June 20, 2016 By Jackie Strawbridge
Proposed State legislation that would allow for taller buildings in New York City did not succeed in Albany before the session closed last week, following resistance from local officials and organizations.
The bills, introduced in the State Assembly by Member Keith Wright and in the State Senate by Senator Simcha Felder, would lift the existing cap on building density in New York City. If passed, this legislation would open the door for New York City zoning regulations to permit more stories and apartments per lot size – in other words, taller buildings with more residents.
The bills were introduced at the request of the Department of City Planning, as the legislative text states.
De Blasio defended the proposed legislation on the Brian Lehrer Show earlier this month, stating that it goes hand in hand with Mandatory Inclusionary Housing. MIH requires developers to include affordable housing in certain circumstances and was vigorously contested in local communities before it was passed earlier this year.
“There are places where we can appropriately build taller,” the Mayor told Lehrer. “In terms of Mandatory Inclusionary [Housing], we now have a requirement for the creation of affordable housing whenever there’s a rezoning and a land-use action by the City. So, this opens up the potential for a vast amount of additional affordable housing. It’s a big issue.”
He went on to cite “districts that are already very highly built up,” such as Midtown Manhattan, as places where there is an opportunity “to do some more and to include affordable housing.”
However, like MIH, this proposed legislation has met local resistance.
Assembly Member Cathy Nolan expressed her opposition to lifting the FAR cap last week.
“We already have numerous very high buildings in Long Island City with more on the way. I cannot permit any loosening of this restriction without a firmer commitment to infrastructure support, such as more schools and increasing the reliability and capacity of our mass transit system,” Nolan said. “With recent re-zonings around the city, including western Queens, there is ample opportunities to build more affordable housing. Any more changes to allow for even larger buildings is unnecessary and would be unconscionable.”
Others who have publicly voiced their opposition include State Sen. Liz Krueger of Manhattan, the New York Landmarks Conservancy and the Municipal Art Society.
Even Wright, Chair of the Housing Committee who introduced the bill at the City’s request, ultimately decided to pump the breaks.
“With such an urgent need to preserve and create affordable housing in the City of New York, every idea must be thoroughly explored and considered,” Wright said in a statement released from Krueger’s office. “This legislation could reshape the city’s landscape and impact schools, transportation and air rights. Nothing will be acted on until there’s confidence and consensus among all relevant communities and partners, and that certainly won’t be achieved this session.”
The Senate bill was committed to the Rules Committee last week, according to the legislative website.
“This bill is the wrong approach and I am glad that it was not advanced this session,” Nolan told the LIC Post on Monday. “We need to develop responsibly by increasing classroom seats, improving our health facilities and ensuring that our infrastructure keeps up with the demand of our communities before we allow for larger buildings to be built.”