Making the Best Better: 35th Anniversary Celebration of the 1973 Amendments to NYC’s Landmarks Law
June 10, 2008
Fraunces Tavern Museum
On June 10th, the Archive Project hosted “Making the Best Better: 35th Anniversary Celebration of the 1973 Amendments to New York City’s Landmarks Law.” The 1973 amendments to New York City’s landmarks law dramatically transformed the workings of the Landmarks Preservation Commission by, among other measures, establishing interior and scenic landmarks and instituting continuous hearings and designations, ending the mandated moratorium limiting designation determinations to a 6-month period every three years. These amendments fundamentally strengthened the ability of the Landmarks Preservation Commission to protect New York City’s valuable historic resources. The 35th anniversary event began with a panel discussion at Fraunces Tavern Museum examining the origins of the 1973 amendments and the contributions the legislation made to preservation in New York City. Despite the heat the panel drew a large crowd, eager to witness the historic conversation between three individuals who played key roles in the story of the amendments. After a brief historical introduction by Dorothy Miner, the panelists, Kent Barwick, who as President of the Municipal Art Society led the advocacy efforts for the amendments; Roberta Gratz, whose series of articles in the New York Post helped raise public awareness; and Jeff Friedlander, of the Corporation Counsel’s office who helped draft the amendments, presented their historical perspectives on the events that led to the 1973 amendments.
Following the presentations, Dorothy Miner facilitated discussion among the panelists. Audience members, such as Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel, a long-time Landmarks Commissioner who was serving on the commission in 1973, also participated in the discussion. Following the panel discussion, guests moved to Battery Gardens Restaurant for a cocktail party celebrating the 35th Anniversary of the amendments and honoring those who played a role in their passage. Involved in amending the law were advocacy groups such as the Municipal Art Society, the media that helped create a climate for amending the law and; the Landmarks Preservation Commission; the Corporation Counsel of the City Law Department; and the City Council. Anthony C. Wood welcomed guests and NYPAP Board Member Otis Pratt Pearsall read the role of honored guests: Kent Barwick, Bronson Binger, Jeffery Friedlander, Roberta Brandes Gratz, Garol Greitzer, Michael Gruen, and Hon. Barry Salman. Through research on the 1973 amendments, NYPAP also identified a number of individuals who played important roles in amending the law, but who could not join us that evening: Margot Gayle, Frank Gilbert, Mimi Levitt, Hon. Victor Marrero, Tim Prentice, Frederick William Richmond, Norman Redlich, Edward Sadowsky, and Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel. “Making the Best Better” was attended by veteran and emerging preservationists alike. For some, the event was an educational experience about a previously unknown piece of preservation’s history; for others, the event was a reminder of the importance of the amendments to the Landmarks Law. This program helped to foster dialogue about a key moment in the history of the preservation movement. In addition, NYPAP captured first-hand stories from key figures who helped make this history and strengthened New York City’s landmarks legislation. NYPAP wishes to thank all of the supporters of the event and the New York Preservation Archive Project’s mission—to document, preserve, and celebrate preservation’s history—including such seminal events as the successful 1973 Amendments to the law.
Fraunces Tavern Museum
54 Pearl Street
New York, NY 10004