Seen & Heard: Tribeca Trust Is Suing the LPC

••• Morgik Metal appears to be leaving its storefront at 145 Hudson.

••• The city really requires restaurants to post a return policy? That’s nuts. (This is at Café Clementine.)

••• From D.: “Ever notice this on the 6th floor of Stuyvesant High School, viewed from North End Ave.?” Can’t say that I have!

••• “I am excited to announce the expansion of Torly Kid in Tribeca to its second location in Brooklyn!” emailed Carol Adams at Torly Kid. “Opening next week, I am embarking on a collaboration with childrenswear designer, Toobydoo  to create a unique concept shop called Torly & Tooby. We will be carrying clothing, gifts and accessories for the modern kid very similar to the Torly Kid shop in Tribeca. We will cater to kids newborn all the way up to teen. The Torly Kid operation in Tribeca will continue to run as before. Our new location will be at the recently completed City Point building in downtown Brooklyn (445 Albee Square West). We join the new Trader Joe’s, the DeKalb Market Hall, and other great retail shops to create a brand new food, shopping and entertainment destination in Downtown Brooklyn.”

••• Les Halles closed.

••• Tribeca Trust is suing the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission.

After four years of research and back and forth with the Landmarks Preservation Commission over Tribeca Trust’s request to add 200-plus buildings to our historic districts (many of them under threat of demolition), the LPC told us “no”. That “no” came after years of run-around. To please the LPC over the past few years, we did preservation surveys of unprotected buildings in each part of Tribeca with multiple interns from Columbia and Pratt; we hired preservation consultants to do additional studies for us (at the request of the LPC for ‘more information’); and we badgered politicians and the community board to send letters of support for our “ask”. We rallied the support of preservation organizations across the city to opine on the sound merits of our case.

So, yes, we were angry after receiving the “no”. What was doubly infuriating was this: in their letter to us, the LPC mentioned how our Tribeca North request, in particular, had merit, but that the answer was still going to be “no”. No explanation was given that made any sense to us beyond vague reference to priorities, and that didn’t make any sense to us either given that the “South Village” got designated in record time last fall.

So we went to court. The lawyer we hired is Michael Hiller, who won the Clocktower lawsuit we were involved in a few years back. Hiller has won several other lawsuits of similar character. His website is here. The suit contends that the LPC’s decision not to calendar a hearing for extension of our historic districts is “irrational, arbitrary, and capricious”—this language comes from the law governing the actions of regulatory agencies. We ask for a remedy—that Tribeca’s case be heard in a public hearing and that the LPC develop clear guidelines and procedures consistent with international best practice for making decisions to extend a historic district. You can read Hiller’s brief here. […]

We expect our attorney to call us to court in late August and September. We urge all Tribecans who are in town to join us in the courtroom. We will announce the date as soon as we know it.

11 Comments

  1. Much of how LPC operates–in considering (i) construction of new buildings in Landmarked districts or (ii) applications to maintain, expand, or alter existing Landmarks–is almost hopelessly arbitrary and capricious and subject to the whims of LPC. This is a realm where the aesthetic and historic meet the sordid, the almighty (real estate development) dollar.

  2. Speaking of Stuyvesant…when is this school going to change its name? How can it remain named in honor of Peter Stuyvesant, one of the biggest anti-semites in American history? Isn’t it time to wash away this guy’s horrific actions against Jews, one of the largest populations in NY? Just saying.

    • Presumably this post is tongue-in-cheek. That said, in this call to expunge history, keep in mind that Stuyvesant was a fairly equal-opportunity religious bigot who backed down after his employers in Amsterdam told him to obey the laws regarding tolerance. (Having Jewish investors in the company did not hurt.) Stuyvesant as head of the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam ironically plays a large role in the development of religious freedom in America. His later actions against the Quakers led to the Flushing Remonstrance, often described as a precursor to the Constitution in terms of freedom of religion.

      The Puritans, by contrast, are some of the most religiously intolerant of our forefathers; maybe we should do away with Thanksgiving. (Said with tongue firmly in cheek.)

  3. Reading Hiller’s brief, I am surprised that more use was not made of “Stahl York Ave. Co., LLC v City of New York.”

    While not a district per se and thus not entirely analogous, in that case an entire square block estate was landmarked by LPC as one integral historical development. Then two of the buildings that were part of the estate were exempted out of being Landmark-protected by the now-defunct Board of Estimate as part of what the City Council later found and the Court described “a bad backroom deal,’ and was an inappropriate politically motivated action’ made under intense political pressure from a powerful real estate developer.”

    There the City took the reverse position it will now have to take here in opposition, namely that piecemeal designations of non-convex areas are sufficient to preserve the district’s historic character and that no backroom deals with developers were considerations in which areas to exempt.

  4. The City’s memorandum of law in response is also online. Go to https://iapps.courts.state.ny.us/webcivil/FCASMain and search for INDEX NO. 158483/2016. Click the index number and then “show eFiled Documents” and scroll down to 7/28/2017.

    The City’s points of argument:

    I) PETITIONERS DO NOT HAVE STANDING TO CHALLENGE LPC’S DECISION DECLINING TO CALENDAR THEIR PROPOSALS TO EXTEND THE BOUNDARIES OF THREE HISTORIC DISTRICTS.

    II) ANY CHALLENGE TO THE CURRENT BOUNDARIES OF THE TRIBECA HISTORIC DISTRICTS IS TIME BARRED.

    III) PETITIONERS CANNOT COMPEL THE COMMISSION TO PROMULGATE RULES WHICH IS A DISCRETIONARY ACT.

    IV) THE DECISION TO DELCINE [sic] TO ADVANCE PETITIONERS’ PROPOSALS TO THE COMMISSION TO BE CALENDARED WAS NOT ARBITRARY OR CAPRICIOUS OR AN ABUSE OF DISCRETION.

  5. Per Tribeca Trib, on the 24 Murray Street fire:

    “In an email sent out Friday night, Lynn Ellsworth, president of the preservation group Tribeca Trust, mourned what she called a ‘tragic loss for Tribeca.’ The 1851 building, she wrote, ‘was one of the last ‘ordinary’ store and loft buildings from the Civil War that stood outside our historic district borders.’”

  6. I read that the Court dismissed this case in favor of LPC. I wonder if Tribeca Trust plans to appeal.

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