Preservation Issues

Neighborhoods Safe for Now: But Mayor Likely to Try Again

UPDATE: JUNE 26, 2018

Mayor de Blasio’s third attempt to pass legislation in Albany that would allow out-of-scale buildings in City neighborhoods failed again this past session. But it will almost certainly be back.

Preservationists and the City’s delegation of State Senate and Assembly Members have opposed lifting a longstanding State cap on the size of residential buildings for several reasons. Communities in all five boroughs are already concerned about over-development. They have also decried the de Blasio administration’s lack of public explanation or debate on this issue. Here’s what should happen before the City–and its Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) allies–try again.

The Mayor should forget about a citywide bill. The Department of City Planning (DCP) needs to identify discrete areas where they can demonstrate that increased density can be absorbed without overwhelming transit systems and schools, or damaging quality of life. The public should be engaged throughout this planning process.

DCP should also study if allowing smaller bonuses in these select areas would be an alternative to lifting the cap.

The agency should report on the impact of recent citywide and targeted upzonings which have already increased building size and altered neighborhoods. The agency should inform the public how many affordable units have been created and how many affordable units have been lost to new construction.

Current and future Historic Districts, and neighborhoods zoned for less than 12 FAR should be excluded from attempts to lift the State cap.

The Chair of the Assembly Housing Committee held one informational meeting in his office on this issue and plans to continue discussions. We intend to participate. We also will press forward to ensure that real public planning is completed before there is another attempt to drastically change the character of our neighborhoods.
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UPDATE: JUNE 13, 2018
Neighborhoods Safe for Now: State Cap Remains in Place

Thanks to all of you who contacted your State Assembly Members and Senators, asking them not to eliminate the longstanding State cap on residential development in New York City. Despite a strong push from the Real Estate Board of New York, a Senate bill to remove the cap was never acted on and the Assembly did not take up the issue. The Conservancy opposed the proposal, which was another attempt by the de Blasio Administration to enable bigger and taller buildings in communities across the City.(Read the Conservancy’s Memo of Opposition)

Conservancy staff, along with other advocates, met in Albany today for a session convened by Assembly Member Steven Cymbrowitz, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Housing. A.M. Cymbrowitz assured the group that the bill to remove the cap would not come back in the last days of the legislative session, which ends June 20. He began an important conversation on housing, planning, and zoning that will continue. We intend to be part of that conversation and to defend the 12 FAR cap if there is another push to repeal it next year. We will also work to ensure that New Yorkers have a chance to discuss this issue. There have been three attempts to end the cap, without any public debate.

Please thank all of the New York City Senate and Assembly members, who stood firm, retaining the cap, and protecting your neighborhoods.
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May 29, 2018

We Need Your Help Again as REBNY Pushes for Larger Buildings in Your Neighborhood

The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) is making a last ditch effort to eliminate the longstanding State cap on the size of residential buildings before the State Legislative session ends next month. Without the current cap, there would be larger buildings and added density in neighborhoods across the City.

The Senate tried and failed to lift the cap earlier in the session. It recently tried again, with bill S.6760. The Assembly has refused to act on this. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie noted his support of the cap and pledged to protect residential neighborhoods in a recent newsletter. Keeping the Assembly firmly against lifting the cap is crucial. If you have not thanked Speaker Heastie after our recent request to do so, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Thank him. And urge him to keep the cap.

REBNY’s all-out push, is aimed at turning Speaker Heastie and gaining support from Governor Cuomo.

Please also email the Governor’s counsel, Alphonso David at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). and tell him: We oppose S.6760. New York voters want the Governor to protect our neighborhoods.

REBNY obviously seeks even more opportunities for its members to develop large buildings. But it is also the stalking horse for the de Blasio Administration, which tried and failed to lift the cap two years ago. The Administration has never publicly explained the rationale for eliminating the cap, nor sought community input. Their stealth attempts show a troubling lack of transparency. It’s not good government. Please act, and help us prevent this from happening.

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May 9, 2018

Alert: Contact Your State Senator Now!

The State Senate Rules Committee has once again quietly passed out Senate Bill (S.6760), a bill that would remove a State cap that controls residential density. It could be voted on today. It is urgent that you contact your State Senator’s Office and urge him or her to vote against this removing the cap.

This is the second time the Republican-controlled Senate Rules Committee has moved this bill this year, with no public knowledge or debate. Most people, community boards, and even elected officials, have no idea this is happening.

Thanks to your help, supporters in the Senate, and the Assembly’s refusal to act on this issue, we defeated the prior attempt to open up neighborhoods across the City and State to out-of-scale development. Mayor de Blasio, backed by the Real Estate Board of New York, says lifting the cap is the “first step” to getting more affordable housing. It is not! This should be the last step after careful community outreach and planning and after we see the impact of the recent citywide upzoning.

This is not good government.

Click here to Contact Your State Senator

You can also visit www.mygovnyc.org to find your State Senator

Tell them to vote no on Senate Bill S.6760 and to stop the attempt to remove the 12 FAR cap which has prevented large-scale development in residential neighborhoods. Tell them New Yorkers deserve a say in how their neighborhoods evolve and demand a full debate on this issue. It’s time to stop these repeated attempts to end-run the public process and hand even more of New York over to large development.

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.

Protect your neighborhood. Act now.

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March 29, 2018

Thanks to help from all our members, it looks like the State Legislature will not lift a State cap on the size of residential development. This is a major win!

While nothing is final until the State Budget is passed, we have learned from Albany contacts that our City Senators and Assemblypersons stood with us. Please thank your Senator and Assemblyperson and Speaker Carl Heastie.

This was the second time the de Blasio Administration tried to lift a longstanding State cap on the size of residential development, without telling the public or requiring any debate. Lifting this cap would be the first step to City-proposed upzonings in residential areas throughout the boroughs. Contextual areas throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn where residents achieved height limits on side streets would be vulnerable. This would also increase pressure for larger buildings in historic districts.

Both the Real Estate Board of New York and Regional Plan Association supported lifting the cap, suggesting that the larger buildings would contain affordable units. There was no analysis of how many currently affordable units would be lost or how area schools, streets and transit would be impacted. Nor was there a public discussion of the contributions of historic and contextual districts to a livable City.

The Conservancy will remain alert in case there is another push to lift these restrictions before the Legislative session ends. Many thanks to the entire NYC delegation, especially State Senators Liz Krueger and Brad Hoylman, and Assemblypersons Daniel O’Donnell and Jo Anne Simon. Borough President Gale Brewer also appealed to Assembly Speaker Heastie on our behalf.

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Mayor Seeks Larger Buildings in Residential Neighborhoods
Preservation Alert: We Need Your Help Today!

March 26, 2018
The State Legislature is in closed-door negotiations and wants to pass the state budget by the end of this week. We need the Assembly to stop an attempt by the de Blasio Administration to remove a state cap that controls residential density. The Senate already voted to remove the cap and put it into budget negotiations.

We are asking you to contact Speaker Carl Heastie Today!

Tell him… the Assembly has to stop the attempt to remove the 12 FAR cap, which has prevented large-scale development in residential neighborhoods. There has been no public debate on this issue. This is not good government. New Yorkers want a say in how their communities develop.

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

This is the second time Mayor de Blasio has led a behind the scenes effort to eliminate a 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 out-of-scale buildings.

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.

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Preservation Alert: Threat to Neighborhoods

March 15, 2018
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!

February 28, 2018
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.