Supertall Buildings Past Campaign Updates

City Leaves Mechanical Void Loophole for Supertalls Wide Open, So State May Act

But the Mayor gave the City Council, and the people of New York, the choice of this legislation or nothing (unlike other types of legislation, the City Council is very limited in what it can do regarding zoning).  Village Preservation joined advocates from across the city yesterday on the steps of City Hall to call out the Mayor’s lack of action and demand more be done. 

However, the State can also take action on this issue. Village Preservation is supporting a state bill, A5026A/S3820A, introduced by Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal and State Senator Robert Jackson that would truly address this abuse of zoning regulations by limiting the height of floors in buildings.

TO HELP:

Urge State Legislators to Support A5026A/S3820A To Address the Mechanical Void Loophole the Mayor Has Refused To – CLICK HERE

May 17, 2019

City Votes to Expand Loophole For ‘Voids’ in Supertalls

An Illustration of how one ‘Supertall’ on 57th Street got so tall with the assistance of phony and unnecessary ‘mechanical voids.’

Village Preservation has been very critical of the City’s proposal to address abuse of zoning rules by developers who are filling buildings with ‘exempt’ empty spaces, referred to as “mechanical voids,” in order to increase the size and height of their buildings, and provide their sky-high condos (at sky-high prices) with even better views. The original plan did little to address the problem, and actually explicitly enshrined in law some of the abuses that developers have been practicing. We proposed several reasonable alternatives to actually address the problem, which has afflicted residential neighborhoods uptown and could eventually hit the Village.

Map showing where supertalls with mechanical voids can currently be built (incl. Lower Fifth Avenue) and where the proposed new rules would apply.

Outrageously, after hearing from the public that the proposed new rules were too lax and riddled with loopholes, the City actually voted to expand the loopholes, increasing the percentage of a building which can be taken up by empty, useless space from 25% to nearly 30%. Village Preservation joined fellow community groups and Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal and State Senator Robert Jackson – sponsors of State Legislation that would actually meaningfully address this problem – in condemning the move. The proposed new rules now go to the City Council, which can make some changes to them.  We are urging the Council to do so, and supporting the state legislation as a much more effective way of addressing this issue.

The City’s proposed new rules regarding mechanical voids will be heard in the City Council’s Zoning Subcommittee on Tuesday, April 16th.

TO HELP:

You can also help by attending the City Council hearing on Tuesday, April 16th scheduled to begin at 9:30 am in the Council Chambers at City Hall.  You can testify on the proposal, using this letter as model testimony.

April 15, 2019

Upper West Side Supertall Suffers Court Defeat, With Broader Implications

We are pleased to report that a court has rejected the city’s approvals of plans for a 667 ft. tall tower at 200 Amsterdam Avenue (69th Street) on the Upper West Side, which advocates (incl. Village Preservation) had accused of using outrageous ‘zoning gerrymandering’ to gain approval. The tower, located in a residential neighborhood, would be the tallest in Manhattan north of midtown. The building’s unprecedented height resulted from a ludicrously contrived redrawing of zoning lot boundaries, which allowed the developer to evade limits on the allowable height of new buildings and the required amount of open space around them.  If approvals for this building are allowed to stand, there are much broader implications for other potential similar developments throughout New York which could similarly evade such requirements.

Village Preservation supported efforts by local and citywide groups to get the city to revoke the permits with testimony at Board of Standards and Appeals hearings. Although a court has now ruled against the City’s approval, work continues on the building and the City is yet to take action to stop it.

We will continue to closely monitor this case and work with local and citywide groups to ensure that our zoning rules are followed.

March 26, 2019

Pushing for Real Action Against Zoning Loopholes for Supertalls

An Illustration of how one ‘Supertall’ on 57th Street got so tall with the assistance of phony and unnecessary ‘mechanical voids.’
 Yesterday Village Preservation appeared before the City Planning Commission to demand the Mayor’s plan for ‘addressing’ developers’ abuse of zoning regulations with phony ‘mechanical voids’ be modified to actually address the problem rather than simply create more loopholes for them to exploit – read our testimony here.

Under current regulations, space dedicated to mechanical equipment in buildings does not count towards the number of square feet allowed to be built on the site.  Exploiting this technicality, developers have been inserting huge bogus ‘mechanical voids’ into buildings which serve no functional purpose other than to increase the size and height of their buildings, so they can sell top floor residences for ever-higher prices.  This tactic of zoning deception, to which the City has largely turned a blind eye, is one of the main reasons why there has been a proliferation of outrageously tall ‘supertall’ towers in New York in recent years. 
Map showing where supertalls with mechanical voids can currently be built (incl. Lower Fifth Avenue) and where the proposed new rules would apply.
 In response to pressure from community groups and elected officials, the City finally came out with their plan to address the issue, which was heard yesterday.  Unfortunately, the plan is full of holes, and would do little to address the problem.  Village Preservation expressed several different ways in which the plan could be amended or rethought to address the problem and protect our neighborhoods from towering shadows built upon zoning deception. 
March 14, 2019

City’s Plan to Halt Zoning Abuse for Supertalls in Residential Neighborhoods is Full of Loopholes – Demand Better

Many of the new very tall buildings in New York City result from including outrageously inflated empty “mechanical voids” inside them, which are exempt from counting towards limits on the size of buildings.  These empty spaces in buildings can add hundreds of feet to their height in order to create super-high (and super-expensive) apartments stacked on top of light- and air-stealing empty enclosed spaces. 

After much pressure, the Mayor has finally decided to finally ‘do something about it.’ His Department of City Planning has released a proposed zoning text amendment that would ‘limit’ how much of these mechanical voids would be exempt from restrictions on building size – read herehere, and here. The proposed changes would apply to residential towers, in residential areas. It would limit any one mechanical floor to no more than 25 feet in height, after which the height would count towards building size limits. And each mechanical floor would have to be separated from the next mechanical floor by 75 feet, or it too would count towards limits. 

Unfortunately, the city’s proposal is full of loopholes, and will likely have little impact. The city has already made clear that they will not apply these rules to unenclosed spaces, so if the ‘void’ has no walls or is stilts, the new restrictions won’t apply. It also does not appear that there would be anything preventing a developer from making every few floors (separated by 75 feet) a 25-foot high mechanical floor, and artificially increasing the size and height of the building to get around limits that way. 

In fact, there are other approaches the City could take which thus far they have refused to do. They could impose absolute height limits on new buildings in residential areas to ensure they remain in context with their surroundings (as “contextual zoning” does, which already exists in several parts of the city). They could limit the overall percentage of mechanical space in residential buildings, which rarely actually require more than a small amount of the building to be dedicated to such space. Or they could require that “mechanical voids” house mechanical equipment necessary for the functioning of a building ONLY, and that all the vast amounts of empty space currently being inserted into these volumes be prohibited. But the City is currently refusing to consider any of these.

We are pleased to report that Community Board #2 has joined us in calling for these changes to the proposed rules.But the rules will be heard by the City Planning Commission on March 13.  It’s critical that we send a message to city officials that the current proposal is woefully insufficient, and we must do more.

March 6, 2019

Hearing Wed. on City Proposal to Limit Voids in High-Rises

Many of the new very tall buildings in New York City result from outrageously inflated empty “mechanical voids” placed inside them, which are exempt from counting towards limits on the size of buildings.  These empty spaces in buildings can add hundreds of feet to their height in order to create super-high (and super-expensive) apartments stacked on top of light- and air-stealing empty enclosed spaces.  After much pressure, the city has decided to finally ‘do something about it.’ They have released a proposed zoning text amendment that would ‘limit’ how much of these mechanical voids would be exempt from restrictions on building size – read herehere, and here. The proposed changes would apply to residential towers, in residential areas. It would limit any one mechanical floor to no more than 25 feet in height, after which the height would count towards building size limits. And each mechanical floor would have to be separated from the next mechanical floor by 75 feet, or it too would count towards limits.

Map showing where supertalls with mechanical voids can currently be built, incl. Lower Fifth Avenue, and where the proposed new rules would apply.
 Unfortunately, it appears that the city’s proposal will likely not have a lot of impact. The city has already made clear that they will not apply these rules to unenclosed spaces, so if the ‘void’ has no walls or is stilts, the new restrictions won’t apply.  It also does not appear that there would be anything preventing a developer from making every few floors (separated by 75 feet) a 25-foot high mechanical floor, and artificially increasing the size and height of the building to get around limits that way. 

In fact, there are other approaches the City could take which thus far they have refused to do. They could impose absolute height limits on new buildings in residential areas to ensure they remain in context with their surroundings (as “contextual zoning,” which already exists in several parts of the city, already does). They could limit the overall percentage of mechanical space in residential buildings, which rarely actually require more than a small amount of the building to be dedicated to such space. Or they could require that “mechanical voids” house mechanical equipment necessary for the functioning of a building ONLY, and that all the vast amounts of empty space currently being inserted into these volumes be prohibited. But the City is currently refusing to consider any of these.

The proposed new rules are beginning the public review and hearing process; it’s important we be there to say that these measures are little more than window dressing, and real protections should be adopted.  

Join us at the Community Board 2 Land Use Committee Hearing on this issue at 7:30 pm at Grace Church School Tuttle Hall, 86 Fourth Avenue (11th Street).
February 11, 2019

VICTORY! State Legislative Session Ends Without Repeal of Cap on NYC Residential Building Sizes No ‘Supersizing’ this Year

Dear Friend,

I wanted to let you know that the legislative session in Albany has ended, and in spite of the best efforts of the real estate industry and the Mayor, the legislature did NOT repeal the existing limit on the size of residential buildings in New York City. Both had sought this repeal which would have allowed massive upzonings in residential neighborhoods across our city, vastly increasing the size of allowable development. The current cap, which is incredibly generous, still allows new buildings of 1,000 feet in height or even greater.  But for the advocates of repeal, even this was not enough.
 
Thank you to the thousands of you who answered the call and sent letters to State legislators opposing this move. Repeal proponents tried to slip it into the state budget earlier this year, and then again to pass it as part of the ‘Big Ugly’ rush of last-minute bills at the end of session. But due to your advocacy, and the hard work of our allies, this did not happen.
 
We have won the battle, but the war is not over.  Proponents of repeal have made clear they will continue the fight next year, and we believe them.  And they will continue to peddle false narratives that removing the cap and enabling massive upzonings in our residential neighborhoods is the only or best way to address our city’s affordability crisis.  But we know this is false. 
 Thank you again for answering the call fighting for sane development and to defend the livability and scale of our neighborhoods.
June 21, 2018

Last Minute Push in Albany to Allow Supersized Buildings in Residential NYC Neighborhoods

As the legislative session nears the end in Albany, there is a renewed push to repeal the State cap on the size of residential buildings in NYC. Although enormous new residential buildings are going up all over NYC, including many of 1,000 feet in height or greater, this is not enough for proponents of lifting the cap, who want no limit whatsoever. This would allow the Mayor to upzone residential neighborhoods throughout New York City, promoting an ever-more massive scale of development that would largely consist of luxury, market-rate housing.  

We have defeated two attempts by this coalition to repeal the cap – in 2016 and earlier this year when they tried to sneak it into the State budget. However, much as GVSHP predicted, they are at it again, trying to see the repeal passed in the last weeks of the legislative session, without public hearings or analysis (it’s already passed one Senate committee).  

Fortunately, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie issued a strong statement explaining why the Assembly majority rejected the proposed repeal as part of the State Budget – read it here. We need to reach all our state legislators, however, and make sure they know we do not want this repeal passed UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.

TO HELP:

June 4, 2018

Push in Albany Continues to Allow Supersized Buildings in NYC, But We Win An Important Ally

The Mayor and Big Real Estate continue to push to repeal the State cap on the size of residential buildings in NYC. Although enormous new residential buildings are going up all over NYC, including many of 1,000 feet in height or greater, this is not enough for proponents of lifting the cap, who want no limit whatsoever. This would allow the Mayor to upzone residential neighborhoods throughout New York City, promoting an ever-more massive scale of development that would largely consist of luxury, market-rate housing.
 
We have defeated two attempts by this coalition to repeal the cap – in 2016 and earlier this year when they tried to sneak it into the State budget. However, much as GVSHP predicted, they are at it again, trying to see the repeal passed in the last weeks of the legislative session, without public hearings or analysis (it’s already passed one Senate committee).
 
Fortunately, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie issued a strong statement explaining why the Assembly majority rejected the proposed repeal as part of the State Budget – read it here. We need to reach all our state legislators, however, and make sure they know we do not want this repeal passed UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.
 
TO HELP:

May 24, 2018

State Legislature Tries to Supersize NYC Buildings AGAIN – Help Stop It

The State Senate is at it again – a committee has passed a bill which would remove the cap that currently limits the size of residential buildings in New York City. The existing cap allows buildings up to 1,500 feet tall, but for the Mayor and the Real Estate industry, that’s not big enough, and they want to see supersized buildings not just in Midtown and the Financial District but in residential neighborhoods throughout New York City.
 
GVSHP has been a vocal opponent of this plan, and earlier this year we and a coalition of planning and preservation groups and elected officials stopped this measure from being added to the State budget. But as we predicted, the advocates of supersizing are back, trying to squeeze this measure out of the last days of the legislative session, without public input or analysis. 
 
If you don’t want to see removal one of the few protections we have against truly massively oversized buildings being allowed in our residential neighborhoods, please write your State Legislators today urging them to oppose this measure:

May 14, 2018

State Legislature Tries to Supersize NYC Buildings AGAIN – Help Stop It

The State Senate is at it again – a committee has passed a bill which would remove the cap that currently limits the size of residential buildings in New York City. The existing cap allows buildings up to 1,500 feet tall, but for the Mayor and the Real Estate industry, that’s not big enough, and they want to see supersized buildings not just in Midtown and the Financial District but in residential neighborhoods throughout New York City.
 
GVSHP has been a vocal opponent of this plan, and earlier this year we and a coalition of planning and preservation groups and elected officials stopped this measure from being added to the State budget. But as we predicted, the advocates of supersizing are back, trying to squeeze this measure out of the last days of the legislative session, without public input or analysis. 
 
If you don’t want to see removal one of the few protections we have against truly massively oversized buildings being allowed in our residential neighborhoods, please write your State Legislators today urging them to oppose this measure:

May 14, 2018

Push in Albany Continues to Allow Supersized Buildings in NYC, But We Win An Important Ally

The Mayor and Big Real Estate continue to push to repeal the State cap on the size of residential buildings in NYC. Although enormous new residential buildings are going up all over NYC, including many of 1,000 feet in height or greater, this is not enough for proponents of lifting the cap, who want no limit whatsoever. This would allow the Mayor to upzone residential neighborhoods throughout New York City, promoting an ever-more massive scale of development that would largely consist of luxury, market-rate housing.
 
We have defeated two attempts by this coalition to repeal the cap – in 2016 and earlier this year when they tried to sneak it into the State budget. However, much as GVSHP predicted, they are at it again, trying to see the repeal passed in the last weeks of the legislative session, without public hearings or analysis (it’s already passed one Senate committee).
 
Fortunately, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie issued a strong statement explaining why the Assembly majority rejected the proposed repeal as part of the State Budget – read it here. We need to reach all our state legislators, however, and make sure they know we do not want this repeal passed UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.
 
TO HELP:

May 14, 2018