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Volume 73, Number 27 | November 05 - 11, 2003

Landmark head: Waterfront district not top priority

By Albert Amateau

Robert Tierney, head of the city Landmarks Preservation Commission, appeared at a Greenwich Village Chelsea Chamber of Commerce breakfast last week as a longtime Village resident and an enthusiastic preservation advocate.

Tierney, a former counsel to former Mayor Ed Koch and Governor Hugh Carey, was appointed earlier this year by Mayor Bloomberg to lead the Landmarks Commission.

He assured preservation advocates at the Oct. 29 Chamber breakfast that the mayor takes landmarks preservation seriously. “I get all the support that I need,” Tierney said.

In response to anxious questions from preservation advocates, Tierney defended the proposal to impose fees for landmarks applications. “We need a modest fee schedule to generate revenue to support our activities and to hold us safe in the face of budget cuts,” he said, reminding Chamber members that many city agencies have had to tighten their belts.

Albert Bennett, a West Village preservation advocate, suggested increasing fines for landmarks violations. “Fines not fees could support Landmarks activities. We need them to enforce preservation rules,” Bennett said.

Tierney, however, noted that fines are administered by the city Environmental Control Board. “The fines don’t go to Landmarks and they’re not enough to support us,” Tierney said. The commissioner told the Chamber that a revised Landmarks fee structure would be ready by the end of the year.

Stuart Waldman, a longtime advocate for a “Maritime Mile” Historic District along the Hudson waterfront between 14th and Canal Sts., urged Tierney to create the district first proposed 30 years ago. “We’re still waiting,” said Waldman. “Since then, 20 new buildings have gone up.”

Tierney said the commission staff is still considering a Village waterfront district. “I know that development is going up fast,” he said. “We’re talking about it but I can’t say it’s on the front burner. I don’t want to give you false hopes,” Tierney told Waldman.

Tierney called L.P.C.’s designation of the Gansevoort Market Historic District a “crowning achievement,” and predicted its swift approval by the City Planning Commission and the City Council.

The Greenwich Village Historic District, Tierney noted, has 235 individual buildings, more than 10 percent of all the buildings in historic districts citywide. Since the agency was established in 1965, the Landmarks Commission has designated 1,205 individual landmarks and 80 historic districts with 2,200 buildings.

The historic character of the Village is partly attributed to the fact the neighborhood developed before the rectangular street grid was imposed. “We’ve had a natural barrier to change,” Tierney said.


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