Voting Starts to Preserve New York City Historic Sites

Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch and George Washington were at the Metropolitan Museum today to unveil the 40 historic places selected from across the city’s five boroughs that will contend for preservation funding. It’s been put to a public vote with ballots cast online today through May 21.

Historic preservation is a popular cause nationwide, and Partners in Preservation, a collaboration between the National Trust for Historic Preservation and American Express, is backing the effort in six U.S. cities. As Bob Tierney, chairman of New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, pointed out, “Preservation is good for the environment, and the greenest building is the one you rehab, not the one torn down for new construction.”

Some of the forty landmarks revealed in holographic images during the event were relatively unknown. However, the song performed by Katharine McPhee, the singer and actress from NBC’s Smash, was the timeworn classic, New York, New York.

According to Tim McClimon, president of American Express Foundation, each venue had to be a New York City landmark that’s protected under existing preservation laws.

“They had to be venues ready to be preserved, be viable projects that were modest in scope and capable of being finished in a relatively short time period,” he said. “We also looked for representation across all five boroughs and diversity of building types.”

Here are a handful of the forty finalists:

  • Apollo Theatre
  • The Highline (park)
  • New York Botanical Garden
  • Guggenheim Museum
  • Louis Armstrong House Museum

Social media will be a key part of the voting process. The public is allowed to cast their ballots online once a day at, using Facebook, or via mobile devices, with Foursquare badges awarded. For those tracking the action on Twitter, “Preservation Station” vehicles will cruise the city streets. Voters at the stations can have their photos taken with their favorite landmarks and the shots will be projected onto city buildings.

In-person visits are also encouraged, especially during the May 5 through 6 Open House weekend. On May 20, the “final four” that obtain the most votes will receive their full grant requests, and the other sites will receive the balance of the funding.

Tierney referred to former Mayor Ed Koch as a “living landmark,” and we caught up with him after the ceremony as he was about to cast the first official vote on his iPad. Koch told onlookers he plans to vote each day for Federal Hall National Memorial, the site that commemorates George Washington as America’s first president.

[Image: former Mayor Ed Koch with “George Washington.” Courtesy of American Express]