Urban Fold

Landmarking Urban Change in New York

Has historic preservation been responsible for making New York a luxury city? A former member of the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission argues no.

Roberta Brandes Gratz, author of The Battle For Gotham: New York in the Shadow of Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs, doesn't think landmarking deserves the bad rap it's received in some quarters.

"Critics of historic preservation make the egregious error of assuming that landmarking stops change, growth and other categories of 'progress.' They also mistakenly assume that it is the designation of these neighborhoods that make them increasingly expensive, forgetting that New York City has become a city for the rich and the poor for national and local economic reasons that have nothing to do with preservation."

The future, she says, is in density:

"For most of the 20th century, in fact until only recently, the planning and policy mantra has mistakenly been that de-densifying cities fights crime and poverty. Finally, recognition that the reverse is true is being recognized. De-concentrating poverty is not the same thing as de-densifying neighborhoods. Only the latter has long been happening with the new construction.

"It is indeed true, as preservation naysayers love to point out, that historic districts have become expensive but it is not because new excessively tall skyscrapers are not allowed; it is because these areas -- and many undesignated ones like them -- are considered the most desirable neighborhoods to live in."

Thanks to Matt Sledge

Full Story: Landmarking Urban Change in New York



Bravo for Gratz

As usual Roberta Gratz has offered insight, sanity and reality in response to the odd attack on historic preservation being launched by the likes of Edward Glaeser. Preservation is not the culprit for the expense of living in desirable neighborhoods and its elimination (long the goal of real estate interests) will not make such neighborhoods more accessible to all, it will only lead to their gradual destruction and the loss of the vitality, livability, and economic energy that historic districts contribute to our cities. Historic preservation is part and parcel of the triumph of the city. ACW

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