cover these days,” he said. Another concern is so-called demolition by neglect, when a landmark’s owner allows a property to deteriorate to the point where it must come down for safety reasons. Bland said the commission must work faster to force owners to maintain their historic buildings, which is within its legal power.
“He is an excellent choice in so many ways,” Alex Herrera of the Landmarks Conservancy told the committee in his testimony today. “Furthermore, he is levelheaded, fair-minded, and widely respected in the preservation community. We believe he is one of the best-equipped individuals to serve on the Landmarks Preservation Commission.”