The Real Estate Board of New York has also taken umbrage at what it believes to be a liberal stance on landmarking by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. Will the board continue to take on that issue in 2012?
It’s not that the city shouldn’t be identifying individual buildings and saying these are wonderful buildings for whatever reasons—the architecture, the historic nature. Let’s landmark those buildings. Nobody is questioning that. We may have a legitimate debate as to whether or not they’re wonderful buildings. But the main concern is that there’s been this aggressive attempt to create districts, huge districts. Districts used to be unique small areas around the city that you want to preserve for a reason, but not districts that basically encompass a collection of different types of architecture, or hundreds of buildings. What’s unique when we’re all of a sudden landmarking hundreds of buildings?
The Real Estate Board of New York is one of the most powerful lobbying arms in the city, but the Landmarks Preservation Department seems to be getting the upper hand here.
There’s no question that we have lost more of those battles than we have won. We think the city is landmarking away its economic future, and during the middle of this year we started to rev up some of our efforts on this. And we’re going to clearly look at 2012 as a year in which we’re going to try to make our case even stronger.
Would you consider yourself David or Goliath in that particular fight?
We’re always David. This is a battle with the City of New York and the Landmarks Commission that seems to want to respond to the landmark advocates who would landmark every building in the City of New York. There are a lot of people who don’t want to see new buildings built. I don’t know if I have an answer as to where we’re going to put the additional million people that are supposed to come and live in the city of New York by 2030. But they don’t want it in their neighborhood, and so they want to landmark buildings. We’ve opposed districts that included empty lots and old gas stations that were determined to be worthy of being included in a landmark district.
Do you ever worry that overdevelopment could threaten the character of New York City ?
Well, the answer to that is I do—there’s always the potential that if every developer decided to start a new office building tomorrow, then I’d be very worried about it. But the truth of the matter is that we have an aging stock of office space. The average age is somewhere over 71 years old for office buildings. That is very different than around the world, where office buildings are much more recent, and clearly more modern.
Just to play devil’s advocate, from the few issues you and I just discussed, most are at odds with the average New Yorker who’s not in real estate. Does that concern you at all?
Well, of course it’s a concern. I think we win our argument if we have an opportunity to lay out our arguments. With landmarking, everybody says, “Oh, isn’t it wonderful?” And then, we ask them to take a look at these buildings: “Do you believe these are worthy of landmarking?” And we usually get a different response if people actually spend the time.
In terms of development, the quick answer for people who say they don’t want development is, well, then where should your children’s jobs be created? Should they be created here, or should they be created somewhere else? Because that’s what we’re talking about. If we don’t have development, we don’t have the companies here that bring the jobs, that pay the salaries, that pay the taxes, that pay for the services that the city of New York desperately needs.
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