Whatever the motivations, a lawsuit against the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission over the proposed Park51 Islamic center is indeed historic. The conservative American Center for Law and Justice and former firefighter Timothy Brown brought the suit, alleging that the commission erred in not designating 45-47 Park Place a landmark last August. That decision that would have made it harder, though still not impossible, to build the center on the site, and a judge heard arguments in the case yesterday in State Supreme Court.
What is interesting about the lawsuit, at least to the architecture nerds out there, is that this is the first time anyone has ever sued to have something named a landmark. And that could be for a good reason.
Every so often the reverse will happen, and a developer or landlord will fight the commission because they want the right to demolish or alter their building, and fear, sometimes rightly, that becoming a landmark will hinder those efforts. The courts also played a pivotal role in the establishment of the city’s Landmarks Law, as a proposal to demolish Grand Central Terminal was refused by the Supreme Court, a case that gave the law its enduring strength to this day.
Whether or not the building is “a monument to 9/11,” as an ACLJ attorney argues to the Times, it is unclear what the outcome of a ruling in his favor would be. In pursuing an Article-78, it is likely the Landmarks Commission would simply be compelled to hold another hearing on 45-47 Park Place, with no guarantee the building would be named a landmark this time, either.