Public Hearings provide applicants seeking Certificates of Appropriateness the opportunity to present their proposals to the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), and to explain why they believe the proposed work is appropriate. The hearing is also an opportunity for public testimony about the application.
At the Public Hearing, the panel of eleven LPC Commissioners discusses the proposal and either makes a decision at that time, or at a later Public Meeting.
Prior to the Public Hearing, applicants meet with their assigned LPC staff preservationist to discuss the project and presentation requirements, and submit any required materials. Additionally, applicants are required to present their proposal to the local community board before presenting to the Commission.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is a Public Hearing?
- Public Hearings provide applicants seeking Certificates of Appropriateness the opportunity to present their proposals to the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), and to explain why they believe the proposed work is appropriate. The hearing is also an opportunity for public testimony about the application. At the Public Hearing, the panel of eleven LPC Commissioners discusses the proposal, and either makes a decision at that time, or at a later Public Meeting.
2. What is a Public Meeting?
- At a public meeting, items that were not decided on at the Public Hearing are brought back for more discussion between the Commissioners and the applicant, or for a decision. No public testimony is taken at Public Meetings.
3. Why does the LPC hold Public Hearings?
- The LPC receives over 13,000 applications each year from owners who wish to make changes to their landmarked properties. Approximately 95 percent are reviewed by the agency's professional staff, which uses LPC's Rules to determine whether the proposed work is appropriate. The remaining applications must be reviewed by the commissioners at a public hearing if the proposed work is not covered by LPC's rules.
- NOTE: Many applicants modify their applications so that their work qualifies for a staff-level permit. These permits have a shorter turnaround time and do not require a public hearing. Discuss this option with your staff preservationist.
4. When will my hearing take place?
- Once the LPC receives your application, and the staff preservationist assigned to your project verifies that it is complete and that a hearing is necessary, your application will be scheduled for a hearing. Your staff preservationist will call you and tell you the time and date of the hearing. You should be prepared to wait one to two months before your application is reviewed at a public hearing. Public hearing items must be advertised in the City Record for 10 days prior to the hearing and are also referred to the local community boards for their review. You can help speed the process by ensuring that you file a complete application as soon as possible.
5. Where do hearings take place?
- Hearings are held at LPC's offices, which are located on the 9th floor of 1 Centre St. in Manhattan, at the intersection of Chambers Street.
6. When are hearings held?
- LPC's Public Hearings and Public Meetings occur two or three times a month on Tuesdays. The hearings begin at 9:30 a.m. and continue throughout the day, usually until about 5 p.m. Hearing dates are posted on LPC's website and in the City Record 10 business days before the hearings.
7. What if I need assistance to attend a hearing?
- If you need a sign-language translator or other reasonable accommodation to attend or to participate in a public hearing or public meeting, you should call or write the Commission no later than five business days before the meeting. The public hearing room is wheelchair accessible.
8. How does the Community Board participate in the public hearing process?
- Applicants are required to present the same proposal they will be presenting to the Commission to the Community Board prior to the LPC public hearing. The Community Board will send a letter to LPC stating that the board supports, opposes, or recommends modifications to the application. Failure to appear before the community board may result in a negative recommendation from the board, and can delay the Commission's final decision on your proposal.
9. The community board voted to support my application. Does that mean that the Commissioners will approve it?
- The Commission pays careful attention to the community board's opinions, but the Commissioners are not required to follow the board's recommendations. If the Community Board suggests that you change your application prior to your public hearing, please consult with your staff person before making any changes. The Commissioners will make the final binding decision to approve, modify or deny your application.
10. How are members of the public informed of my application?
- LPC will inform your local community board about your application, and public hearing agendas are available on the homepage of LPC's website and in the City Record.
11. A local preservation group called me and asked to review my proposal before the Public Hearing. Should I show it to them?
- Preservation and civic groups may ask to review presentations so they can prepare informed comments prior to a public hearing. You are not required to submit materials or to make presentations to them. Instead, you may wish to invite them to your community board presentation, or encourage them to review the presentation materials on the LPC website before the hearing date.
12. Can the public review my application before the public hearing?
- Yes. The public can review the presentation materials associated with your application. The presentation is available for online review before public hearing. This review enables interested parties to prepare informed testimony about pending applications. Applicants and their representatives should not attend this review.
13. When should I arrive at LPC on the day of the public hearing on my application?
- Your LPC staff preservationist will give you an estimate of when your application will be heard. It is not possible to be precise because the staff cannot know how long the other hearing items on the agenda will take. You should arrive at least 30-45 minutes before your scheduled time, in case other presentations proceed more quickly than expected. If you are not present when your item is called, the hearing may proceed without you.
14. What protocols should I follow in the hearing room?
- We ask members of the public to be courteous to the Commissioners, staff, and speakers during the public hearing. Please do not interrupt the Commissioners' discussion or public testimony. Eating and drinking are not permitted in the hearing room, and conversations should not take place during hearings. Please turn off mobile communications devices in the hearing room.
15. What should I do when my application is announced?
- You and your representatives (if any) should move to the seats at the front of the hearing room. Your staff preservationist will briefly describe your application and introduce you to the commissioners. The Chair will then ask you and/or your representatives to begin your presentation.
16. Do I need a professional representative to explain my application?
- You are not required to hire professionals to represent you or to appear with you at the hearing. For simple applications, you may wish to explain your proposal to the Commissioners yourself. For more complex applications, however, it is often a good idea to have an architect, contractor, lawyer, or managing agent help present your application.
17. My architect is presenting my application. Do I need to be at the hearing?
- You do not need to make a statement at the hearing if you do not wish to do so. However, for several reasons, LPC recommends that you attend the hearing. When you are present, you ensure that your representatives explain your proposal accurately. The Commissioners may ask questions about the proposal that only you can answer. The Commissioners may suggest changes to your proposal during the hearing, and if you are present, you can authorize these changes immediately. By listening to the testimony and the Commissioners' comments, you will have a more accurate understanding of the reaction to your application than if your representative summarizes the meeting for you. NOTE: If you have changed your proposal in any way, you must inform your LPC staff member of these revisions before your public hearing.
18. What materials should I submit for my presentation?
- It depends on the type of work you are proposing to do. Your LPC staff preservationist will tell you what materials will best explain your proposal to the commissioners. Usually you will need to show photographs of the project site, as well as any drawings, material samples, color samples, and/or other materials that will help describe your project. Commissioners will not have an opportunity to read written materials during the hearing, so include all pertinent information in your verbal presentation. Any written materials submitted at the hearing will be distributed and reviewed after the hearing.
19. How should I present my proposal?
- First, walk to the head of the table and introduce yourself for the record. Speak loudly and clearly since hearings are recorded.
- Describe your project and explain why you are proposing to do the work. Focus your remarks on the effect of the proposed work on your building and/or on the historic district. Present a strong case for why you believe the work is appropriate. How will your project restore, enhance, or otherwise affect the protected architectural features of your building? If your project will take place in an historic district, explain how your work will affect the exterior features of neighboring buildings and other elements in the district. Make a persuasive case for the appropriateness of your application. Work with your staff member to decide what information to include in your presentation.
- You may read your statement or speak informally. Your presentation should be business-like in tone; argumentative or overly emotional presentations are much less effective.
- IMPORTANT NOTE: Make sure that you and your representative's statements are truthful and accurate. Misrepresentations (such as saying that the work has not started yet, when it has) can delay a decision on your application and can result in fines or other penalties.
20. How long should I speak?
- You may take as much time as you need to explain your application, but you should prepare an organized and concise presentation. Most presentations range from five to 15 minutes, depending on the complexity of the proposal. After you have finished speaking, the Chair will ask the commissioners if they have any questions about your project. Please remain at the head of the table while you respond to any questions so that the microphone can pick up your answers.
- TIP: It might be a good idea to attend a public hearing before your own hearing date so you can observe other presentations, and get a sense of the kinds of questions you may be asked. You can also watch LPC hearings online.
21. What happens after I make my presentation?
- Public Testimony
After your presentation, the Chair will ask if any members of the public would like to comment on your application. At this time, elected officials, community groups, and any other interested parties may comment. Testimony is limited to three minutes per speaker. The Chair may also read into the record letters or written statements about the proposal. Following the testimony, Chair will ask you if you wish to respond to any of the points that were made. To prepare for this, you should pay close attention to and possibly take notes of the testimony. Do not interrupt the speakers. You should wait until the testimony is completed before you respond.
TIP: Always go to the head of the table and identify yourself when you speak so that the microphone can pick up your comments.
- Commission Discussion
The Chair will next ask the Commissioners if they have any additional questions for you or your representatives. This could be your final opportunity to comment on your application. You should address the specific concerns raised by the commissioners and summarize your strongest arguments for why your application is appropriate. The Commissioners will then discuss your application. In deciding whether your proposed work is appropriate in accordance with the Landmarks Law, they will consider the aesthetic, historical, and/or architectural value and significance of your building (and surrounding buildings, if your building is in a historic district); the architectural style, design, arrangement, texture, materials, and colors of the existing conditions and the proposed work; whether you are proposing to remove original or historic materials; and other pertinent factors. You may be asked to provide additional information during this discussion. Otherwise, please do not interrupt the discussion.
- Commission Decision
The Commission can take several different actions with regard to your proposal. It can:
• Vote to approve the proposal as you presented it, or with modifications that you and the commissioners have agreed are acceptable.
• Vote to deny your proposal.
• Ask you to modify your proposal to address their concerns and return to the Commission at a later date.
• Ask for more information, such as a clearer drawing of a particular design feature. In this case, you will be asked to return to another public hearing or public meeting.
• Ask for a site visit if the commissioners decide they need to see the project site in order to make a decision on a complex or unusual project.
• Continue the public hearing (or announce plans to re-open the hearing at a later public meeting) because the community board or a local group or elected official has not had a chance to vote on or review the application and has asked the LPC to continue the hearing.
• Postpone a decision on your application because the motion to approve or deny did not carry. At least six of the 11 commissioners must vote for or against an application in order to approve or deny it.
22. What happens after the hearing?
- After the Commission votes on your application, your staff preservationist will send you a letter explaining the Commission's decision about your application. This letter will be a Status Update Letter, a Denial, or a Certificate of Appropriateness.
23. What is a Status Update Letter?
- After the Commission approves your application, you will receive a Status Update Letter that explains what was approved and what final materials are required before the permit can be issued. If your project requires a Department of Buildings permit, you will need to submit the final signed and sealed DOB filing drawings.
NOTE: A Status Update Letter is NOT a permit. You may not begin work until you have received your permit.
24. The Commission voted to approve my application. May I begin work immediately?
- No. Even if the Commission has voted to approve your application, you must not begin work until you receive your Certificate of Appropriateness permit. If you begin work without a permit, you may receive a notice of violation and may be subject to a civil fine.
- The permit is usually issued shortly after staff receives your final filing materials. If you wish, you may arrange with your staff preservationist to pick up your permit at the Commission's offices. If your permit cannot be issued immediately because more information or materials is needed, you will receive a "Status Update Letter" that explains why it hasn't been issued.