Landmarks Rescind Landmarks Designation Status of Former School

Public School 31 in 2014 before its demolition./Image Credit: Google Maps

The landmarked building featured many late Gothic details. On December 10, 2019, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to rescind the individual landmark designation of a vacant lot, located at 425 Grand Concourse, Bronx. The lot was formerly the location of Public School 31, which was demolished in 2015.

Public School 31 was designated as an individual landmark on June 14, 1983. The school was built in 1899 by C.B.J. Snyder, an architect known for his influence on developing the City’s public school buildings. Public School 31 was one of the first City public schools to be designed with late Gothic details. The school building featured Tudor-arched doorways, pointed windows topped with stone tracery, a central entrance tower, and gabled bays. The school was first built to accommodate the large immigrant population moving into the Bronx.

The school building began to deteriorate shortly after its designation and had to be vacated in 1997. Temporary protective supports were installed in the school after it was vacated. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy further damaged the school building and its protective supports. The school building’s deteriorated and destroyed infrastructure was considered a public threat by the Department of Buildings. In 2013, Buildings ordered a declaration for a full demolition of the school building and Landmarks issued an advisory report acknowledging the declaration and the poor condition of the school building. The school building was officially demolished in 2014.

According to the City’s Landmarks Law, the Commission has the power to rescind a landmark designation. Landmarks rescissions are rare; however, in the past, the Commission has rescinded a designation because the landmarked site “no longer possess special character or special historic or aesthetic interest or value as part of the development, heritage, and cultural characteristics of New York City.” A Landmarks spokesperson told CityLand that the Commission has only rescinded designations for individual landmark designations “where the building/structure has been destroyed or so damaged it lost its integrity” such as when a building has been demolished or burned to the ground.

On December 10, 2019, Landmarks held a public hearing for the rescission. At the hearing, a Landmarks staffer noted that the lot at 425 Grand Concourse is vacant and “nothing of architectural, historic, or cultural significance remains on the landmarked site” and rescission of the designation is recommended.

Brittany Thomas testified on behalf of the Historic Districts Council. The Historic Districts Council believed that the City abandoning Public School 31 and letting it fall to ruin is “more than regrettable.”

Commissioner John Gustafsson stated that Landmarks would not have let a privately owned building deteriorate like Public School 31 and expressed that “as representatives of the City, [Landmarks] should be embarrassed that [they] allowed this to happen.”

Chair Sarah Carroll noted that Landmarks tried to come up with solutions to fix the building and reuse it. However, Commissioner Gustafsson stated in response that “it seems like nothing was done.”

Chair Carroll noted that because there is no building on the site, Landmarks can move to act at the hearing. Landmarks unanimously voted to rescind the landmark designation at 425 Grand Concourse because the site “no longer possess historical value and interest to New York City.”


By: May Vutrapongvatana (May is the CityLaw Fellow and New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2019).

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