Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Landmarks, repairs and the Tenement Museum

There's been a lot of hand-wringing about this Historic District for Orchard and Ludlow, from east Allen to west Essex.

The hand-wringing is not about the project itself, but about its initiator, the Tenement Museum. Several years ago, in an effort to acquire the building next door, the Museum tried to use eminent domain (!!) to evict everyone from it.

That's not easy to forget. People are reluctant to support anything initiated by the Tenement Museum for the sake of that memory and its lesson. But this landmarking project is a good one that benefits residents and the community at large, not just the Museum.

All the opposition I heard to the Historical District project has come from property owners. Well, of course -- their properties lose value if they can't sell them to developers to demolish and build skyscraper hotels. Personally, I don't think the right to make a huge profit by demolishing history and putting tenants at risk deserves protection. If they were good landlords all those years before this real-estate surge, I'm sure they can continue to be good landlords without it now -- especially now, when there are so many new market-rate tenants paying and arm and a leg to live in their buildings. Two arms and two legs if you count their roommates. I can't imagine that any landlords in the LES are hurting.

Residents don't lose anything in this deal. In fact, I think they will come out ahead, not having to deal with landlords and developers trying to squeeze them, but just with landlords. The only repairs that will be more expensive will be external repairs. How often do you complain about the pointing of your exterior brick? I never have. Most of my complaints are about heat, hot water and plumbing. These will not be affected by Historic District status. From the Landmarks Preservation Commission:

"You do not need a permit from the Landmarks Commission to perform ordinary repairs or maintenance chores. For example, you do not need a permit to replace broken window glass, repaint a building exterior to match the existing color, or caulk around windows and doors. If you have any doubt about whether a permit is needed, call the Commission at (212) 669-7817."


Loisida said...

What's going on with that museum? I heard their docents were going on strike b/c of poor pay while the museum spent millions on buying another building on Orchard Street this year. Something's funny if you ask me

robCUNY said...

The Museum is such a betrayal of everything it should stand for. They treat their employees poorly, are resisting unionization and meanwhile they are raking it in like there's no tomorrow. That's why so many people are opposed to the Historic District.