Historic Districts Council

The Historic Districts Council (HDC) is a New York City-based 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that serves as the advocate for New York City's historic buildings, neighborhoods, and public spaces.

Historic Districts Council (HDC)
Headquarters232 East 11th Street,
New York City, New York, USA
ServicesHistoric Preservation


HDC was founded in 1970 as a committee of the Municipal Art Society consisting of a coalition of community groups from the designated historic districts of New York City—of which there were only 14 at the time— to serve as their representatives and advocate for more support of the newly created Landmarks Preservation Commission. [1] In the late 1970s, its focus shifted to helping advance district designations; in the 1980s its advocacy role expanded; and finally, in 1985, HDC became an independent, incorporated organization with its own officers.

HDC is a resident partner of the Neighborhood Preservation Center.[2] HDC's first full-time executive director was hired in 1992, and its current executive director is Simeon Bankoff.


In New York City, HDC is the only advocate for designated historic districts and for neighborhoods meriting preservation in all five boroughs. HDC organizes neighborhood residents in efforts to gain protection for their communities and assists property owners through the Landmarks Preservation Commission's processes and monitors preserved properties.[3] HDC also helps promote historic districts[4] and holds annual conferences on topics related to preservation.[5]

HDC is an independent, private organization, although it works with the city government, other preservation organizations, and individual neighborhood groups. As advocate for New York's over 100 designated historic districts, HDC advises community groups about preservation issues and consults with building owners about what Landmarks Preservation Commission regulations mean. So when owners of individual landmarks or buildings in designated districts—the same regulations apply to both categories—want to make changes to their property that affect its external appearance, they must under the law apply to the LPC for approval to make those changes. The applications are often approved at staff level. But when the proposals are complicated or do not suggest a clear-cut solution, they go to public review. Every month, a committee of HDC examines every proposal scheduled for review—about 400 a year—and then drafts testimony which is read at the commission's public hearing. HDC is the only organization in the city that covers all applications.

As advocate for neighborhoods not designated but meriting protection, HDC advises community groups that come to us because they are seeking historic designation. An HDC staff member meets with them in their neighborhoods to talk about what designation means and advises them how to proceed. They then make concrete suggestions and then counsel groups on how to apply for designation, on what kind of research is necessary and how to get it done. HDC always stress the importance of community support and help local groups obtain it. Sometimes HDC initiates the designation process itself, usually in nonresidential areas that do not have local community leaders. In those cases, HDC sponsors the work that would otherwise be done by a community group. HDC also sponsors applications to New York State and National Registers of Historic Places. Listing on these Registers often helps move the designation process forward at the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

To preserve the integrity of the Landmarks Law, HDC monitors behavior of city government and the LPC, taking issue with actions and policies when as they see needed. HDC testifies before the City Planning Commission, the Art Commission, the Board of Standards and Appeals and the City Council, usually on the effect a proposal would have on historic neighborhoods. Sometimes, the HDC holds public assemblies to gauge the effect of political elections.[6]

Landmarks Lion Award

Since 1990, the Historic Districts Council has bestowed the Landmarks Lion award upon those who have shown unusual devotion and aggressiveness in protecting New York City’s historic buildings and neighborhoods.

The Landmarks Lions include:


Financing comes from grants by such government entities as the New York State Council on the Arts and the New York City Council as well as from private foundations, funds and corporations; from fund-raising events and from individual donations. More than 700 Friends of HDC contribute on a regular basis and participate in public activities.


  1. Jackson, Kenneth T., ed. (2010). "Historic Districts of New York City". The Encyclopedia of New York City (Second ed.). Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-18257-0.
  2. "About Us". Neighborhood Preservation Center. 1999-11-01. Retrieved 2015-11-13.
  3. Marc Denhez; Stephen Dennis (1 July 1997). Legal & Financial Aspects of Architectural Conservation: The Smolenice Castle Conference Central Europe. Dundurn. p. 112. ISBN 978-1-55488-207-6. Another such organization is the Historic Districts Council, which helps property owners in historic districts understand the Commission's process. It also monitors work — the Commission sometimes gets calls saying “There's work going on ...
  4. Fulton Street Transit Center, New York, New York, Section 4(f) Evaluation: Environmental Impact Statement. 2004. p. 92. The ElS should include a detailed analysis of potential adverse impacts to historic resource including demolition, new shadows ... The Historic Districts Council (HDC) promotes worthy neighborhoods for designation as a New York City historic ...
  5. Ned Kaufman (11 September 2009). Place, Race, and Story: Essays on the Past and Future of Historic Preservation. Routledge. p. 229. ISBN 978-1-135-88972-2. In 2004, the Historic Districts Council, a leading preservation group, dedicated its annual conference to “Cultural Landmarks: Controversy, Practice and Prospects.” In 2008, the organizers of a conference at the Museum of the City of New York ...
  6. Michael A. Tomlan (21 November 2014). Historic Preservation: Caring for Our Expanding Legacy. Springer. p. 276. ISBN 978-3-319-04975-5. Assuming the historic preservation organization is as deeply concerned as it should be in the political process, it will sponsor public forums during election periods. For example, New York City's Historic Districts Council hosts forums, provides ...
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