When is a Permit Required?
Each of New York City's designated landmarks and historic districts possesses a special character or special historic, cultural, or architectural significance. The Landmarks Preservation Commission helps preserve these buildings and sites by regulating alterations to their significant features.The Landmarks Commission does not prevent owners from making changes to their designated buildings. Instead, the Landmarks Commission works with owners to make certain that alterations are appropriate and do not detract from the special character of the city's landmarks and historic districts.
When do I need approval?
The Commission must approve in advance any restoration, alteration, reconstruction, demolition, or new construction affecting any designated property, including buildings in historic districts. You need Landmarks Commission approval before you begin work on the exterior, if your proposed project requires a permit from the Department of Buildings. Landmarks Commission approval is also required for any project that will affect the exterior appearance of a designated building, even if a Department of Buildings permit is not needed for the proposed work.
Landmarks Commission approval is required for changes to the interior of the building only in the following situations:
When a permit from the Department of Buildings is required for the work;
When the changes will affect the exterior of the building;
When the building's interior has been designated an interior landmark.
Do I need a Commission permit to make ordinary repairs?
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.
I am considering making changes to my building, but I have some general questions about the Commission's policies. What should I do?
You may call the Landmarks Commission if you need information about the application process, details about the types of drawings or other materials that may be required, or general guidance. Once you have filed an application form and your application has been assigned to a Preservation Department staff member, a meeting with the staff member may be arranged. This meeting provides an opportunity for you to discuss your plans in more detail.
I want to enlarge my building. May I consult with the Landmarks Commission about my proposal before I file an application?
Yes. If you plan to file an application to enlarge your building or to construct a new building in a historic district, you may arrange to meet with a member of the Commission's Preservation Department to discuss your proposal. Such a meeting may be helpful if you have questions about the Landmarks Commission's policies or procedures.
How do I apply to the Landmarks Commission?
You can download an application form, instructions for filing, or a materials checklist here, or you may obtain them by calling the Landmarks Commission (212-669-7700) or by picking up the materials at the Commission's offices, (The 9th Floor of the Municipal Building, 1 Centre Street, the corner of Centre Street and Chambers Street, across from City Hall.) After completing the form and adding your descriptive materials, you may mail or drop off your application.
What material and information should I include with my Landmarks Commission application form?
The descriptive materials needed to complete your application should illustrate the existing conditions of the building and the proposed changes. Depending on the type of work proposed, the descriptive materials could include drawings, photographs and photomontages of street fronts, samples of proposed materials, and/or written specifications.
For an application for a building in a historic district you should include photographs showing the building's relationship to the neighboring buildings in the historic district.
For a complex proposal, such as a proposal to construct a new building in a historic district, you should submit written statements, drawings, photographs, and material samples; you may wish to submit a model if it will help to explain the proposal.
For an application to replace windows, clear photographs of the building, drawings showing a section and elevation of existing and proposed windows, and a sample of the proposed window finish may be needed.
Who should sign the application form?
The application form must be signed by the owner of the property. In the case of a cooperative building, the chairman or other appropriate officer of the co-op board must sign the form. If you are applying to perform work on a part of a condominium building that is in common ownership, the application must be signed by the chairman or other appropriate officer of the condominium association. An improperly signed form, such as a form signed only by the tenant or the managing agent, will delay processing of the application until the proper signature is obtained.
What happens after I file my application?
The application is given a docket number and assigned to a member of the Preservation Department staff. If the application is incomplete, the staff member will contact you and explain what additional materials are needed. Depending on the complexity of the proposal, the staff may suggest that you and your architect or contractor come to the Commission's office to discuss the proposed project. A meeting at the property may also be arranged. The staff member will then review the proposal to evaluate the effect of the proposed changes on the architectural and historic character of the building and/or the historic district.
If the staff believes that the proposed work would detract from your building's significant architectural features, the staff may be able to suggest alternatives that would satisfy your practical requirements while maintaining the architectural integrity of the building. The staff member will also provide guidance regarding materials and restoration or construction techniques, if needed.
What types of permits does the Landmarks Commission issue?
The Commission issues Certificates of No Effect, Permits for Minor Work, and Certificates of Appropriateness. The type of permit issued depends upon the proposed work. After you submit the completed Application Form for Work on Designated Properties, the Landmarks Commission staff will determine which type of permit could be issued based on your description of the proposed work. The permit is issued in the form of a letter from the Landmarks Commission to the applicant. The permit describes the proposed work and explains why it has been approved. The permit must be posted prominently at the building while the work is underway.
If the permit is denied, the Landmarks Commission sends a letter to the applicant stating the reasons why the proposed work was found to be inappropriate. The applicant may then choose to revise the proposal and submit a new application.
Certificate of No Effect:
A Certificate of No Effect on Protected Architectural Features, or "CNE," is issued by the Landmarks Commission when the proposed work requires a Department of Buildings permit but does not affect the protected architectural features of a building. Examples of work for which a CNE is needed are interior renovations that require Department of Buildings permits, installation of plumbing and heating equipment, and other changes that the Landmarks Commission determines do not adversely affect significant features of the building.
The Landmarks Commission reviews such proposed work in order to make sure that it will not affect protected features or detract from the special character of a historic district. For instance, the vent of a kitchen exhaust fan might cut through a significant decorative feature of the facade or an interior partition might partially block a front window. If the Landmarks Commission finds that a proposed alteration would affect a building's significant protected features, the staff member may be able to help the applicant revise the proposal to achieve a satisfactory solution.
Permit for Minor Work:
A Permit for Minor Work ("PMW") may be issued by the Landmarks Commission when the proposed work will affect significant protected architectural features but does not require a Department of Buildings permit. Examples of such work include window or door replacement, masonry cleaning or repair, and restoration of architectural details. When evaluating an application for a PMW, the Landmarks Commission reviews the proposed changes to determine whether they are appropriate to the building and/or the historic district.
Certificate of Appropriateness: A Certificate of Appropriateness ("C of A") is needed when the proposed work requires a Department of Buildings permit and will affect significant protected architectural features. Additions, demolitions, new construction, and removal of architectural features such as stoops and cornices usually require a C of A. When the proposed work does not require a permit from the Department of Buildings, but has been denied a PMW by the Commission, the owner may apply for a Certificate of Appropriateness.
The Landmarks Law requires that a public hearing be held for each C of A application. At least six Commissioners must vote in favor of an application in order for it to be approved. The Landmarks Commission conducts C of A hearings every month, usually on the fourth Tuesday of the month. Notice of each Landmarks Commission hearing is published in the City Record for ten days before the hearing, and Community Boards are notified of applications affecting properties within their districts.
At the hearing, the applicant is given the opportunity to explain why he or she believes that the application should be approved. The public may also comment on the proposed work. The applicant and the public may also submit written statements before the hearing.
In many cases, the Commissioners discuss and vote on a C of A application on the same day that the public hearing is held. Sometimes, however, they request additional information about the proposal before voting. After the public hearing is closed, the applicant and the public may submit additional written statements about the proposal up until the time when the Commissioners vote on the application.
Usually the Commissioners will make a decision on a C of A application based on "presentation" or "design development" drawings of a proposed project. After the Commissioners vote to approve an application, the applicant may be required to submit construction drawings in order for the approval to become final. The actual C of A permit is not issued until the staff has reviewed the final construction drawings to make sure that the final plans are consistent with the proposal approved by the Commissioners.
When will the Landmarks Commission make a decision about my application?
Once the staff has confirmed that an application is complete, the Landmarks Commission will make a decision as quickly as possible. The Commission must make its decision within the following time periods:
Certificate of No Effect - 30 working days
Permit for Minor Work - 20 working days
Certificate of Appropriateness - 90 working days
In most instances, a decision is made in much less time. The period of time needed to process a complete application depends on such factors as the complexity of the proposed alteration and whether a site visit is needed.
If you would like more time to prepare additional information or to revise a proposal in response to issues raised by the Commissioners or the staff, you may submit a written statement extending the Landmarks Commission's time to make a decision on the proposal.
When the Commission reviews an application for a Certificate of Appropriateness, what factors does it consider?
The Landmarks Commission assesses the effects of the proposed work on the significant features of the landmark and the compatibility of the proposed changes with the building's appearance and character. The Commission considers the building's architectural, historical, and cultural significance and its architectural style, as well as the proportions, materials, textures, and colors of the existing and proposed designs, among other factors. In a historic district, the Landmarks Commission also considers the effect of the proposed work on neighboring buildings and on the special character of the district.
Does the Landmarks Commission restrict the height of proposed buildings in historic districts?
The Commission does not regulate the height or floor area of buildings, the size of rear yards or open spaces, obstruction of sunlight or air, density of population, or the purposes for which buildings are used. These matters are under the jurisdiction of the Department of City Planning. For more information about these issues, contact City Planning at 22 Reade Street, New York, NY 10007; 212-720-3276.
My project conforms to zoning regulations regarding height and bulk. Does that mean that the Landmarks Commission must approve my application?
No. The Landmarks Commission may find that a proposed project is inappropriate under the provisions of the Landmarks Law even if the project complies with the Zoning Resolution's requirements. For example, even if a proposed addition to a landmark does not exceed zoning limits regarding height and bulk, the Landmarks Commission may deny a permit for the addition if it finds that the design and materials would detract from the landmark's architectural significance.
I need a Department of Buildings permit for my proposed project. Do I have to file with the Department of Buildings before applying to the Landmarks Commission?
You must file with the Department of Buildings first only if you are applying to enlarge your building or to construct a new building in a historic district. For other types of work requiring permits from the Department of Buildings, such as storefront installations, cornice replacements, and interior alterations, you may file your application with the Landmarks Commission first, if you wish.
Will the Department of Buildings issue a permit before the Landmarks Commission has approved my application?
No. The Department of Buildings will not issue a permit in response to your application unless you have first received a Landmarks Commission permit for the proposed work.
I want to enlarge my building, and I need a permit from the Department of Buildings. Should I file an application with the Department of Buildings before I apply to the Landmarks Commission?
Yes. The Landmarks Commission cannot complete its review of applications to enlarge buildings or to construct new buildings in historic districts until the Department of Buildings has reviewed plans for consistency with the Zoning Resolution and determines whether any special permits or waivers would be required to carry out the proposed work. Any objections found will be listed on an objection sheet.
The Department of Buildings gave me an Objection Sheet. Should I give the Landmarks Commission a copy of this sheet?
Yes, if you are filing an application to enlarge your designated building or to construct a new building in a historic district. The Commission will not certify your application as complete (and consequently cannot schedule your application for a public hearing) until it has received a copy of the Objection Sheet.
The Objection Sheet summarizes the results of the Department of Buildings' review of your application. The Landmarks Commission must review the Objection sheet to make sure that you will not be required to alter the plans filed with the commission in response to the Department of Buildings' objections.
The Department of Buildings gave me a docket number when I filed my application. Should I include this number on my Landmarks Commission application form?
Yes. The Department of Buildings gives each applicant a "BN" (Building Notice), "ALT" (Alteration), or "NB" (New Building) number, depending on the type of work proposed. You should include this number on your Landmarks Commission application form.
Master Plans: I plan to make a series of similar changes to the facade of my building over the next few years. Can I apply for a permit for all of the work at one time?
Yes, you may submit an application for a "master plan" that includes those series of changes.
What is a master plan?
A master plan establishes a building-wide standard for future changes to specific building elements. Owners of large commercial or residential buildings may wish to submit master plans for alterations that could cover two types of work: frequent changes to the same part of the building, such as shopfronts and signs, or work which is related but may take several years to complete, such as air-conditioner installations or replacement windows. Co-op boards and condominium associations may find window or air-conditioning master plans particularly useful. If the Landmarks Commission approves the master plan, you will still need to file an application form whenever you are planning work. The application must identify which portion of the master plan you are planning to carry out and specify that the work will conform to the previously approved master plan. However, no drawings or public hearing will be needed for the application. After the Commission reviews your application, the staff will send a letter called an "authorization to proceed." The work may then begin.
What happens if I want to perform work that does not conform to the master plan? Will I be restricted to the design that the plan describes?
No. If in the future you wish to install something different in a particular area of the building, you may file an application for a permit for the proposed changes. Your application would then undergo the regular Landmarks Commission review process, including a new public hearing, if required.
How can I learn more about the Landmarks Preservation Commission?
If you would like more information, call or write the Landmarks Commission at 1 Centre Street 9th Floor North, New York, NY 10007; telephone: 212-669-7700; Fax: 212-669-7960; TTY: 212-669-7788.