Podcasts Preservation

What Gets Saved? An explainer podcast on preservation, landmarks and historic districts

EPISODE 309 They’re tearing down your favorite old building and putting up a condo in its place. How is this even possible? New York City is so over.

Before you plunge into fits of despair, you should know more about the tools of preservation that New Yorkers possess in their efforts to preserve the spirit and personality of the city.

In the 1960s, in the wake of the demolition of Pennsylvania Station and other beloved historic structures, the New York City Landmarks Law was enacted, granting the city powers to protect its most precious endangered places. Today the Landmarks Preservation Commission is the agency empowered with administering the law.

Walter Daran/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Walking down the beautiful street and see a brown street sign instead of the usual green? You’re in a historic district.

But preservation can be a tricky business; after all, the city is basically imposing rules about how someone else’s private property, in most cases, should look and be maintained. How do you preserve the past amid a rapidly changing metropolis.

Image of Upper East Side Historic District signage, courtesy Ephemeral New York

In this episode, we present a sort of ‘landmarking 101’, mapping the history of the New York City preservation movement and looking at the surprising and sometimes mysterious process of landmarking. It’s everything you’ve wanted to know about landmarks (but were afraid to ask)!


Simeon Bankoff, Executive Director, Historic Districts Council

Peg Breen, President, New York Landmarks Conservancy

— Anthony C. Wood, Board Member, New York Preservation Archive Project and author of Preserving New York: Winning the Right to Protect a City’s Landmark

This show was recorded live at the Bell House in Gowanus, Brooklyn, as part of the Brooklyn Podcast Festival


To get this week’s episode, simply download or stream it for FREE from iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or other podcasting services. You can also get it straight from our satellite site.

THE TAKEOUT — A bonus after-show podcast for those who support us on Patreon. Greg and Tom discuss the most unusual landmarks in New York City and even a few landmarks that were, um, de-landmarked for odd reasons. Subscribe at the Five Points level and above to receive this bonus show (released Monday or Tuesday after the release of the regular podcast).

For more information on historic districts, please visit our friends over at the Historic Districts Council, celebrating their 50th anniversary this year. Check out their website for ways to get involved with present (and future) historic districts.

Visit the searchable New York City Landmarks map to locate landmarks and historic districts near your home or work. Here’s a screenshot of midtown Manhattan, as mentioned by Tom on the show:

From the New York Evening Post, April 24, 1832:

Some of the places mentioned on our show:

The Brokaw Mansion c. 1900, photo by Irving Underhill / Museum of the City of New York

St. John’s Chapel, 1895. Photo by Byron Company. Courtesy the Museum of the City of New York

New York Aquarium in Castle Clinton in the Battery Federal Hall, courtesy New York Public Library Hamilton Grange, photo by Thaddeus Wilkerson, 1889. Museum of the City of New York.


After listening to our show on the New York City preservation, check out these episodes with similar themes —

The Destruction of Penn Station: Begin your preservation journey with the tale of the ultimate lost treasure.

The Rescue of Grand Central: The most important moment in New York City preservation history. Featuring an interview with preservation icon Kent Barwick.

The Promenade and the Preservation of Brooklyn Heights: The story of New York City’s first historic district is an important moment in making landmarking a reality.

Tales from Tribeca: The Manhattan neighborhood of Tribeca has several landmarks and historic districts, but one notable classic — St. John’s Chapel — was wiped away over 100 years ago.

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