What is a NYC Historic District?
A historic district is an area of a neighborhood that is landmarked by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). The LPC is a NYC agency that has the authority to designate areas where the buildings represent a period or style of architecture typical of the city’s history and give that area a distinct “sense of place.” The purpose of landmarking is to protect existing building exteriors and prevent out-of-scale and historically insensitive redevelopment.
But isn’t Sunset Park already on the National Register of Historic Places?
Yes, but that doesn’t protect our neighborhood. The National Register of Historic Places is a list of places worthy of preservation. But being on the Register doesn’t protect our neighborhood—it doesn’t prevent alterations to a building’s façade or demolition of buildings. Only New York City historic district with landmark designation will preserve the look and feel of our neighborhood.
Are we trying to landmark all of Sunset Park?
No. Only buildings which still have most of their original exterior architectural character intact are candidates. Also, the buildings should to be contiguous. Therefore, only blocks where most of the buildings are largely unaltered on the outside can be considered.
How does historic district designation affect real estate values?
Studies all over the country show that designation stabilizes and slightly improves property values. In 2003 the Independent Budget Office published a study showing that properties within designated New York City historic districts raise more in value over the long term than identical properties not in historic districts. Click here for the report
Will living in a designated historic district raise my taxes?
No. There is no evidence that those living in an historic district pay higher property taxes than residents outside of the district. The city does not consider whether a building is within an historic district when assessing its taxes.
Won't I face additional restrictions in how I can alter my property?
Yes, New York City landmark designation does place additional restrictions on historic properties, but this only involves exterior changes. Designation is designed to protect and preserve properties and neighborhoods. This can be beneficial to a property owner by preventing undesirable changes to neighboring buildings that could take away from property values and the ambiance or enjoyment of the property.
If my neighborhood or building is designated, will I be required to restore my property?
No. The LPC does not require restoration or force owners to return buildings to their original condition. The LPC only regulates proposed work on designated structures. It may, however, make recommendations for restorative treatment when other work is undertaken to the property.
Can I receive financial aid to do work on my home if it’s in a historic district?
You may qualify for grants or low interest loans, especially if you are a senior citizen or on a fixed income. Two sources are the Historic Preservation Grant Program administered by the LPC (212-669-7944, www.nyc.gov/landmarks
) and the New York Landmarks Conservancy (212-995-5260).
Does becoming a landmarked historic district speed up gentrification?
No. There are no definitive studies to support that.
Landmark designation prevents the demolition
of historic properties and preserves and protects
the existing character of a historic community,
thereby stopping the construction of high-rise,
out-of-scale, luxury housing that often leads to
displacement. Sunset Park has always been about
affordable housing for all, and there’s no reason that landmarking should change that.
What does living in a historic district mean?
Having parts of neighborhood designated by the LPC as an historic district preserves the physical nature of the area and is designed to retain the unique sense of place the neighborhood possesses. It will also help protect the area from out-of-scale and inappropriate development.
Sunset Park was downzoned. Isn't that enough?
Sunset Park was re-zoned to R6b. In general, the re-zoning means much taller buildings can be built on 4th Avenue but not on the side streets. However, in general, it does allow a rowhouse to be taller by about 10 feet than what we already have. That means a typical rowhouse of about 30 feet can have an entire story added right on top, and that's allowed by zoning. Rowhouses that are in a historic district can have an additional story built on top, but only if it the new story is nearly invisible from the street. That's how a historic district can preserve the look of a block.
What about my windows?
The windows you have now will be “grandfathered in”. If at some point they are beyond repair and you need to replace your windows, the LPC would like to see period appropriate windows installed. However, the LPC understands that windows are expensive and does allow for alternative windows other than wood. Aluminum framed windows are allowed if the aluminum doesn’t cover the brickmold (the exterior wood molding around the window).
Does it cost more to maintain a landmarked building?
It may. Although there can be an additional expense for historically appropriate repair and maintenance of historic buildings, property owners generally find the additional costs offset by higher resale revenue and property values.
Will I have to use a specific contractor?
No. As a city agency, the LPC cannot require you to use a certain contractor.
Do I need to talk to LPC to install security gates or repair a broken door?
Yes. In the cases like this, the LPC can expedite a permit for safety reasons.
How does historic district designation affect development within a district?
Development is permitted in historic districts. Developers are subject to the same approval process by the Landmarks Commission as are other property owners. Even though development may be reviewed in terms of aesthetics, height, and bulk, developers may benefit from the prestige and association that come with designation. To encourage sensitive alterations and renovations, federal and state tax credits are available. The real estate community markets historic properties in a way that places emphasis and greater value on the building's and neighborhood's special character.
What procedures will I have to follow to make changes to my property?
To make changes to the exterior you must apply for a permit from the LPC, which will review your plans and issue a permit or suggest appropriate changes. The LPC permits for exterior alterations can be issued within a few weeks.
What is zoning?
Zoning regulates a building's use (e.g.: commercial vs. residential) and a building's size.
How does a neighborhood become a landmarked historic district?
The process of designating an historic district starts when the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) begins to consider an area worthy of special protection. However, rarely does the designation of a neighborhood happen without substantial community involvement. Therefore it's important that the community and its elected representatives be involved in, and supportive of, the preservation effort by organizing a community group to promote landmark designation.
When the public, a community member, or a group wishes an area or property to be considered for designation, a Request for Evaluation (RFE) must be submitted to the LPC. This request is a single-page form that asks for information about the property or area (the minimum is 1 page, but most often a group will submit a whole binder detailing the area).
The LPC reviews the RFE, makes site visits, does further research and decides if a district is worthy of further consideration. The community can also make known to the LPC that there is strong support for this designation in the form of letters, phone calls or e-mails to the Commission. It is also recommended that community members meet with the LPC chair and staff to tour the neighborhood.
Once the LPC decides that an area is worthy of further consideration, calendaring is the first official step in the designation process. Calendaring is an action the LPC takes. Calendaring establishes that an item will be scheduled for a LPC Public Hearing. This Public Hearing is organized and managed by the LPC. This is also when boundaries of the potential district are proposed by the LPC.
The Public Hearing is how the LPC communicates with the neighborhood. The LPC invites the community to the LPC Public Hearing and gives members of the community, elected officials and interested parties an opportunity to give testimony for or against the designation of the proposed district. Sometime after the Public Hearing (in most cases), the LPC will take a vote on the district. If the vote is favorable, a Designation Report is issued and the new historic district is now protected.
Once the historic district is designated, the designation is subject to review by the City Planning Commission (CPC) and to a vote by the City Council. The CPC's role is advisory only, but the City Council can approve, modify or overturn the designation.
What Did We Do?
In January 2013 we launched a 15 month project of engagement and outreach with the Sunset Park community about preservation to learn what residents think about the dramatic exterior changes being made to 100+ year old rowhouses and how they feel about landmarking to protect the row houses.
What we did:
- Canvassed 15 blocks and spoke with more than 400 homeowners.
- Held more than 16 outreach events throughout the neighborhood.
- Gave 7 walking tours highlighting the history and cultural diversity of Sunset Park and discussing the need for both affordable housing and preservation.
- Met with elected officials.
- Met with community organizations and institutions to discuss and listen to their views on preservation.
March 2014 - submitted our Request For Evaluation (RFE) to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which you can see on our Downloads page.
March 2015 - took the Landmarks Preservation Commission on a trolley tour of the study area.
Who Supports Landmarking?
- Over 400 homeowners
- 3,000 Sunset Park residents, owners and renters, signed the Sunset Park Landmarks Committee petition and postcards in support of a historic district.
- Councilman Carlos Menchaca
- Assemblyman Felix Ortiz
- Former State Senator Jesse Hamilton
- Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez
- Community Board 7
- Sunset Park 5th Ave BID
- Chinese-American Planning Council
- Green-Wood Cemetery
- Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce
- Bethelship Norwegian United Methodist Church
The LPC designated four Historic Districts in Sunset Park on June 18th, 2019!
See the map.
After 7 years of committed work, Sunset Parkers finally got the protection of the Landmarks Law for more than 500 houses on 12 blocks!