Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that the government will force one of my neighbors to demolish the top floor of his building:
A Manhattan townhouse owner is being forced to do something few, if any, New York homeowners have ever done before: tear down a top-floor addition to a building to comply with city landmark regulations...
We called the Landmark Commission to see if that was true. Spokeswoman Elizabeth de Bourbon said it was not. The Commission didn't "order" the owner to remove the floor. They just threatened a $5,000 dollar fine, plus up to $250 per day ($91,000/year) as long as the building remained in violation.
What did the building owner do wrong? She got approvals to build from the NYC Buildings Department -- but forgot to ask permission from the City Landmark Commission.
After the new floor was built and the City Landmark Commission threatened fines, the building's new owner, Arthur Minerof, offered to modify the top floor if the Commission "legalized" the building. But de Bourbon says that the Commission rejected the offer this March. It arrogantly ruled:
"The Commission noted that...the building's age, material, style, details, and scale are among the features which contribute to the special architectural and historic character of the Upper West Side/ Central Park West Historic District... addition is highly visible and diminishes the relationship between the main house and this annex; that the height of the annex with this one-story addition will overwhelm the main house ... diminish the special architectural and historic character of the house and the Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District."
But the WSJ article has photos that show that the building looks almost exactly the same with the addition as it did before.
Give me a break.
And how was the addition allowed to be built without permission? Incomprehensible rules and bureaucrats who take more and more power:
Between July 2006 and the end of April, the preservation commission says it designated 2,924 buildings as landmarks, nearly tripling the number of buildings that it had given the designation... [The building owner] assumed the requirements had been fulfilled when she received the Building Department permit.
I sympathize. I recently built a summer house in a Massachusetts neighborhood called Indian Neck. It took more than a year to wade through the permit process. Finally, I was allowed to build. But then the state demanded that I stop construction because we had not done “an archaeological survey to search for Indian artifacts.” This requires hiring a “state archaeologist” who spends days sifting through the dirt. If she found something, I would have to wait another year to resume construction. Fortunately, she didn’t. The delays and the state archaeologist still cost me thousands of dollars.
When I asked why they didn’t reveal this requirement during the long year that it took to get their permission to build, the bureaucrat simply said, “If you build in a place called Indian Neck, you should assume you must dig for artifacts.”