Author Archives: Simeon Bankoff

Simeon Bankoff

About Simeon Bankoff

Since 2000, Simeon Bankoff has been the executive director of a New York City based Historic Districts Council (HDC), a not-for-profit organization working to preserve the history of New York City by advocating for the protection of historic buildings and neighborhoods.

City Island Landmarks Rejected by NYC City Council


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Samuel H. & Mary T. Booth House, 30 Center Street City Island, The BronxOn Monday, March 12th, the City Council Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Uses voted to reject the designation of two individual landmarks on City Island in The Bronx, the Samuel H. and Mary T. Booth House and the Stafford “Osborn” House.

The reason given by Subcommittee Chair Adrienne Adams and referenced by other committee members was the Council practice of ceding control of land-use decisions to the local councilmember, in this instance CM Mark Gjonaj. CM Gjonaj was reported to oppose the landmark designations of these two private houses because their owners were reported to object to the designations. It’s important to note that neither the Councilmember nor the owners appeared at the public hearings although CM Gjonaj was reported to have submitted a statement for the record. CM Gjonaj had previously voted against affirming a landmark designation in Bushwick, Brooklyn which had local Councilmember support but whose owner opposed the designation. Continue reading

South St Seaport Among America’s Endangered Places


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South Street Seaport in the 1970sThe South Street Seaport has been named one of America’s 11 Most Endangered Places according the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Since 1988, the National Trust has used this campaign to raise awareness about the threats facing some of the nation’s greatest treasures.

The South Street Seaport is a designated NYC Historic District and is considered the first World Trade Center, as it was NYC’s birth place of commerce. Continue reading

NYC Preservation Commission Cutting 96 Sites


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unnamed(29)UPDATE 12/5: The New York Times is reporting that the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission has dropped its plan to remove 96 sites from landmark consideration.

The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) has announced an Administrative Action to “de-calendar” 94 proposed Individual Landmarks and two proposed Historic Districts from its roster (see map and list). These properties have been “Calendared” or “Heard But Not Designated” for at least five years. Continue reading

NYC Historic Districts Council Opposes Frick Expansion


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Frick Expansion planAfter many thoughtful meetings and two site visits to The Frick over several months, the Historic Districts Council has determined that we cannot support the proposed institutional expansion at the individually landmarked Frick. Our thoughts are outlined in our statement below:

In a city of superlatives, The Frick is unique. One of the last remaining Millionaire’s Row mansions of the Gilded Age, The Frick residence was designed from the beginning to become a museum. Henry Clay Frick stipulated in his will that his home become “a public gallery of art to which the entire public shall forever have access…”and to this end, a separate Board of Directors for his art collection was established after his death in 1920. After the death of Mr. Frick’s wife Adelaide in 1931, architect John Russell Pope was commissioned to architecturally guide the mansion’s transition to a museum (described in its 1973 designation report as “sensitive architectural blendings of alterations and additions with the original mansion”).  From its beginnings, The Frick has been a thoughtful, considered place. Continue reading

Commission Approves NYC Rooftop Additions


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View of the Hudson from inside the Apthorp open air north pergolaA revised proposal for rooftop additions to the Apthorp was approved unanimously on August 12, 2014, by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). The Apthorp is a NYC Individual Landmark, designed by architects Clinton & Russell and completed in 1908, and occupies a full city block between Broadway and West End Avenue and West 78th and 79th Streets.

The proposal was the third iteration of a plan first heard at LPC Public Hearing in November, 2013, which drew palpable opposition from elected officials, noted architects, community groups, neighbors and Apthorp residents. Continue reading

HDC Responds To NYC Historic Preservation Study


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REBNYThe Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) is at it again! To welcome newly appointed New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission Chair Meenakshi Srinivan on her first day, the trade association and lobbying group released yet another study claiming that landmark designation inhibits the development of affordable housing and is at odds with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration’s goals of preserving and creating 200,000 units of affordable housing over the next ten years.

REBNY’s complaints are nothing new, they are based on the group’s long-held and often-repeated premise that building on a landmarked site is so expensive and arduous that no one would ever want to do it. Continue reading

On Park Avenue, A Preservation Declaration of ‘No Style’


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1010-Park-Avenue-1920s_NYPL-300x287On Tuesday, April 29th, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) voted to designate the Park Avenue Historic District as the city’s 111th historic district.

I am thrilled about this designation and is especially thankful for the LPC’s swift action on this item. However, the commissioners’ deliberate decision to specify the Park Avenue Christian Center’s rectory and parish house as “no style” is confusing. When you think of a place with “no style”, Park Avenue is not what usually comes to mind. Continue reading

The Next NYC Landmarks Commission Chair


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NYC Landmarks Preservation CommissionIt is the Historic Districts Council’s firm belief, backed up by decades of observation, that the New York City Landmarks Law and the Commission empowered by it have enhanced and improved New York City.  Landmark designation stabilizes neighborhoods, enhances property values, empowers communities and attracts private investment into the city. More importantly, landmarks and historic districts provide a physical continuity to our city’s past, enabling residents and visitors alike to physically experience New York’s history.

With all this in mind, it’s no mystery that the still unfilled de Blasio appointment for Landmarks Chair is a matter of great interest to us and we have thought a great deal about the type of person whom we’d like to see in the role. Continue reading

Ladies’ Mile Historic District: Plan Will Demolish Buildings


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unnamed(10)Today, the owner of 51 and 53 West 19th Street in the Ladies’ Mile Historic District in New York City will request the Landmarks Preservation Commission for permission to demolish two buildings and to construct a 14-story building in their place. Unfortunately, this is not an April’s Fool joke.

51 and 53 West 19th Street are five-story, residential buildings built in 1854 which were converted to commercial and/or manufacturing use in the 1920s. Such a history is very much in keeping with the Ladies’ Mile Historic District. In fact, the designation report lists “converted dwellings” as a building type in the district along with “residential construction”, “office buildings”, “store and loft buildings”, and “retail stores/department stores.” The report points out that after World War I, the shopping district had moved north and the area’s focus shifted to manufacturing. The 1916 zoning resolution had prohibited the construction of tall buildings on mid-block sites, and so instead the surviving residential buildings were converted. Converted dwellings are obviously a part of the fabric of the district, and these two nicely-designed buildings are good examples of this typology. Continue reading