Remarks upon receiving Landmarks Conservancy Award

Remarks upon receiving Landmarks Conservancy Award

New York City Councilmember Brad Lander
Chair, New York City Council’s Landmarks Subcommittee
Remarks for Landmarks Conservancy’s Lucy G. Moses Award
Wednesday, April 26, 2012

I’m deeply honored to receive the “Lucy” for public leadership tonight from the Landmarks Conservancy. I’m thrilled to share it with my friend & colleague, Council Member Steve Levin, who showed real leadership & courage in the Council’s consideration of the Brooklyn Skyscraper Historic District designation. I’m also honored to be recognized on the same night as John Belle, a great preservation leader, Brown Memorial Baptist Church in Brooklyn, and so many other fantastic preservation projects.

I want to say a big thank you to the Landmarks Conservancy for the honor, but also for your diligent work to preserve so many NYC’s magnificent, architecturally significant buildings – and especially the role that Peg Breen and Andrea Goldwyn played in the consideration of the Brooklyn Skyscraper district, putting together effective testimony on both the importance of the buildings, and the reasonableness of the cost of preservation.

Thank you also to the many other advocacy groups that spoke up on the issue – the Historic Districts Council, Brooklyn Heights Association, Otis Pearsall and many others. And an additional word of thanks to the advocates (especially the Park Slope Civic Council) who helped achieve the recent designation of the Park Slope Historic District Extension, making the district – which Steve & I share – the largest one in the city … a fitting action to recognize & preserve a great neighborhood. Finally, thank you to Bob Tierney for your strong leadership of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, for both of these important Brooklyn designations, and your work to help preserve our great building and our neighborhoods, all around the five boroughs.

It is great of course to use this moment to celebrate – but I believe it is also very important that we learn from the opposition and pushback around the Brooklyn Skyscraper District. As we saw there, opposition from some owners was seized upon by the real estate industry, and then echoed by the tabloids’ editorial boards, making it seem as though there was a groundswell of anti-preservation sentiment. When they speak out against preservation, opponents alternately present preservation efforts as an elite Manhattan effort, irrelevant to most neighborhoods in the city; or else as civic association-driven over-reach, seeking to designate buildings without historic merit. These are contradictory arguments, of course, but they get at something important.

I believe that a significant majority of New Yorkers share the values of preserving important places that define our city and our neighborhoods, making them places with history & identity, places people want to live. But I also believe that preservation speaks best to them when presented as one important component of broader efforts to create the neighborhoods we want – neighborhoods with good jobs, affordable housing, great open space, livable streets, public transit, and good schools that make neighborhoods places where they want to live, and where they can afford to live.

None of these things can come from unfettered, market-rate development. But I fear we won’t get them by having each one in its own silo, fighting to be heard above the other, while some in the real estate industry claim that trying to achieve any of these goals in any measurable way threatens to destroy the city.

Individually, I fear we won’t have the support we need to build an argument for our neighborhoods strong enough to counter development pressures.

Together, we have a vision for New York, rooted in the values of the people who live here, full of wide variety of places that people love to live, work, shop, and play, so compelling and powerful that it will help us truly preserve & strengthen our city & our communities for generations to come.

Thank you so much for all that you do to keep making the case, to help people envision that city, and to keep fighting to make it real. And thank you for this award, which honors me as your ally in those efforts.

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