What is an historic district?

An historic district is an area of the city designated by the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) that represents at least one period or style of architecture typical of one or more areas in the city’s history; as a result, the district has a distinct “sense of place.” Fort Greene, Greenwich Village, Jackson Heights, Mott Haven and St. George/ New Brighton are examples of the more than 80 sections of the city that contain historic districts. Having a neighborhood designated preserves its physical nature and helps protect it from out-of-scale and inappropriate development.

Why was the Landmarks Law enacted?

The Landmarks Law was enacted in 1965 in response to New Yorkers’ growing concern that important physical elements of the city’s history were being lost. Events like the demolition of the architecturally distinguished Pennsylvania Station in 1963 increased public awareness of the need to protect the city’s architectural, historical and cultural heritage.

What is the difference between a New York City historic district and a National Register district?

A New York City district is overseen by the local Landmarks Preservation Commission and protects the character of the district through the local Landmarks Law. A National Register district is recognized through the U.S. Department of the Interior and administered by the New York State Historic Preservation Office. National Register of Historic Places listings are largely honorific and usually do not prevent alterations or demolition of structures within the district, but may entitle owners to tax benefits. Many, if not most of the city’s historic districts are also on the State and National Registers.

Why am I being asked to support the creation of a Landmark District now?

The reason many communities choose to be designated a landmark district is to maintain the beauty and character of their neighborhood by preserving its historic buildings and preventing over-development. During a landmark designation campaign, it’s necessary for a community to educate itself about the affects a landmark district will have on their property.

What benefits does a property owner receive from having their building or community landmarked?

There is a reputation of quality and real estate marketability that is achieved when an owner’s neighborhood is officially designated as a landmark. Landmark property owners benefit from the official commitment to historic preservation and the security of knowing that their property will not be negatively affected by future development trends in the neighborhood. All of these factors can provide peace of mind and confidence in the future of the designated area.

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.

Will I be restricted in the kind of changes I can make? 

Yes. New York City landmark designation does place additional restrictions on historic properties, which most often involve exterior changes. Designation is designed to protect and preserve properties and neighborhoods. This can be beneficial to a property owner by preventing inappropriate changes to neighboring buildings that could take away from property values and the ambiance or enjoyment of the property.

What procedures do I follow to make changes to my landmarked property? 

To make changes, you must apply for a permit from the LPC, which will review your plans and issue a permit or suggest appropriate alterations. The majority of LPC permits are for exterior work and can usually be issued within a few weeks.

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 designated buildings, property owners generally find the extra costs offset by higher resale revenue and property values.

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.

How does historic district designation affect real estate values?

Studies all over the country show that designation improves property values. In 2003 the Independent Budget Office published a study showing that properties within designated New York City historic districts appreciate more in value over the long term than identical properties not in historic districts.

Doesn’t becoming a landmarked district speed up the process of gentrification?

No. There are no definitive studies that prove this. By preserving and protecting existing historic structures, designation prevents rapid, out-of-scale development that often leads to displacement.

Can a building owner opt-out of a Landmark District?

Individual owners cannot opt out of a landmark district.

How does a neighborhood become an historic district?

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. 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.

Is the city going to force me to restore my house back to the way it looked at the time it was built?

No. When a building is drawn into a new landmark district, it’s grandfathered in its present condition. You are not required to do anything to the home except maintain it to the standards of the building code.