WHAT IS A LANDMARK INTERIOR?
The Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) received the authority to protect interiors in 1973, through a set of amendments to the original 1965 NYC Landmarks Law, spurred by the 1967 demolition of the original Metropolitan Opera and a proposal to gut Grand Central Terminal. Since then, a total of 117 interiors have been designated in all five boroughs: 94 in Manhattan, 8 in Brooklyn, 8 in the Bronx, 4 in Queens, and 3 in Staten Island. The oldest landmark interior was completed in 1812 (City Hall), the youngest in 1967 (Ford Foundation). As of today, any publicly accessible interior created before 1985 is eligible for designation.
The definition of a landmark could hardly be broader. It must be 30 years old or older, have “special historic or aesthetic interest or value” and, in the case of landmark interiors, be “customarily open or accessible to the public, or to which the public is customarily invited,” language that derives from the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The Law specifically avoids First Amendment entanglements by excluding “places of religious worship,” although many of these interiors are among New York’s finest. An interior includes “architectural style, design, general arrangement and components,” but only fixtures, and not movable furnishings.
Anyone can propose a landmark by submitting a Request for Evaluation to the LPC. Under current practice, the LPC Chair decides which sites to present to the full 11-member Commission, representing each of the five boroughs and composed of at least three architects, one historian, one city planner or landscape architect, and one realtor. After a public hearing, at which anyone can testify, the Commissioners may vote to designate the site as a landmark. All future work on the landmark – restoration, alterations, demolition – must be submitted to the LPC for review and approval.