Celebrating a 50th Anniversary is exciting. There was no guarantee when we launched in 1973 that we’d make it this far. It is also enlightening. We’ve been pulling together five decades of projects, programs, publications, and people. The Conservancy has done a lot. We discovered things even we didn’t know about earlier efforts.
Our founders were visionaries. The New York Landmarks Preservation Commission was only eight years old when we started. But it was already clear that designation alone wouldn’t always save a building. The founders saw the need for a group with financial and technical skills to help property owners maintain their historic structures. They also sought a group that could devote the time required to pull off major preservation projects.
And here we are. From gutsy beginnings finding new uses for vacant public buildings like the Custom House on Bowling Green and Federal Archive Building in Greenwich Village, we’ve become one of the largest preservation groups in the country. Our range of financial and technical programs has helped maintain more than 1,000 historic structures. That includes immediate rescue efforts after 9/11 and Superstorm Sandy and continuing to work through a pandemic.
At our 25th anniversary, we proudly noted that we’d provided $10.5 million to preserve worthy buildings and neighborhoods. That number is now $60 million.
Our advocacy has helped promote hundreds of new landmarks and dozens of distinctive neighborhoods, support preservation tax credits, produce pioneering economic reports on preservation, and fight zoning and planning efforts that threaten historic areas.
It hasn’t always been easy. New York is often cavalier with its history. The tug of war between preservation and development continues. New York will always grow and change. We’ve always promoted appropriate development and often work with developers to improve projects, rather than just oppose them.
We’ve been able to do all this because of a remarkable cast: My skilled predecessors, Anthony Newman, Susan Henshaw Jones, and Laurie Beckelman, who guided the Conservancy in its first decades. Dedicated board members who have given unstintingly of their time and knowledge. Talented and tireless staff who have steadfastly carried out the Conservancy’s work. Generous funders who have underwritten our programs. And a wide range of supporters who now come from 38 states, plus Canada, the U.K., Spain, and New Zealand. Lots of people love New York.
We don’t know what the next 50 years will bring. But, looking back at what we’ve accomplished, we have confidence that we will meet the challenges.
It’s a privilege to fight for New York. We’ll never stop protecting the City we love.
Peg Breen, President
The New York Landmarks Conservancy