Preservationist tapped as next LPC chair

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Sarah Carroll, a career commission staffer, is mayor's choice to lead agency


  • Sarah Carroll (right), pictured here at the unveiling of a new marker in the DUMBO Historic District in Brooklyn, is Mayor Bill de Blasio's pick to lead the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Carroll has served on the LPC staff for over two decades. Photo: NYC LPC, via Flickr

In a move that has soothed the concerns of some activists concerned with the direction of the city's historic preservation efforts, Mayor Bill de Blasio has tapped the Landmarks Preservation Commission's top staffer to serve as the agency's next chair. Sarah Carroll, who has served as the LPC's executive director for the last four years, is the administration's nominee to lead the 11-member commission.

If approved by the City Council, Carroll would succeed Meenakshi Srinivasan, who resigned earlier this year amid a controversy over a set of proposed changes to agency rules that critics claimed would weaken public input in the landmarks process.

The mayor's nomination of Carroll — a career LPC staffer and preservationist — has quelled anxieties long held by some preservation advocates who felt the commission had been too permissive in allowing demolitions, alterations and new construction in historic districts under Srinivasan's leadership.

Carroll described herself as “a preservationist by training, profession and temperament” in Council testimony, explaining that she hopes to work to make the agency more open and transparent and expand community outreach as chair. “I believe my unique blend of expertise, experience and temperament will allow me to successfully lead the agency,” Carroll said. “If confirmed, I will work to continue to preserve and protect sites that reflect the diversity and history of our city throughout the five boroughs and ensure that they remain relevant for future generations to come.”

Carroll won praise from lawmakers, former colleagues and preservationists during a Sept. 20 confirmation hearing before the City Council Committee on Rules, Privileges and Elections.

“Given your vast experience, years of public service and your dedication to preservation, I believe you are clearly qualified to chair the LPC,” Council Speaker Corey Johnson said. Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council, one of the city's leading landmarks advocacy groups, said that Carroll would bring to the office “a deep appreciation for the benefits and importance of preservation principles to the people of the City of New York and its soul.”

“We have a long working relationship with Sarah Carroll, whom we have corresponded, collaborated, socialized, partnered with and argued against for close to 25 years,” Bankoff said. “In that time, we've been impressed with Ms. Carroll's professionalism, thoughtfulness, communicative nature and steadfast dedication to the agency. She is someone who has devoted herself to ensuring the Landmarks Commission succeeds and prospers.”

Following Srinivasan's four-year tenure as chair, during which she often found herself with odds with members of the preservation community, a number of lawmakers and landmarks advocacy groups called on the mayor to appoint a successor with a background in the preservation field. Notably, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation launched a letter-writing campaign pointedly demanding de Blasio appoint an “actual preservationist and supporter of New York's landmarks law” to replace Srinivasan, who previously headed the city's Board of Standards and Appeals.

In nominating Carroll, who has served on the LPC's staff for over two decades and headed the agency's preservation division for nine years before being named executive director in 2014, the de Blasio administration has fulfilled these requests.

“During this process I called for someone with a strong preservation background to be put forward, and I think that's where we've landed,” said Council Member Keith Powers, whose East Side district includes a wealth of prominent historic districts and individual landmarks, including the Carnegie Hill Historic District, the Empire State Building and the recently designated AT&T Building.

Page Cowley, chair of the board of the Upper West Side preservation nonprofit Landmark West!, spoke in support of Carroll's appointment. “Her level of knowledge about the entirety of the New York City landmarks process is extensive, but it is her ability to respond to special circumstances and preservation issues with extraordinary fairness that makes her an exceptional candidate for this important position,” Cowley said.

The Council is likely to vote to confirm Carroll's nomination as soon as Sept. 26.

“Sarah, do not lose any sleep over this,” Council Member Karen Koslowitz, chair of Committee on Rules, Privileges and Elections, joked as she referenced the committee's upcoming vote to send Carroll's nomination to the full Council for approval.

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