Permits and Making Alterations

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Does the LPC have to approve and review changes to buildings in historic districts?

Yes. Most exterior changes to the front and rear facades of buildings in historic districts require review by LPC. 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.

Do I need a Commission permit to make ordinary repairs?

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.

Are there any types of work that do not require LPC's approval?

Ordinary exterior repairs and maintenance, such as replacing broken window glass or removing small amounts of painted graffiti, do not require LPC approval. An LPC permit for interior work is required in the following cases:

  • when the work requires a permit from the Buildings Department or,
  • when work on the interior affects the exterior,
  • when the interior has been designated by the Landmarks Commission as an interior landmark.

The Commission's Preservation Department staff can tell you whether a permit is needed for work you are considering.

What does the Landmarks Preservation Commission consider when it reviews my application?

The staff of the Commission reviews your proposal to evaluate the effect of the proposed changes on the architectural and historical character of your building and/or the historic district.

Does the Landmarks Commission restrict the height of proposed buildings in historic districts?

The Commission reviews the proposed height of new buildings or additions to historic buildings in the context of the character of the building and/or surrounding historic district. The agency does not regulate the floor area of buildings, 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, visit DCP's website.

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 will review the proposed addition in regards to its context and in relation to its significant features.

I own a 1970s building in a historic district. Why does the Landmarks Commission review changes to my building?

To preserve a historic district's special character, the Commission reviews changes to all buildings within its boundaries. The Commission must review the proposed changes to your building to make sure that the overall design is sensitive to the scale and character of the historic district and that the alterations will not detract from the special qualities of the surrounding buildings in the district.

If you apply to the Landmarks Commission to make changes to your building, the Commission will consider whether the building contributes to the special architectural and historic character for which the historic district was designated. You will not be asked to alter your design to make it look "old-fashioned." If you want to put in new windows, for example, you will not be asked to install multi-paned wooden windows if they did not exist in the building when it was constructed.

Can the Landmarks Commission make me restore my building to the way it looked when it was first built?

The Commission cannot make you do work on your building and only reviews work when changes are proposed. For example, if prior to designation the stoop was removed and a ground-level entrance installed, the Commission cannot make you replace the stoop. However if your building has modern windows or doors and you want to replace them, the Commission would apply its standards in reviewing these changes. Similarly, if a highly visible and inappropriate rooftop addition had been added prior to designation, the Commission cannot make you remove the addition; but, if you desire to change the design of the addition, the Commission would review those changes in accordance with its standards of appropriateness.