Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Is landmarking worth it?

Rev. Diego Delgado Miller shows the wear and tear on his over-100-year-old Kingsbridge church, Church of the Mediator, last June. The church is on a list of buildings the former Bronx borough president recommended for landmark status. Claudio Papapietro // Riverdale Press photo
Community Board 8 members are watchful because of a Bronx borough president’s report recommending 15 Riverdale and Kingsbridge-area buildings, historical districts or other features be recognized for historical significance. The report was released by then-Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrión Jr.’s office in December, and we editorialized on that list in February.

By December, Mr. Carrión had already let slip that he would soon be leaving the Bronx to become head of the White House Office of Urban Policy. The new borough president is expected to be sworn in tomorrow Friday.

Board 8 land use committee chairman Charles Moerdler said at a Monday meeting that were the sites in the report placed on the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s calendar for consideration, any work permits for the sites would be suspended until the commission decided whether or not to landmark them.

On landmarking issues, Mr. Moerdler, a former commissioner of the city Department of Buildings, tends to side in favor of granting the property owner as much freedom from regulation as possible.

Landmarking also incurs extra cost for property owners, because their professionals working on the property will have to take the extra steps of applying to Landmarks and shepherding that application towards approval. Mr. Moerdler said he was concerned that houses of worship and other non-profits mentioned in the report would be unable to come up with the cash needed to do this.

If landmarking makes it unrealistically expensive to fix up a historic building, the argument goes, then what’s the point of landmarking?

Sister Regina Murphy and Sister Eileen McGrory of the Sisters of Charity, the religious order that founded the College of Mount St. Vincent and still owns property at the campus, were at that Monday meeting. One of their properties, LeGras Hall, is recommended for landmarking.
They said it was too early for the Sisters to have a position on landmarking LeGras. They were there to get more information.

The list calls for the Church of the Mediator in Kingsbridge to be landmarked as well.
We wrote about Church of the Mediator last summer. The church, which features stainglass windows that bear the images of Booker T. Washington and Jane Addams, was in an ongoing fundraising drive to return their aging church to a state of good repair.

The list of places recommended for landmarking also includes Christ Church Rectory, the Conservative Synagogue Adath Israel of Riverdale, along with Glyndor House at Wave Hill, LeGras Hall, and the Van Cortlandt Park Golf House. The borough president recommended that the Dodge/Delafield estate area become a historic district, as well as the Ladd Road houses, Lehman College, and the Wave Hill district extension. The beep’s report also called for historic markers at Gaelic Park, the Béla Bartók House, the Henry Hudson Bridge, and the James & Kirtland Ironworks.

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