Preservation Issues

Mayor Seeks Larger Buildings in Residential Neighborhoods

Preservation Alert: Threat to Neighborhoods

The de Blasio Administration is once again seeking to remove a 58 year-old state cap that controls the density of residential neighborhoods. If the cap is removed, already dense areas of Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn could see even more growth and buildings that are out of scale with their surroundings.

The State Senate has just passed a bill (S.7506A) eliminating the current cap of 12 FAR. We need your help to defeat similar bills in the Assembly (A.9500B, A.9509B) and stop it from being included in the final budget. The Legislature is aiming to pass the budget within the next two weeks.

Mayor de Blasio, the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) and the Regional Plan Association (RPA) say eliminating the cap will provide more affordable housing. We say it’s a giant gift to developers with no guarantee of truly affordable units.

Please email your Assemblyperson now and tell them: “Don’t Lift the Cap! Eliminating the current 12 FAR cap in residential neighborhoods must not be included in the final budget resolution. It won’t solve the problem of affordable housing and will damage livable, diverse, and already dense neighborhoods.”

Here’s why: There has been no public debate on eliminating the cap; no study of how increasing the density will affect already overcrowded roads and subways; eliminating the cap will target contextual districts where residents fought for limits on height and bulk; and there is no need to do this until we see some results of a recent citywide upzoning which allows taller buildings throughout the City. So far, residents in areas that were specifically upzoned to allow affordable units under Mandatory Inclusionary Housing have fought out of scale buildings with units that are not affordable to people living in the area.

REBNY says the bill would impact a few areas that are already at 12 FAR. But an RPA report shows that much of Manhattan, including contextual areas on the East and West Sides, Long Island City and Downtown Brooklyn would be affected. Historic districts aren’t included. But eliminating the cap will put increasing pressure on those areas as well.

Protect your neighborhood. Act now.

Citywide Alert!

The Landmarks Conservancy is working to stop a second attempt by the de Blasio administration to lift a state-mandated cap on the height and size of residential buildings. This could lead to out of scale buildings in neighborhoods throughout the City.

The Conservancy fears that lifting the cap would escalate development pressures in historic districts, neighborhoods that qualify as historic districts but lack protection, and contextual zones where communities often spent years achieving height limits on residential streets.

The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) and Regional Plan Association (RPA) both support eliminating the cap. They argue that the City needs additional density, significant new housing and the “affordable” units that the larger buildings would supply. They also say that new projects would go through ULURP, the City’s public review process, where communities would have opportunity to comment. But RPA recently collaborated on a study which showed that ULURP is flawed. Projects are often fully formed before starting the process and hard to stop. Community Boards are often no match for highly paid real estate attorneys and consultants promoting new development. In many recent cases, communities resisted proposed projects with Mandatory Inclusionary Housing because the projects would be out-of- scale with the neighborhood and the “affordable” units would be too expensive for current residents.

The Conservancy worked with State Senator Liz Krueger and colleague groups to stop a similar effort two years ago when the City tried to push it through with no public notice or input. We are working with them again. The State imposed the 12 FAR cap in 1961 to protect the character of residential neighborhoods.

We will again ask for your help when we have specific bills introduced in the Legislature.