Tell State Lawmakers Not to Give City Hall the Power to Allow Supersized Development in Residential Neighborhoods — WRITE NOW!

Not big enough? Proponents of lifting the residential cap say that supersized super-luxury buildings like the 1,550-ft.-tall Central Park Tower (l.; tallest residential building in the world), The Sky at 605 West 42nd Street (m.; 1,175 units and the largest residential building in America), and Silver Towers at 620 West 42nd Street (r.; 1,359 units) should be even bigger, and such allowances would make NYC a more equitable and affordable place.

In the week ahead, lawmakers in Albany are expected to decide whether or not to approve Governor Hochul’s plan to gut a long-standing rule that prevents NYC from upzoning residential neighborhoods, to allow oversized development EVEN BIGGER than the gigantic towers current rules allow.

Mayor Adams, real estate interests, and even some local elected officials have joined with real estate front group Open New York to lobby furiously to get the legislature to remove the cap, which would allow NYC to change the zoning for any residential neighborhood to allow new development as large as it likes.



Why is this important?
If the state lifts the residential floor area ratio (FAR) cap as proposed, it would allow NYC to rezone any residential neighborhood to as great a density as it wants — the sky would literally be the limit.

Isn’t the cap preventing NYC from building more housing?
With the cap in place and under current zoning rules, NYC can add about 2 billion sq. ft. of new residential development, enough to house 4 million additional New Yorkers. The cap is not preventing housing from being built, or creating a housing shortage. In the almost 65 years the cap has been in place, literally hundreds of thousands of housing units have been built in NYC.

Is the cap the reason why we get the tall skinny towers of Billionaire’s Row?
Some have tried to twist logic and claim this is true. If the cap had not existed, the towers of Billionaire’s Row would have actually been even taller and even skinnier.

Residential construction in (clockwise) Hudson Yards, Downtown Brooklyn, Long Island City, and Billionaire’s Row — all allowed under the current cap. Lifting it would allow even larger development, anywhere in NYC the City decided to zone for it.

Is the cap preventing obsolete office towers from being converted to residences?
No. There are already exceptions that allow office buildings to be converted to residential use regardless of their size, and we and other opponents of lifting the cap have urged that broader exceptions be made to allow more office to residential conversions.

Will lifting the cap create more affordable housing?
No. The Governor’s proposal, which the Mayor and others are pushing for, has absolutely no affordable housing requirement attached to it. The State Senate has come out with an alternative version of the plan that would require about 25% of the new, extra-large developments allowed by lifting the cap to conform to modest affordability requirements. We have said that if the cap were lifted, it should only be to allow developments that are entirely or mostly affordable.

If the cap is lifted, won’t it just allow big buildings in areas that already have big buildings?
No. The proposal would allow the City to rezone to permit these extra-large buildings in any neighborhood it wants, and the Mayor has already made clear that’s exactly what he plans to do if given that power. The State Senate has come out with an alternative proposal that would not allow the extra-dense zoning in historic districts, which cover about 3.5% of NYC. We have argued that if the cap were lifted, it should be limited to areas that already allow large commercial buildings to be built anyway (like Midtown, Hudson Yards, the Financial District, and Downtown Brooklyn). But this is not what the Governor or these City officials are proposing.

March 29, 2024