Saturday, July 14, 2012

CUNY’s CUER

There is a lot of exciting stuff going on at CUNY these days. Not only have they got themselves a shiny new campus in Long Island City, the just inaugurated their new Center for Urban and Environmental Reform (CUER –pronounced “cure”). Headed up by Rebecca Bratspies, this new center is one of the few places engaging specifically with urban environmental issues. Such an endeavor necessarily involves land use issues. I was lucky enough to be invited to CUER’s inaugural scholar workshop. Titled a “Scholar’s Workshop on Regulating the Urban Environment,” the event brought together scholars from multiple disciplines as well as activists and policy makers. It was an interesting format for an event and I enjoyed hearing from architects, historians, geographers and others. I think we’ll be seeing a lot of interesting events and endeavors from this new center. I know I will be keeping my eye on it.

Jessie Owley

July 14, 2012 in Community Economic Development, Density, Development, Downtown, Economic Development, Green Building, Historic Preservation, Housing, Local Government, New Urbanism, New York, Planning, Sustainability, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

In the Conservation Easement versus Mortgage Battle...

the mortgage wins. Because I am a conservation easement nerd savvy academic, I have Westlaw alert me every time a case mentions the term "conservation easement." For years, this yielded very few cases and I only received alerts once a month or so. Lately, I have been getting them daily. Many of these cases come from the tax court and have to do with valuation issues, one line of cases however explores mortgage subordination.

Conservation easements are nonpossessory interests in land that restrict a landowner's use of her property with a goal of yielding a conservation benefit. Many landowners donate conservation easements (i.e. voluntarily restrict the use of their property). Such donations can yield significant federal tax deductions. For a conservation easement (or historic preservation easement) to qualify for a charitable tax break, the restriction must be perpetual. The IRS, Tax Court, and others have acknowledged that it is well nigh impossible to ensure perpetuity of these things. Instead, the IRS has explained that it will consider a restriction to be perpetual if when the restriction is terminated, the beneficiary gets the proceeds. Basically, when a conservation easement is terminated (for any variety of reasons/methods), the holder of the conservation easement will get cash for its porportionate value. Ideally, the holder then uses that money to protect other lands. If your conservation easement doesn't have a provision detailing this procedure, the IRS (in theory) will disallow your deduction. To ensure that the holder will be able to get the proceeds from a land sale, the conservation easement holder must have primary rights to the proceeds. That is, other restrictions on the land must be subordinated (everyone else gets in line behind the conservation easement holder when proceeds from the sale are passed out). This is why the IRS requires any mortgages on the land to be subordinate to the conservation easement.

There have been a few cases from the tax court exploring this issue and most of them seem to involve historic facade easements. In Kaufman v. Commissioner (134 T.C. 182 Apr. 2010), the Tax Court concluded that a facade easement did not qualify for a tax deduction because it wasn't really perpetual because there was a non-subordinated mortgage encumbering the property. The landowners argued that the lack of subordination did not necessarily mean that the holder would not get its proceeds, but the court didn't care. There was a possibility that the facade easement holder would  not be able to receive the proportionate share.

Last week in Wall v. Commissioner (T.C. Memo. 2012-169, June 2012), the Tax Court reached a similar result even though the conservation easement (again a facade preservation easement) declared that it all exisiting mortgages were subordinate. The court did not take the conservation easement at its word and instead looked at the text of the mortgage subordination. The two banks involved executed documents appearing to subordinate the mortgages (based on the title and opening provisions of the documents), but a closer reading revealed that the banks still were claiming that they had "prior claims" in the event of any foreclosures or eminent domain proceedings. The presumption that the mortgages get first dibs at the moola stems mostly from the fact that they encumbered the land prior to the facade easement.

However, I think the main lesson here is that there is almost a presumption against the restrictions being perpetual and any possibility that the proportionate proceeds won't get paid to the conservation easement holder mean no tax deduction.

Jessica Owley

June 21, 2012 in Caselaw, Conservation Easements, Historic Preservation, Land Trust, Mortgages, Property, Real Estate Transactions, Servitudes | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day

Memorial Day Houston National CemeteryToday was Memorial Day in the US.  There are lots of land use issues that we can associate with Memorial Day, which, stripped to its essence, is designed as a day to remember the military members who died in service to the nation.  There is the obvious land use issue of cemeteries, and the related legal and cultural norms governing how we memorialize the dead (check out any of the interesting blog posts or scholarship by Al Brophy and Tanya Marsh on cemeteries).  It gets even more relevant when we start talking about government-owned national or veterans' cemeteries, and the attendant controversies about First Amendment and other issues.  [The photo is from last year's Memorial Day ceremony at Houston National Cemetery, which my daughter attended to honor fallen Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Sauer Medlicott.]  Of course, there are always land use and local government issues involved with things like parades and public ceremonies, and in many communities there are specific rules that govern the "summer season" informally commenced on Memorial Day weekend.

For this post, though, I'll go back to the origins of the holiday.  Interestingly, it started as a private or quasi-public endeavor (perhaps like most civic affairs in the nineteenth century).  In the immediate aftermath of the American Civil War--and for much of the rest of the lives of the generations that fought it--Americans on both sides focused a great deal of attention on preserving its history and creating/controlling its public memory.  In 1868 General John Logan, head of the Union veterans' organization the Grand Army of the Republic (a private society with a great deal of government involvement), issued General Order No. 11, creating what became known as Decoration Day:

The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

Even though this Decoration Day was only adopted in Union states until after World War I (when it was renamed Memorial Day and formally associated with all American wars), the former Confederate states had their own versions to remember the war dead at cemeteries and public venues.  And according to eminent Yale historian David Blight, the first Memorial Day celebration was performed in Charleston, SC, by newly-liberated blacks:

Thousands of black Charlestonians, most former slaves, remained in the city and conducted a series of commemorations to declare their sense of the meaning of the war. The largest of these events, and unknown until some extraordinary luck in my recent research, took place on May 1, 1865. During the final year of the war, the Confederates had converted the planters' horse track, the Washington Race Course and Jockey Club, into an outdoor prison. Union soldiers were kept in horrible conditions in the interior of the track; at least 257 died of exposure and disease and were hastily buried in a mass grave behind the grandstand. Some twenty-eight black workmen went to the site, re-buried the Union dead properly, and built a high fence around the cemetery. They whitewashed the fence and built an archway over an entrance on which they inscribed the words, "Martyrs of the Race Course" . . . . Then, black Charlestonians in cooperation with white missionaries and teachers, staged an unforgettable parade of 10,000 people on the slaveholders' race course. The symbolic power of the low-country planter aristocracy's horse track (where they had displayed their wealth, leisure, and influence) was not lost on the freedpeople.

Anyone interested in the contested history of these issues--with full attention to the negative aspects as well--should read the magnificent book by Prof. Blight (with a name like that, it's a shame he didn't go into land use!), Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory.  And a related part of this history, along with the Decoration/Memorial Day commemorations, was the incipient historic preservation movement.  This confluence of impulses, as well as the also-new movement for environmental conservation, led to the novel idea of having the federal government acquire and administer large tracts of land for the purpose of preserving Civil War history.  As noted in the fascinating monograph by the late National Park Service Historian Ronald F. Lee, The Origin & Evolution of the National Military Park Idea, this was a new and not-uncontroversial exercise of government power over land use:

The idea of the Nation acquiring an entire battlefield and preserving it for historical purposes was new in 1890. It is therefore not surprising that it soon engendered a serious controversy, which arose, fittingly enough, at Gettysburg. The controversy involved two questions of fundamental importance to the future of historic preservation by the Federal Government. Is preserving and marking the site of an historic battlefield a public purpose and use? If so, is it a purpose for which Congress may authorize acquisition of the necessary land by power of eminent domain? The circumstances of this dispute, which had to be settled by the Supreme Court of the United States, are of unusual interest and provide an appropriate introduction to our story.

Lee describes the case, United States v. Gettysburg Electric Ry. Co., 160 U.S. 668 (1896), in the on-line version of the book provided by the NPS.  The case was brought by a railway which objected to the federal government's use of eminent domain to condemn their right of way for construction of a railway to take tourists to the significant "Devil's Den" area of the battlefield, "claiming that establishment of Gettysburg National Park was not a public purpose within the meaning of earlier legislation and that 'preserving lines of battle' and 'properly marking with tablets the positions occupied' were not public uses which permitted the condemnation of private property by the United States."  [What a long way from Kelo that was!]  Justice Rufus Peckham wrote for the unanimous majority in upholding the taking for preservation purposes (and not simply because members of the public could visit the park):

Such a use seems necessarily not only a public use, but one so closely connected with the welfare of the republic itself as to be within the powers granted Congress by the constitution for the purpose of protecting and preserving the whole country.

The Court thus established the constitutionality of taking land by the federal government for national parks, and struck an important legal blow for historic preservation generally.

So from cemeteries to public memory to national parks and historic preservation and much more, Memorial Day is tied to land use law in many ways.  I hope that our US readers have had a good one, and with remembrance for those whom the holiday commends.

Matt Festa

May 28, 2012 in Caselaw, Constitutional Law, Eminent Domain, Environmentalism, Federal Government, First Amendment, Historic Preservation, History, Houston, Politics, Property Rights, Race, Scholarship, State Government, Supreme Court, Takings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

What Would Jane Jacobs Do?

Regular readers know that we love the National Building Museum.  And any land use professional knows that we all love to talk about Jane Jacobs.  So here's an event that might be of great interest: Urban Forum: What Would Jane Jacobs Do?

Fifty one years after Jane Jacobs published her seminal book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, her ideas on liveable, walkable, and diverse neighborhoods continue to impact how urban environments are designed. A panel discusses Jane Jacobs’ legacy, including urban renewal, historic preservation, mixed-use zoning, and public space. Light refreshments will be served.

Panelists include:

  • Bing Thom, Bing Thom Architects 
  • Harriet Tregoning, director, Washington D.C. Office of Planning 
  • Susan Szenasy, editor-in-chief, Metropolis Magazine (moderator) 
  • John Zuccotti, co-chairman of the board, Brookfield Properties Corporation and former Chairman of the New York City Planning Commission

Free (but required) registration is available for the event on Sunday, May 20, 2012 at 10:00-11:30.  Check it out!  If you are able to go to WWJJD, I'd love to hear about it.

Matt Festa

May 16, 2012 in Architecture, Density, Downtown, Historic Preservation, History, Houston, Lectures, New Urbanism, Planning, Politics, Property, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Byrne on the Contemporary Role of Preservation Law in Urban Development

J. Peter Byrne (Georgetown) has posted Historic Preservation and its Cultured Despisers: Reflections on the Contemporary Role of Preservation Law in Urban Development, George Mason Law Review, Vol. 19 (2012).  The abstract:

The past years have seen widely noticed critiques of historic preservation by “one of our leading urban economists,” Edward Glaeser, and by star architect Rem Koolhaas. Glaeser, an academic economist specializing in urban development, admits that preservation has value. But he argues in his invigorating book, Triumph of the City, and in a contemporaneous article, Preservation Follies, that historic preservation restricts too much development, raises prices, and undermines the vitality of the cities. Koolhaas is a Pritzker Prize-winning architect and oracular theorist of the relation between architecture and culture. In his New York exhibit, Cronocaos, he argued that preservation lacks an organizing theory, imposes inauthentic consumer-friendly glosses on older structures, and inhibits architectural creativity. Although these critiques are as different as the cultural spaces inhabited by their authors (although both are professors at Harvard), both seemed to strike nerves, suggesting an underlying unease about how large a role preservation has come to play in urban development. This article assesses these critiques as part of an ongoing effort to make sense of historic preservation law.

This article proceeds as follows: First, it presents Glaeser’s critique in detail, placing it within the context of his larger argument about what makes cities attractive and dynamic. Grappling with the strengths and weaknesses of Glaeser’s critique leads to a discussion of how preservation regulation actually works and clarification of some of the benefits it confers. Second, this Article will attempt to specify Koolhaas’s critique, connecting it to similar complaints about preservation by more linear thinkers. Weighing objections to the coherence or authenticity of preservation leads to further discussion of the role that preservation plays in the larger culture. This article concludes with a call for future research.

Matt Festa

March 14, 2012 in Architecture, Books, Development, Historic Preservation, History, Planning, Property, Scholarship, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Reiss on Glaeser on the City

David Reiss (Brooklyn) has posted a review of Harvard economist and urban theorist Edward Glaeser's new book. Book Review: Edward L. Glaeser, Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier (The Penguin Press 2011), forthcoming in Environment and Planning (2012).  The abstract:

It is always a bit unnerving to read someone else’s love letters, but even more so, when you have the same object of desire. Edward Glaeser’s TRIUMPH OF THE CITY is a love letter to cities and to New York City in particular. Glaeser provides a theoertical framework of the city, arguing that “Cities are the absence of physical space between people and companies. They are proximity, density, closeness.”

Glaeser prescribes three simple rules to protect the vitality of the urban environment: First, cities should replace the current lengthy and uncertain permitting process with a simple system of fees. Second, historic preservation should be limited and well defined. Finally, individual neighborhoods should have some clearly delineated power to protect their special character.

While Glaeser does not fully justify his set of rules, he does provide a thought-provoking discussion of the consequences of not following them. If you were to take nothing else from TRIUMPH OF THE CITY, you should attend to its cri de coeur: “the real city is made of flesh, not concrete.” But, notwithstanding its limitations, the book offers much, much more than that. It challenges broadly held beliefs and presents a theory of the city that helps to evaluate urban policy proposals with a clear eye.

Matt Festa

December 6, 2011 in Density, Historic Preservation, History, Housing, Local Government, New York, Planning, Scholarship, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Zoning "Can't Buy Me Love"

I had an interesting conversation this morning with Meg Mirshak, a reporter from The Augusta Chronicle. She contacted me for background on a series of stories she's doing on a proposed overlay zone that would allowed mixed-use development in a historic African-American neighborhood called Laney-Walker.  The overlay as proposed is very general, but requires specific permission for uses like pawn shops and liquor stores.  The community feels underinformed and is very concerned about the potential impact on their neighborhood. Also, this concept of an overlay zone is confusing to many, and the commission has delayed its vote on the overlay until January due to the confusion and to notice problems.

Mirshak asked me if I could provide examples of where overlay zoning has proved succesful, and honestly, this stumped me.  We've proposed particular types of overlay zoning in some of our client communities - to require more pedestrian friendly redevelopment on aging strip corridors, for example - but the time horizon on implementing these changes is so long that I can't honestly say I know of a "successful" use of overlay zoning.  Also, as I pointed out to her in a follow up e-mail, overlay zoning is really just a form, so it's kind of like asking if any type of form - buildings, novels, movies - are inherently successful.  Yes, those forms can be successful or they can be a disaster, depending on how you construct them and what you're trying to accomplish.  With any zoning tool the trick is to make sure they reflect the community's goals and market realities, and that they deliver what's best for the long term vibrancy of the city. And that often involves a lot of process, more process than they seem to have allowed for in Augusta.

Coincidentally, I stumbled across a blog post on Planetizen, written by an urban planner who lead a group of students to plant trees at a New Orleans school, only to be thwarted in their task by a schoolyard shooting.  The post, titled "Can't Buy Me Love - or Plan for It," points out the importance of human connection in urban planning.

In my first year and a half as a working urban planner, I've consistently come back to the lessons I learned in New Orleans in 2009: For all of the innovative design that you can bring to a city, and for all of the smart planning principles that they teach you in school, there's no match for literally and figuratively digging your heels into a neighborhood, getting residents invested in the work that you're doing, and—together—building a partnership that leads to the kind of community building that can't be taught.

I can't say better than that.  Here's hoping the planners in Augusta can do what it takes to get the residents invested in what they're trying to accomplish.

Jamie Baker Roskie

December 1, 2011 in Community Design, Development, Georgia, Historic Preservation, Local Government, Planning, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Georgia Trust Releases 2012 "Places in Peril"

Today the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation released its 2012 "Places in Peril" list of historic properties under threat. (Historic preservation bufs will note this public relations gambit is not unique to Georgia.) As I expected, UGA's Rutherford Hall appears first on the list.  Rutherford is, as I previously blogged, slated for demolition.  However, several less imperiled, yet possibly more architecturally worthy buildings, such as the Randolph County Courthouse, are also listed.

Built in the 1880's, this masonry courthouse located on the town square of Cuthbert was built in the Dutch Romanesque Style, which is unusual for Georgia. With the construction of a new judicial center for Randolph County, the functions of the courthouse were relocated. The county is working with the architectural firm Lord Aeck & Sargent to redevelop the building as offices for many municipal functions including a welcome center, chamber of commerce, soil conservation lab and event space. The county is performing the restoration in phases, using prisoner labor. The courtroom benches have been restored as part of a rehabilitation program that trains prisoners to refinish furniture.

These lists of endangered properties must have value - I wonder how often a listing like this results in a property being saved.  I don't think there's much hope for Rutherford Hall, though. Despite significant opposition the University seems staunch in its plan to "retrofit" through demolition of the existing building.

Jamie Baker Roskie

October 25, 2011 in Architecture, Georgia, Historic Preservation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 23, 2011

R.E.M. is Breaking Up

So the big news around here this week is the breakup of Athens-based rock band R.E.M.  Sad news for music fans, but why is this Land Use Prof blogable?  Well, first off, R.E.M. - through band manager and UGA law alum Bertis Downs - has given financial support to the UGA Land Use Clinic, including the money to buy our first real office furniture.  Also, association with R.E.M. has made icons of several community features or locations.  The most prominent of these features is the railroad trestle featured on the cover of their 1983 album "Mumur" - music fans have rallied multiple times to save the trestle, which is now onthe local Oconee Rivers Greenway.  The other most commonly associated structure is the steeple of St. Mary's Episcopal Church, where the band played an early (possibly their first) show in 1980.  The church is now gone, and the steeple molders in the parking lot of a local condominium association while the Athens-Clarke Heritage Assocation and local leaders try to figure out how to save it.  The band itself has steered mostly clear of these battles, which are likely to continue.  Athens won't be the same without R.E.M., but the town is permanently changed by the bands' legacy.

Jamie Baker Roskie

September 23, 2011 in Architecture, Georgia, Historic Preservation | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Furman Center launches SHIP

Some exciting news from NYU's Furman Center for Real Estate & Urban Policy:

We are thrilled to announce the launch of our Subsidized Housing Information Project (SHIP), a new resource designed to provide housing agencies, community organizations, tenants and the affordable housing industry with the information they need to develop effective preservation strategies.

The SHIP database contains extensive information on nearly 235,000 units of privately-owned, subsidized affordable rental housing in New York City. Compiled from 50 different public and private data sources, the information is accessible through a user-friendly, interactive data search tool available on our website.

Our Institute for Affordable Housing Policy has simultaneously released the State of New York City’s Subsidized Housing report, which provides a comprehensive analysis of the properties in the SHIP database, and identifies opportunities to preserve affordable housing in the coming years. Another online tool, the Directory of New York City Affordable Housing Programs (Beta) summarizes nearly 200 programs that have been used in New York City to develop affordable housing since the 1930s.

The SHIP was made possible through a collaboration with the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the New York City Housing Development Corporation, New York State Homes and Community Renewal, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the F.B. Heron Foundation and NYU Law alumnus Herbert Z. Gold (¢40). The New York City Council has also committed to support technical assistance and training for community-based organizations on how to use the database in their preservation efforts and advocacy. We have also received invaluable guidance and support from members of the SHIP Advisory Committee, the IAHP Advisory Board and dozens of affordable housing experts.

Matt Festa

September 8, 2011 in Affordable Housing, Community Economic Development, Historic Preservation, Housing, HUD, Landlord-Tenant, New York, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Georgia Theater to Reopen

I've blogged previously here and here about efforts to rebuild Athens' historic Georgia Theater after a devastating fire in 2009.  It's been a long, tough road for the building's owner, and I'm sure he felt there were times when the reopening just wasn't meant to be.  So, in grand Athens fashion, there will be a big, weeks long party to celebrate, starting August 1.  They have a fantastic lineup of local and national favorites such as The Glands, Kenosha Kid, and Bela Fleck and the Flecktones.

The UGA student paper The Red & Black has a nice article about the rebuilding and refitting of the interior.  The Theater is beloved by music and architecture fans alike.  It's wonderful to see it taking on a new life.

Jamie Baker Roskie

July 9, 2011 in Architecture, Georgia, Historic Preservation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Has Preservation Become a Dangerous Epidemic?

" . . . And is it destroying our cities?"  That's how this NY Times piece starts out, but it isn't an anti-HP property rights screed.  It's an exhibition review of "Cronocaos," at the New Museum: An Architect's Fear that Preservation Distorts.

That’s the conclusion you may come to after seeing “Cronocaos” at the New Museum. Organized by Rem Koolhaas and Shohei Shigematsu, a partner in Mr. Koolhaas’s Office for Metropolitan Architecture, the show draws on ideas that have been floating around architectural circles for several years now — particularly the view among many academics that preservation movements around the world, working hand in hand with governments and developers, have become a force for gentrification and social displacement, driving out the poor to make room for wealthy homeowners and tourists.

Mr. Koolhaas’s vision is even more apocalyptic. A skilled provocateur, he paints a picture of an army of well-meaning but clueless preservationists who, in their zeal to protect the world’s architectural legacies, end up debasing them by creating tasteful scenery for docile consumers while airbrushing out the most difficult chapters of history. The result, he argues, is a new form of historical amnesia, one that, perversely, only further alienates us from the past.

In New York, the exhibition is in an old restaurant supply store adjacent to the museum, with a line drawn down the middle; one side has been "renovated" and the other left "raw and untouched."

The result is startling. The uneven, patched-up floors and soiled walls of the old space look vibrant and alive; the new space looks sterile, an illustration of how even the minimalist renovations favored by art galleries today, which often are promoted as ways of preserving a building’s character, can cleanse it of historical meaning.

Interesting.  One other point the architect makes is that preservation can be selective in what periods and styles ought to be preserved:

This phenomenon is coupled with another disturbing trend: the selective demolition of the most socially ambitious architecture of the 1960s and ’70s — the last period when architects were able to do large-scale public work. That style has been condemned as a monstrous expression of Modernism. . . . To Mr. Koolhaas, these examples are part of a widespread campaign to stamp out an entire period in architectural history — a form of censorship that is driven by ideological as much as aesthetic concerns.

Matt Festa

May 24, 2011 in Aesthetic Regulation, Architecture, Historic Preservation, History, New York, Redevelopment, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Demise of Historic Preservation?

As federal, state, and local governments face expanding budget crises, will historic preservation programs be one of the first items on the chopping block?  President Obama's February budget proposal would have eliminated Save America's Treasures and Preserve America, which support historic preservation.  Also in February, Governor Rick Perry of Texas proposed to eliminate funding for the Texas Historical Commission. The most important battles may be fought at the local level, however, where taxpayers are beginning to question the merits of tax breaks for property owners who preserve and maintain historic landmarks.  On April 12, three homeowners in Austin sued the city and its city council, arguing that the tax breaks that apply to more than 500 landmarks in the city violate state law.  In Detroit, historic buildings have crumbled as businesses have vacated structures, leaving them vulnerable to vandalism.  

The U.S. Supreme Court in Penn Central Transportation Company v. City of New York noted that "nationwide legislative efforts" toward historic preservation reflect a "widely shared belief that structures with special historic, cultural, or architectural significance enhance the quality of life for all."  But as governments struggle to provide funding for other essentials, pieces of our past may be lost. 

Hannah Wiseman

April 13, 2011 in Budgeting, Historic Preservation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Before Mountain Top Removal . . . Historic Designation Removal

NPR this evening featured a story about a dispute in West Virginia over the preservation of Blair Mountain, site of a 1921 miner uprising that claimed the lives of 100 men.  Massey Energy, owner of the mine in which 29 workers died nearby last April, is one of two companies that owns land adjacent to the site.  After being placed on the National Register of Historic Places, Blair Mountain's protection was removed by state officials thereby eliminating a barrier to the leveling of the site through mountain top removal of the coal within. 

Jim K.

March 5, 2011 in Clean Energy, Economic Development, Environmental Justice, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, Historic Preservation, History, Industrial Regulation, Oil & Gas, State Government | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tax Breaks For Conservation Easements May Get Even Sweeter

As some of you may know, I am obsessed with intrigued by conservation easements. A strong motivator for some conservation easements (but not all or even necessarily most) is the availability of federal income tax deductions. A current bill in the senate would make such donations even more alluring. 

The Rural Heritage Conservation Extension Act of 2011 would allow landowners to deduct up to 50% of the adjusted gross income for such donations (right now it is only a mere 30%).

- Jessica Owley

February 17, 2011 in Agriculture, Conservation Easements, Federal Government, Historic Preservation, Land Trust, Servitudes | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Public Funding for Religious Landmark Upheld

U.S. District Judge Michael McCuskey (C.D. Ill.) has dismissed (Jurist story here) an Establishment Clause lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Illinois Commerce and Economic Opportunity Department's awarding of a restoration grant for the Bald Knob Cross of Peace (history webpage).  The plaintiff has declared his intention to appeal to the Seventh Circuit.

Jim K.

February 9, 2011 in Caselaw, Constitutional Law, Economic Development, First Amendment, Historic Preservation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Housing Fellowship Program in New York

Here is an announcement that may be of interest to your students:

HPD-HDC Housing Fellows Program 2011-2013

The NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) is the nation’s largest municipal housing preservation and development agency. Its mission is to promote quality housing and viable neighborhoods for New Yorkers through education, outreach, loan and development programs and enforcement of housing quality standards.  It is responsible for implementing Mayor Bloomberg’s New Housing Marketplace Plan to finance the construction or preservation of 165,000 units of affordable housing by 2014.  Since the plan’s inception, a total of more than 108,600 affordable homes have been created or preserved.  For more information, please visit www.nyc.gov/hpd

The NYC Housing Development Corporation (HDC)provides a variety of financing programs for the creation and preservation of multi-family affordable housing throughout New York City.  In partnership with the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development, HDC works to implement Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s New Housing Marketplace Plan to finance the creation or preservation of 165,000 affordable housing units by the end of the 2014 fiscal year.  Since the plan launched in 2004, HDC has financed nearly 47,521 homes for low- , moderate- and middle-income New Yorkers.  The New York City Housing Development Corporation is rated AA by S&P and Aa2 by Moody’s.  For more information, please visit www.nychdc.com

The HPD-HDC Housing Fellows Program is designed to bring talented young professionals to HPD and HDC to expose them both to the inner workings of New York City government and to the field of affordable housing, with the goal of developing the next generation of affordable housing leadership.  The Fellowship provides a forum for the exchange of fresh and current ideas with those who shape the City’s housing policy through housing- and community development-related lectures, site visits, hands-on policy work and mentoring.

For more information: http://www.nyc.gov/html/hpd/html/jobseekers/fellowship.shtml

- Jessica Owley

February 1, 2011 in Affordable Housing, Development, Historic Preservation, Housing, Local Government, New York, Planning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Scouting, Walking, & Blogging New York

Among the many reasons that I am passionate about the subject of land use law, these three are among the most important: First, it is historical--studying land uses in our cities, towns, and rural areas gives us a sense of how we lived and how our places have changed over time.  Second, it is an essentially visual subject--to see the land and the built environment, whether in person or through pictures, is an important part of thinking about the effects of law and policy.  Third, and related to the first two, is that land use tells stories--whether over the course of time or within present-day issues and controversies, land use provides a narrative about how we live with each other in our communities and in society. 

That's a long-winded way of leading up to the observation that I really like two websites that I stumbled across recently and want to share with you.  Neither is written by a lawyer or a professor, but both involve the efforts of thoughtful and observant people to walk the streets, drive around the region, and post pictures, descriptions, and stories about the land, buildings, neighborhoods, and cities, both past and present.

The first is Scouting NY.  Its proprietor is a professional film scout, who describes his endeavor thusly:

I work as a film location scout in New York City. My day is spent combing the streets for interesting and unique locations for feature films. In my travels, I often stumble across some pretty incredible sights, most of which go ignored daily by thousands of New Yorkers in too much of a rush to pay attention.

As it happens, it's my job to pay attention, and I've started this blog to keep a record of what I see.

And we all benefit from that.  For an example, the current feature at the top of the blog is a collection of photos and descriptions of an abandoned mental asylum in Rockland County.  Creepy and fascinating. 

The second website I want to link to is Forgotten NY, run by graphic designer Kevin Walsh.  This one seems to be more focused on the city proper and its various neighborhoods.  The MO seems to be more about the street-level observation, by talking walks around the various parts of the city and reporting descriptions and photos, and giving us an insight in to the New York of the past through the evidence that still lingers today.  The current feature is "A Walk from South Williamsburg to Bedford-Stuyvesant," with copious photos.  This site looks like it's been around for about a decade and has a strong readership, but I never came across it until just recently.   

These two happen to be about New York.  I suspect that there are many more great blogs and websites out there, about New York and also about other places, which seek to illuminate, record, preserve, and tell the stories of our places, run by folks who are passionate about their communities past and present.  If you know of or would recommend any similar sites, I'd love to hear about them. 

Matt Festa

January 25, 2011 in Architecture, Historic Preservation, History, New York, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Carousels vs. Conservation in Brooklyn

In the small world department, at a wedding in December I met a student of Patricia Salkin's.   Andrew Stengel, a "non-traditional" second-year student at Albany Law School, is a member of the school’s Government Law Review.  Andrew has also served in a variety of positions in government and progressive advocacy organizations.  He worked as the political director for Harvey Weinstein, co-founder of Miramax Films, and he got his start in the administration of Gov. Mario Cuomo.

Andrew e-mailed me recently to let me know about his recent posts on the Government Law Review blog regarding a plan to put a carousel in an area of a park in Brooklyn that is meant to be protected in perpetuity as a natural and scenic area. Read his posts here and here.

Jamie Baker Roskie

UPDATE - on April 10, 2011 a federal judge in New York temporarily blocked the plan for a carousel. Stay tuned!

January 18, 2011 in Historic Preservation, New York, Water, Wetlands | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Dolan on the Salazar cross, historic preservation, and federal land transfers

Mary Jean Dolan (John Marshall-Chicago) has posted P.S. Untold Stories and the Cross National Monument.  We've mentioned the land use aspects of the Salazar decision before.  Dolan's abstract:

This Article offers an interesting post script to the Supreme Court’s Salazar v. Buono Establishment Clause decision. It presents some surprising non-record facts and additional issues raised by Congress’s 2002 designation of the Mojave Cross as a “National Memorial.” This Act deserves more exploration, particularly because it appears wholly extraneous to the government policy approved by the Supreme Court plurality: ending the appearance of government endorsement of religion, while simultaneously “avoid[ing] the disturbing symbolism associated with the destruction of the historic monument.” 

Included in the new information is evidence that National Memorial status is not as lofty or rare as it would seem, the cross does not appear to be the sole WWI memorial for the nation, and in the past, Congress has abolished National Memorial status upon transferring the land. The Article also looks at the intersection of historic preservation law and Congress’ requirement that the Secretary of the Interior fund and install a new replica cross on Sunrise Rock.

Matt Festa

December 7, 2010 in California, Caselaw, Federal Government, First Amendment, Historic Preservation, History, RLUIPA, Scholarship, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)