Landmarks’ designation process upheld

First Department ruled that preservation group failed to show its members were affected differently than general public. The City’s Landmarks law provides the public with the ability to nominate properties for landmark designation by submitting a Request for Evaluation form. After receiving a request, the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s Request for Evaluation Committee, which includes the Landmarks Chair, screens the nomination in order to determine whether additional consideration is appropriate.

A nomination requiring further consideration is sent to each Landmarks Commissioner, along with a photograph of the property, a statement of significance, and the Committee’s recommendation. After considering the Commissioners’ comments, the Chair then, at his or her discretion, decides whether to recommend that the full Commission calendar a public hearing to formally consider the nomination.

Citizens Emergency Committee to Preserve Preservation filed an Article 78 petition challenging the Request for Evaluation process and requesting it be modified to increase transparency. The lower court agreed, ruling that Landmarks’ failure to take action on certain nomination requests was arbitrary and capricious. Justice Marilyn Shafer ordered Landmarks to require that all nominations be presented to the Committee within 120 days of receipt and that all Committee recommendations be reported to the full Commission at a public hearing. Landmarks appealed the decision, claiming that full Commission review for every Request for Evaluation amounted to an unworkable burden. 5 CityLand 174 (Dec. 2008).

The First Department reversed the lower court and dismissed the challenge, ruling that Citizens Emergency Committee failed to establish that it had standing to sue. The court held that the group did not demonstrate that Landmarks’ decisions affected its members differently from any other members of the public. The First Department pointed out that even if Citizens Emergency Committee had established standing, the lower court had erred in granting the petition. The First Department found that Landmarks had broad discretion in controlling its calendar, and that there was no statutory requirement that Landmarks follow a particular procedure when determining whether to consider a property for designation.

Citizens Emergency Committee to Preserve Preservation v. Tierney, 2010 N.Y. Slip Op. 01572 (1st Dep’t Feb. 25, 2010) (Attorneys: Whitney North Seymour Jr., for Citizens Emergency; Michael A. Cardozo, Susan Choi-Hausman, for Tierney).

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