I spent years as a political reporter for New York State Public Television, and I worked at the City Council before joining The New York Landmarks Conservancy. I thought I was leaving politics behind and, as one cynical City Hall reporter put it, “going off to do good deeds.”
The Conservancy does do good deeds. But I quickly learned that you can’t leave politics behind. I don’t mean partisan politics. Preservation has strong allies on both sides of the aisle. We promote sound preservation laws and policies at City Hall and in Albany and Washington. Our Public Policy Director Andrea Goldwyn was in DC for the annual Preservation Lobby Day on March 11, the last day anyone could lobby in person. Andrea also visits Albany legislators on statewide lobbying days and testifies on Conservancy positions before the Landmarks Preservation and City Planning Commissions and the City Council.
Andrea and I are continuing to follow Public Policy issues at every level. We’re in weekly conversation with our City and State colleagues and in regular contact with colleagues at the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Preservation Action (PA), a national preservation lobbying organization.
We’re supporting a move by our federal colleagues to temporarily increase the Federal Historic Tax Credit (HTC) from 20% to 30%. Tax credits should be part of the government strategy to channel public and private dollars into local communities. New York State has been the largest user of this tax credit, which aids commercial rehabilitation. It is often coupled with the State’s own historic tax credits. The Preservation League of New York State just released numbers on how the HTC benefitted the state in 2019. It supported $520 million in total rehabilitation costs, provided 8,605 jobs and generated $151.6 million in Federal, Local and State taxes.
On a City level, we’re working on a joint platform with our colleagues as we gear up for the coming Mayoral and Council races. We want to close more “loopholes” in the zoning resolution that developers use to boost building heights, as one example. We also use our weekly calls to update each other on development threats to historic districts and ask for support for promoting new landmarks.
We are all following the City’s Landmark Preservation Commission’s (LPC) initial virtual hearings beginning this week (April 21). Despite some concerns that not everyone will be able to take advantage of the technology required, we applaud the LPC‘s effort to continue its work in as transparent a manner as possible.
If you have questions, you can find all the staff email contacts here.
With best wishes for your health and safety from all of us,
Peg Breen, President
The New York Landmarks Conservancy