New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) voted to streamline environmental—and signage—approval processes last week in accordance with Mayor Adams’s “Get Stuff Built” strategy. The LPC’s approval process, which commonly draws the ire of architect’s for its onerousness, approves interior and exterior work for landmarked buildings with a few exceptions. 11 mayoral-appointed commissioners and 80 staff workers helm the LPC.
Work that significantly impacts landmarked buildings or is not in-line with the LPC’s rules must receive a Certificate of Appropriateness, which requires the applicant to present their case to the LPC and local community board in which the building is located, at a public hearing. With this, a significant amount of work on landmarked buildings must go through a public process before approval. The LPC’s recent reforms move away from this for some types of work.
On the environmental front, the LPC will now allow a broader range of solar panel installations to be approved by staff members, without the need for review at publicly-viewable LPC meetings. The same will now go for HVAC upgrades and planted beds, bioswales, and expanded tree pits within historic districts, which is also under the purview of the LPC.
On the signage front, the LPC has made the application process for signage changes on landmarked buildings more lenient for small business owners. The changes “codify additional options for specific types of commercial signage and other provisions related to storefronts.” This change complements the LPC’s Business Express Service, which houses LPC staff members specifically serving requests from business owners in landmarked buildings.
LPC commission chair Sarah Carroll said that “with today’s vote, the Commission continues to fulfill its commitment to a stronger and more resilient New York City, finding new ways to serve our small business community, and partnering with building owners as we move towards a more sustainable New York… Landmark-designated buildings can and should be climate resilient and energy efficient, and these rules will make it easier for building owners to achieve this common goal.”
Additional LPC changes announced last week include streamlining the Expedited Certificates of No Effect process, which is required when building work requires a Department of Buildings permit and is handled by staff members, not through public hearings. Eligibility requirements for building owners applying to the Historic Preservation Grant Program will also be updated to be in-line with federal criteria.
Robert Holbrook, executive director of Get Stuff Built, described the changes as “a great example of expediting the permitting review process without reducing the protection and preservation of New York City’s history and culture.”