In March 2015, the City Planning Commission announced a massive citywide rezoning proposal that would raise height limits across the city and weaken hard-won neighborhood contextual zoning protections.  The stated justification for such radical changes: affordable housing.  Yet, the proposal contains no provisions to guarantee the creation of affordable housing.  While developers clearly stand to gain from loosened development controls, communities would suffer.

YOU SPOKE UP!  And it made a difference.  Thank you.  (If you haven’t yet weighed in, please scroll to the end of this post for tips on how to reach out.)

Acknowledging strong pushback from groups like LANDMARK WEST! and other dedicated New Yorkers, the Department of City Planning first extended the deadline for public comments, then issued a letter dated May 15, 2015, describing modest changes to the plan and the intent to provide additional information explaining how specific communities would be impacted.

Some good news is that height limits in midblock R8B districts (designed to protect rowhouse-scale midblocks) would remain unchanged.  The bad news is there are still troubling increases in height limits for new development in the eleven remaining districts. Citywide, height limits are still proposed to be raised by 20-30%.  On the Upper West Side alone, allowable building height will increase by 21% in R8A districts, 27% in R10A districts, and 30% in R9A districts.

Potential maximum build-out in an R9A district under the proposed rezoning.
Additionally, the plan still rests on questionable assumptions and falsely claims New Yorkers must choose between affordability and neighborhood character.  As much as New York City needs affordable housing, senior living and architectural quality, it also needs assurances.  The plan is long on laudable goals, but short on mechanisms for actually achieving — and sustaining — them.  The proposal contains no provisions that actually require developers to build any affordable and senior housing at all, leaving us with glut of excess luxury units.  The one-size-fits-all solution is simply, “Build more.”  At best, the stated policy goals are wishful thinking.  At worst, they provide cover for what is, in reality, a massive giveaway to developers.

Inclusionary housing — the primary vehicle advanced by this proposal — accounted for only 1.7% of new housing growth between 2005 and 2013 according to New York City Council Member Brad Lander’s Inclusionary Zoning in New York City report.  Under the proposed zoning amendments, the City predicts the creation of 8,000 affordable units a year for ten years, far short of the current demand.  Furthermore, the proposal disregards the demonstrated link between inclusionary housing and loss of existing affordable units.  To read LANDMARK WEST’s full position, see our letter to Carl Weisbrod, Chair of the New York City Planning Commission.

Big-money real-estate interests are eager to see the rules change.  We need to work together to make sure that doesn’t happen.  If you haven’t already done so, write to Community Board 7(  Feel free to use following text:

I do not want the current and future contextual neighborhood zoning protections to be weakened by allowing height limits within these protected areas to be raised by 20-30%.  The proposed citywide rezoning plan would overturn communities’ hard-won zoning and historic district protections in one fell swoop.  The result would be higher, bulkier, out-of-character new buildings that undermine individual neighborhoods’ human scale and unique sense of place.  This is not the way to ensure affordability, architectural quality, and quality of life in our city.  Iremain extremely concerned about the impact the revised plan would have on historic resources, neighborhood character and quality of life. Please do not allow this zoning proposal to pass.

And send it to the following:

Hon. Gale Brewer, Manhattan Borough President 

Phone: (212) 669-8300

Hon. Helen Rosenthal, City Council District 6

District Office Phone: (212) 873-0282

Hon. Mark Levine, City Council District 7

District Office Phone: (212) 928-6814

For more information about City Council districts, please click here; or about Community Boards, click here.

We are not alone!  Click here and hereto read excellent articles by our colleagues at the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.  This is an issue that affects us all!

On Wednesday, March 25, neighborhood groups, community leaders, and elected officials spoke out in unity against a massive citywide rezoning proposal that would raise height limits across the city and weaken hard-won contextual zoning protections, benefiting developers while hurting communities.

Read testimony from the March 25, 2015 “scoping session” at the City Planning Commission:

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