The chair of the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission could soon be filled

By: Scott Henson

Andrew J. Hawkins reports for Crain’s: De Blasio zeroes in on landmarks appointment.

Mayor Bill de Blasio is close to filling another hole in his administration: chair of the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Several names are on the short list, two of whom are Ward Dennis, a partner at Higgins Quasebarth and Partners, LLC, a historic preservation consultant firm; and Kate Daly, the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s current executive director. Neither could be reached for comment.

Other names that have been floating around since at least January include Ronda Wist, vice president for preservation and government relations at the Municipal Art Society; Carol Clark, an adjunct professor at Columbia University who previously served at the Brooklyn Historical Society and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development; and Chris Collins, formerly counsel for the City Council’s Land Use Committee. Ms. Wist declined to comment; the rest could not be reached.

Multiple sources say the appointment is imminent. A spokesman for the mayor did not return a request for comment.

The appointment will come at a tense time for the commission. The commission has come under fire from developers, landlords and the construction industry, who complain that it has been too aggressive in its push to landmark large swaths of the city.

The Real Estate Board of New York released a report last year that revealed over a quarter of Manhattan was landmarked.

“We hope that the next commission chairman will look carefully at historic districting and consult with the City Planning Commission much more than it’s done previously,” said Richard Anderson, president of the New York City Building Congress.

The commission’s current chairman, Robert Tierney, was grilled by the City Council at a recent hearing about how preservation activity may conflict with the mayor’s goal of building and preserving 200,000 units of affordable housing. Mr. Tierney, a Bloomberg administration holdover, disputed the notion put forward by critics that landmarking was used to control development in certain neighborhoods, arguing that its only intention is to preserve neighborhoods with cultural and historical significance.

If Mr. de Blasio appoints Ms. Daly, who as executive director oversees the agency’s budget and personnel, it would send the signal that he is content with the current direction of the agency. However, if he chooses Mr. Dennis, who is the favored pick of developers, he may be interested in shaking up the commission’s senior staff.

According to a source inside the commission, Mr. de Blasio’s delay in replacing Mr. Tierney has frustrated existing commissioners. At least two commissioners plan to resign but have not done so yet because their absence would make it impossible for the commission to reach a quorum on new business, and they would unlikely be replaced until after a new chair is named.

Once those commissioners do step down, they would create new vacancies to be filled by the mayor, presumably with the input of the new chair.

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