NYC’s Landmark Preservation Law

The New York City Landmarks Preservation Law was created to protect historic landmarks and historical neighborhoods from real estate development that would destroy or fundamentally alter their character. The law was enacted in 1965 with the creation of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission under then-mayor Robert Wagner following significant outcry over the demolition of the historic Pennsylvania Station, which was replaced with Madison Square Garden. (

According to title 25, Chapter 3 of the New York City Administrative Code, the purpose of the Landmarks Law is to:

1. Stabilize and improve property values

2. Foster civic pride

3. Protect and enhance the city’s attractions to tourists

4. Strengthen the economy of the city

5. Promote the use of historic districts, landmarks, interior landmarks, interior landmarks, and scenic landmarks for the education, pleasure and welfare of the people of the city (, 2020)

The legal definition of a historic landmark, as defined by the commission, is a building or structure which is at least 30 years old and has architectural or historical merit. The commission will hold a public hearing to hear the case for whether a structure qualifies, after which the board of eleven members will make a decision.

Under the law, historical landmarks may not be altered or demolished, and restorations and renovations cannot take place without a special certificate of appropriateness granted by the commission. (NYC administrative code, chapter 3)

There are also certain criticisms and calls to reform the law. Two of the most prominent say that landmark properties are costlier to property owners and that the law has opened up a legal gray area with regard to transferable development rights and air rights after a series of legal battles. (, 2015)

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