The New York Landmarks Conservancy, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Preservation League of New York State filed an amicus brief today supporting a lawsuit challenging New York State’s proposed demolition of several blocks around Penn Station.
The amicus brief was filed in New York State Supreme Court in support of a lawsuit brought by the Penn Community Defense Fund, City Club of New York, Re-Think NYC, and residents of 251 West 30th Street.
The preservation organizations challenged the Empire State Development Corporation’s (ESD) claim that the area is blighted, calling that claim “an extreme abuse” that could “imperil vast swathes of the State of New York.”
“We are pleased to join our colleagues in challenging the State’s attempt to level blocks of Midtown Manhattan full of historic buildings, varied commercial activities, and residents that exemplify the diversity and energy of New York,” said Conservancy President Peg Breen.
ESD argues that the majority of buildings in the area are 50 years old, or older. Since buildings must be 50 years old to be included in the National Register of Historic Places, the brief notes that “ESD is effectively arguing that historic districts are inherently blighted.”
If permitted to proceed, the State plan would demolish eight historic buildings, ranging from a Gothic-inspired 1872 church to a 1908 building integral to the original Penn Station complex. At least another dozen historic buildings could be damaged by the nearby demolition and construction activity.
“If a successful commercial area with numerous irreplaceable historic assets, limited physical defects, consistent economic growth, and a high occupancy rate can be deemed blighted and destroyed without judicial intervention,” the brief states, “what alternate set of facts is there that would merit judicial reprieve?”
The preservation groups all support an improved Penn Station. But they believe it can be achieved without reviving urban renewal. The State plan envisions giant commercial towers surrounding the station. The Conservancy has consistently opposed this proposed real estate