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NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission
FAQs

A Guide to Research Resources in New York City

Following are a list of resources that can help you learn more about your historic building.

BEFORE YOU GO

  • Resources have limited hours. Telephone ahead for the hours and note that certain facilities close for lunch.
  • Occasionally, there is an admission fee or a charge for using a collection.
  • Some resources offer fee-based research services (rates are noted where applicable).
  • Bring a photo ID -- some resources will hold it while you review records.
  • Bring plenty of coins. Generally, quarters are required for photocopy and microfilm copy machines. In some cases, you may be required to purchase a copy-card with $1 bills.
  • Reproduction costs for prints of photographs or architectural plans range from $10 to $90.
  • Budget ample time for each resource. You may find the appropriate documentation on your first try, or you may need a few hours to do a comprehensive search.

IMPORTANT TIPS FOR RESEARCH

  • If you cannot find your building's street address, try the address of adjacent properties. If originally built as one of a row, your property may be indexed under the address of the building on either end of the row. Variations in an address may occur in the records.
  • Many property records are organized by Tax Map Block and Lot Number. This information is easily obtained at the Municipal Archives (indexed by street address in the open-shelf real estate atlases) and at the Department of Buildings (on the computer print-out of the Property Profile).
  • Note dates of photographs and architectural plans. Records of alterations can help you to determine which facade elements are original.
    If a photograph is undated, clues such as car styles may help determine an approximate date.

DEPARTMENT OF BUILDINGS
General Information and Definitions:
Refer to the specific information for the Borough Office.
You must obtain a computer print-out of the Property Profile (building application index) from a public access terminal. This Profile includes a list of all actions related to the property and shows which records will be in the individual Property Folders. Each Borough Office has at least one public access computer terminal. To access the records, search the database by the street address or block and lot numbers.
Individual Property Folders, organized according to block and lot number, should include: new building applications (which record building specifications, materials, and classification, date of construction; owner and architect; and cost), alteration and other permit applications, architectural drawings and plans. The applications are recorded by year, e.g., "NB 145-22" indicates new building application #145 in 1922. The Manhattan records begin in 1866, while other borough records begin as early as the 1870's.
Rolled Plans are the architectural plans, elevations, or engineering drawings that are too large to be kept in the folders. Request a search of the Rolled Plans when you ask for the Property folder.


MANHATTAN AND CITY-WIDE

Museum of the City of New York Department of Collections Access
1220 Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street
New York, NY 10029
212-534-1672 x 262
W-Sat 10:00-5:00, Sun 12:00-5:00
Public Transportation: 6 Train to 103rd Street station
General Information: By appointment only. When making an appointment here, give the librarian as much information as possible. Records will be compiled by staff for your visit.
Standard fee: $25; Student (with valid ID): $10; Senior (62 or over): $10.
Research services: $25/hour.

MUNICIPAL ARCHIVES
City of New York Department of Records and Information Services
31 Chambers Street, at Centre Street Surrogate's Court Building, Room 103
New York, NY 10007
212-788-8580
M-Th 9:00-4:30, F 9:00-1:00
Public Transportation: 4. 5, 6 Train to Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall station N or R Train to City Hall station M, J, Z Train to Chambers Street station
General Information: No appointment necessary. Staff assistance available.
Copies: Self-service photocopy and microfilm copy machines (15 cents).
Relevant holdings:
Department of Taxes Collection -- photographs of New York City properties taken between 1931 and 1940. Index (by street) and images available on microfilm.
Borough President Collections (for Brooklyn, 1918-1956; for Manhattan, 1915-1949: for Queens, 1859-1950) -- microfilm images of street, highway, sewer and public works construction and repair. Index in card catalogue, organized by street and by subject.
W.P.A. Federal Writer's Project (NYC) Unit Collection -- photographs of New York City scenes, taken between 1936 and 1943 for the New York City Guide and other project publications. Index and images available on microfilm.
Department of Buildings records, for Manhattan only -- Property folders, which include new building and alteration applications and plans for Blocks 1 - 936 only, from 1866 to 1975. Original folders must be requested at the front desk by block and lot numbers. Docket Books of building applications from 1866 to 1959 (on microfilm) will provide much of the same information (without plans) as the as the original applications.


New York Transit Museum Archives
130 Livingston Street, at the corner of Boerum Place & Schermerhorn Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
718-694-1065
M-F 9:00-5:00
Public Transportation: 2, 3, 4, 5 Train to Borough Hall station M, N, R Train to Court Street station A, C, F Train to Borough Hall station
General Information: By appointment only.

MANHATTAN
Manhattan Department of Buildings
280 Broadway
New York NY 10007
212-566-0042
M-F 9:00-5:00, Public 9:00-3:30
Public Transportation: 4/5/6 to Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall
General Information: No appointment necessary. Staff assistance minimal.
Copies: Self-service photocopy and microfilm copy machines in the Records Room (25 cents). Blueprint-scale copying (36"x 48"): $8 for first copy, $5 each additional; done on site, minimal processing period.
Procedures: Get a computer print-out of the Property Profile in the Records Room (five public access terminals). The Property Profile will provide you with your block and lot numbers and an inventory of the building folder contents. If your address is not indexed, try the address of an adjacent property. If it is still not there, ask the staff of the Data Entry And Research (DEAR) desk to search the street index. If there are no new building or alteration applications listed on the print-out, they will not be in the folder. In that case, if your property has a block number below 936, check the Department of Building records at the Municipal Archives.
Fill out a block and lot request form and go to the Records Room window, requesting a search for both the Property Folder and Rolled Plans. You must leave your photo ID to review the records.

New York Public Library Center for the Humanities
42nd Street & Fifth Avenue Department of U.S. History, Local History & Genealogy,
Room 315S
New York, NY 10018
212-930-0828
M 10:00-5:45, T-W 11:00-7:15, Th-Sat 10:00-5:45
Public Transportation: 7 Train to Fifth Avenue station B, D, F Train to Bryant Park station
General Information: No appointment necessary. Staff assistance available.
Copies: Copy services available (25 cents); copycards required for microfilm copier.
Relevant Holdings:
Photographic Views of New York City 1870s-1970s -- more than 50,000 images of New York City buildings and streets, most with date and address. The collection has a three-volume index: Volume 1, Street Index; Volume 2, Building Index; and Volume 3, Subject Index. The indexes are available in bound copies: the indexes are self-serve microfiche in Room 315S.
Lloyd Acker Collection -- Photographs of New York City buildings from the early and mid-20th century (not all photographs are dated). The collection is indexed by borough and street on microfilm (call number *ZI-300), and images are available on microfilm, both available in Room 229. This Collection is useful for researching ordinary buildings such as new houses built by speculators, tenement buildings and commercial buildings.
Illustrations of New York Local Views --Bibliographic references to illustrations in books. Indexed in a card catalog in Room 315S, organized by subject, including building type, street and neighborhood.
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Studies
515 Malcolm X Boulevard (Lenox Avenue), at 135th Street
New York NY 10037
212-491-2218 General Research & Reference 212-491-2057
Photographs & Prints Collection M-W 12:00-8:00, Th-Sat 10:00-6:00
Public Transportation: 2 or 3 Train to 135th Street station.
General Information: Appointment suggested.

Drawings and Archive Division, Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library
Avery Hall - Columbia University
New York, NY 10027
212-854-4110
Public Transportation: 1 or 9 Train to 116th Street station
General Information: Avery Library is not open to the public, and this Division is open by appointment only.

BROOKLYN

Brooklyn Department of Buildings
Municipal Building, Eighth Floor
210 Joralemon Street, at Court Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
718-802-3675
M-F 9:00-1:00, 2:00-3:00
Public Transportation: 2, 3, 4, 5 Train to Borough Hall station M, N, R Train to Court Street station A, C, F Train to Borough Hall station
General Information: No appointment necessary. Staff assistance minimal.
Copies: Self-service photocopy machine in Room 816 (25 cents). Blueprint-scale copying (36"x 48"): $8 for first copy, $5 each additional; three week processing period.
Procedures: Get a computer print-out of the Property Profile in Room 816 (three public access terminals). The Property Profile will provide you with your block and lot numbers and an inventory of the building folder contents. If your address is not indexed, try the address of an adjacent property. If it is still not there, ask the Data Entry And Research (DEAR) staff to check the street index. Go to the Property Folder window in the rear of Room 816, where all records prior to 1960 are stored. Fill out a block and lot request form, requesting a search for both the Property Folder and the Rolled Plans. You must leave your photo ID to review the records.

Brooklyn Historical Society
128 Pierrepont Street, at Clinton Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
718-624-0890
Public Transportation: 2, 3, 4, 5 Trains to Borough Hall station M, N, R Trains to Court Street station A, C, F Trains to Borough Hall station
General Information: Staff assistance available. $5 admission.
Copies: Photocopy service available: 1" x 2" image (50 cents); 8" x 10" image ($1).
Research Services: Fees vary according to the scope of the request.
Relevant Holdings Visual Collection -- 100,000 images documenting Brooklyn from the late 19th century to the present. The images are indexed by subject and are available for viewing on a computer terminal.
Newspaper Clippings Collection -- Clippings (some of which include photographs) from ca.1870 to 1970, indexed in a card catalog by address.
Real Estate Brochure Collection -- Brochures from ca. 1900 to 1960, indexed by location.
Atlas Collection -- Fire insurance and real estate atlases (from 1855 to 1929) with maps that indicate Tax Block and Lot numbers, building material, property dimensions, and classification for existing structures.
City directories -- For selected years from 1796 to 1913, organized by name, listing resident's home address and occupation with business address. Elite Directories for selected years front 1877 - 1914, organized by address. Brookyln Directories for 1910-1940.

Brooklyn Public Library Brooklyn Collection
2nd Floor Grand Army Plaza at Eastern Parkway
Brooklyn. NY 11238
718-230-2100
M-Th 9:00-8:00, F-Sat 9:00-6:00
Public Transportation: 2 or 3 Train to Eastern Parkway-Brooklyn Museum station
General Information: By appointment only.

BRONX

Bronx Department of Buildings
1932 Arthur Avenue, at East Tremont Avenue
Fifth Floor
Bronx, NY 10457
718-579-6929
M-F 8:30-4:00
Public Transportation: 2 or 5 Train to Third Avenue-149th Street station; then 55 Bus to Third Avenue & Tremont Avenue
General Information: No appointment necessary. Staff assistance minimal.
Copies: Self-service photocopy machine and microfilm copy machines in the Records Room (25 cents). Blueprint-scale copying (36" x 48"): $8 for first copy, $5 each additional; ten day processing period.
Procedures: Get a computer print-out of the Property Profile in Room 508 (one public access terminal), or ask for a print-out at the Customer Service desk. The Property Profile will provide you with your block and lot numbers and an inventory of the building folder contents. If your address is not indexed, try the address of an adjacent property. If it is still not there, ask the staff of the Data Entry And Research (DEAR) desk, in Room 510, to check the street index. Or, try the index in the Real Estate office on the 7th Floor.
Go to Room 400 where all records prior to 1970 are stored. Fill out a block and lot request form, requesting both a search for the Property Folder and the Rolled Plans. You must leave your photo ID to review the records. If the new building or alteration applications are missing from the folder, request the bound copies of the Docket Books. For example, using NB 145-22 from your Property Profile, look up new building application #145 in 1922. This will give you much of the same information as the original application.

Bronx County Historical Society
3309 Bainbridge Avenue, at 208th Street
Bronx, NY 10467
718-881-8900
M-F 9:00-5:00
Public Transportation: 4 Train to Mosholu Parkway
General Information: By appointment only.

QUEENS

Queens Department of Buildings
126-06 Queens Boulevard, at 83rd Avenue
AND Old Record Room 120-55 Queens Boulevard, at 82nd Avenue
Borough Hall, Room G-1 Kew Gardens, NY 11415
718-520-3228 / 3401
M-F 9:00-3:00
Public Transportation: E or F Train to Union Turnpike station
General Information: No appointment necessary. Staff assistance minimal.
Copies: Self-service photocopy machine in Room 409 (25 cents). Blueprint-scale copying (36"x 48"): $8 for first copy, $5 each additional; two week processing period.
Procedures: Get a computer print-out of the Property Profile in Room 101(3 public access terminals). The Property Profile will provide you with your block and lot numbers and an inventory of the building folder contents. If your address is not indexed, try the address of an adjacent property. IF it is still not there, ask the clerk in the Old Record Room to check the street index. You must show the computer printout to the clerk in the Old Record Room.
Go to the Old Record Room, 120-55 Queens Boulevard, at 82nd Avenue, Borough Hall, Room G-1 (a five-minute walk down Queens Boulevard) where all records prior to 1970 are stored. Take the Property Profile print-out and fill out a block and lot form, requesting a search for both the Property Folder and the Rolled Plans. You must leave your photo ID to review the records.

Queens Borough Public Library Long Island Division
89-11 Merrick Boulevard, between Hillside Avenue & Jamaica Avenue
Jamaica, NY 11432
718-990-0714
M-F 10:00-9:00, Sat 10:00-5:30
Public Transportation: F Train to 169th Street station
General Information: No appointment necessary.
Copies: Photocopy service available (15 cents).
Relevant Holdings: Maps and real estate atlases for all of Queens and Brooklyn, 19th & 20th centuries.
Photograph Collection for all of Queens and Brooklyn, from the mid-19th & 20th centuries, includes individual buildings, storefronts, streetscapes, arranged by subject.
Vertical files on neighborhoods, including clippings, illustrations, pamphlets, etc.
Postcard collection, arranged by subject, including neighborhoods.

Queens Historical Society
143-35 37th Avenue, at Parsons Road
Flushing, NY 11354
718-939-0647
M-F 9:30-5:00
Public Transportation: 7 Train to Main Street station
General Information: By appointment.
Research services: Donation requested.

Queens Historical Archive Multimedia Access Project (M.A.P.)
General Information: The M.A.P. is a work in progress, with a prototype currently on-line. A computerized, map-based interactive database linking historical records from fifteen archives, with state-of-the-art mapping techniques, and all historical map information referenced to a single scale. Books, maps, property deeds, public records, art, photographs, etc. will be accessible in one database geographically indexed. 

STATEN ISLAND

Staten Island Department of Buildings
10 Richmond Terrace, at Borough Place Borough Hall
Second Floor
Staten Island, NY 10301
718-816-2312 / 2301
M-F 8:30-1:00, 2:00-3:00
Public Transportation: Staten Island Ferry, walk across Richmond Terrace.
General Information: No appointment necessary. Staff assistance minimal.
Copies: Self-service photocopy and microfilm machines in Room 219 (25 cents); blueprint-scale copying (36" x 48"): $8 for first copy, $5 each additional; one to two week processing period.
Procedures: Get a computer print-out of the Property Profile in Room 219 (one public access terminal in Room 219, and two in Room 200). The Property Profile will provide you with your block and lot numbers and an inventory of the building folder contents. If your address is not indexed, try the address of an adjacent property. If it is still not there, ask the staff of the Data Entry And Research (DEAR) desk in Room 219 to check the street index. Room 219, requesting a search for both the Property Folder and the Rolled Plans. Because records prior to 1960 are stored in a different section of the building, there is a 24-hour wait for these records. You will have to leave your photo ID in order to review the records. If the new building or alteration applications are missing from the folder, you can look at the bound copies of the Docket Books, which are shelved in an alcove of Room 200. For example, using NB 145-22, look tip new building application #145 in 1922. This will give you much of the same information as the actual application.

Staten Island Institute of Arts & Sciences
75 Stuyvesant Place, at Wall Street
Staten Island, NY 10301
718-727-1135
M-Sat 9:00-5:00, Sun 1:00-5:00
Public Transportation: Staten Island Ferry, then five-minute walk to Stuyvesant Place.
General Information: By appointment only. One-day research fee: $5 for nonmembers; $3 for seniors and students. When making an appointment here, give the librarian as much information as possible. Relevant records will be compiled by the staff for your visit.
Copies: Copy service available: photocopies (25 cents), and microfilm copies (60 cents).
Research Services: $15/hour
Relevant Holdings: Architectural Survey -- Conducted between 1975 and 1980. This survey documents the architecture, building by building, of most of the north shore and parts of the south shore. Materials include architectural survey data forms; photographs (taken in the 1970s); materials from the collections of Columbia University and the New York Public Library, and private collections; information from Landmarks Preservation Commission surveys.
Photograph Collection -- Includes images of individual buildings and streetscapes from the late 1800s to the present.
Vertical files -- Includes clippings, postcards, etc., organized by neighborhood.

St. George Branch - New York Public Library Reference Room
Lower Level 5 Central Avenue, at Hyatt Street
Staten Island, NY 10301
718-442-8560
M 12:00-8:00, T-W 10:00-6:00, Th 12:00-8:00, F 12:00-6:00, Sat 10:00-5:00
Public Transportation: Staten Island Ferry, a short walk from the terminal building.
Staten Island Historical Society at Historic Richmondtown 441 Clarke Avenue Staten Island, NY 10306 718-351-1617 x 298 W-F 10:00-5:00, Sat-Sun 1:00-5:00
Public Transportation: Staten Island Ferry, then Bus S74 to Richmond Road & St. Patrick's Place.
General Information: By appointment only.



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