Rules the Federal Government Has to Follow When It Sells Historic Buildings

Federal law requires government agencies to follow certain steps before taking any action – including sale or lease – that would adversely affect a historic property. You can read about the rules for when government transfers property to a private owner.

An agency may make its own determination of whether its property is historic using internal documents, the National Register of Historic Places, the National Archives and other sources. If the building you are interested in protecting has historic significance, read out how to get it on one of these lists. Although not required by the regulations, for some properties, the agency can hire a contractor to conduct further investigation into historic significance; you and your elected advocates can encourage them to do this.

Once the agency determines that the building is historic, it will have to follow the Section 106 Review consultation process. At the end of the consultation, the agency will decide whether the sale of the building will have an “adverse effect” on the historical property or not. It must then notify the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation of the adverse effect finding.

It is not clear who has oversight for these decisions, but if you think a decision has not been made correctly, contact Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

If there is an adverse effect finding, the agency can enter into an agreement with the New York State Historic Preservation Office and any other appropriate consulting parties. Any organization for which the property is important can be a consulting party and part of the agreement, including the Advisory Council and local groups. The agreement will require that protective covenants or a property easement is included as a legal requirement of the sale or transfer to ensure protection of the property after it is transferred. For example, when the United States Postal Service sold the building at 558 Grand Concourse in the Bronx, the accompanying Agreement required a covenant to be placed on the property and held jointly by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission & New York Landmarks Conservancy.

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