Zoning Updates

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

On March 22, 2016, the New York City Council approved modified versions of two major changes to the City's zoning that were proposed by Mayor de Blasio, as part of his housing plan, Housing New York.

Mandatory Inclusionary Housing is a zoning tool developed by the Department of City Planning and Department of Housing Preservation and Development, which requires developers to include affordable housing in areas that are rezoned to allow for more housing development. Affordable housing would be mandatory and permanent. DCP and HPD have stated that MIH will be implemented in any part of the city that is rezoned to allow construction of more residences than current rules allow. The MIH proposal will also be a part of private rezoning applications where there is an increase in housing density, for instance, if a private developer wanted to build more housing than is allowed today. This zoning does not apply to smaller buildings with 10 apartments or fewer. Additionally, new buildings with between 11 and 25 apartments have the option of paying into a fund instead of building affordable apartments. This fund will be used for affordable housing development and preservation in the local community district or within a half mile radius.

Zoning for Quality and Affordability  made a long list of changes to the NYC Zoning Resolution, such as allowing buildings with affordable or senior housing to be taller, eliminating parking requirements for affordable or affordable senior housing that is located near subway lines, and changing rules which affect the shape of new and enlarged buildings. The new rules allow developers to build taller buildings (usually 10 to 20 feet higher, but in some cases more) if they build affordable senior apartments, long term care facilities, or provide affordable housing through the inclusionary housing program. With the exception of affordable senior housing the new rules do not allow any additional square footage—the goal is to let a developer build a taller building in order to fit all of the currently allowed square footage in a new building and provide some architectural flexibility. Under ZQA, residential buildings in many areas (even without affordable housing) can be built slightly taller (typically five feet) if the ground floor is taller as well. This allows ground floor shops and community facility spaces with higher ceilings. Council modified ZQA so that the increased height is only possible for buildings with a commercial or community facility ground floor and only outside the Manhattan Core, which is south of 110th Street on the West Side and 96th Street on the East Side.

Developers are already taking advantage of the new zoning rules, and new and existing zoning rules are undergoing interpretation. In nearby neighborhoods, two building projects are being contested.

From Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer’s July 2016 Newsletter: 42 West 18th Street, the longtime home of camera and film equipment merchant Adorama, has become a focal point in the fight for affordable housing in Manhattan. The developer of the site wants the zoning and land use rules relaxed to allow a new building on the site to have more residential floor area. Whether or not that’s appropriate for this site, this application should trigger the newly-passed “Mandatory Inclusionary Housing” (MIH) rules, guaranteeing that a minimum amount of affordable housing be part of the project…Unfortunately, officials at city planning are arguing that the new housing rules shouldn’t apply here! I think they’re wrong.

July 7, 2016, The Cooperator New York, Skyscraper on Stilts—Residents Successfully Challenge New Development, by Debra A. Estock. Residents of the Sky House condominiums at 11 E. 29th Street…have launched a successful zoning challenge against a newly proposed condo across the street, temporarily halting the project. A report by urban planner George M. Janes submitted to the New York City Department of Buildings revealed that the new J.D. Carlisle construction at 15 E. 30th Street is proposed to be raised 155 feet above the street, so that it will top out at 760 feet or more than 70 stories high. To house ventilation and mechanical equipment in that void, the building will be placed on stilts…“Raising the ceiling height [of the mechanical spaces] doesn't count against the square footage that a developer is allotted,” Crain’s says, “and allows them to create a pedestal on which to stack more high-floor apartments whose expansive views command higher prices.”

A Zoning Change that Was Stopped

From State Senator Liz Krueger’s July Community Bulletin: Building Height Restrictions

I am happy to report that legislation (S5469/A7807) that would have removed floor area ratio (FAR) restrictions for residential buildings in New York City did not advance in either house at the end of session. FAR, a zoning tool regulating the bulk and density of buildings is currently capped at 12. This bill would have worsened the problems of out-of-control overdevelopment in my district and many other parts of the city, while not effectively addressing our desperate need for affordable housing…
Infrastructure in Manhattan is already strained to the limit. What communities in my district and throughout the city are calling for is neighborhood-based community planning that takes this reality into account…The advocacy and education offered by key community groups and preservation experts, including the Municipal Arts Society and Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts was critical in stopping this ill-advised legislation.




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