Internet resources for what you need to know on NYC Land Use/Zoning
Sites for Beginners
In the News: The Death of Zoning Reform?
(Dec '00) After months of inactivity and indecision, most of the city's major publications and insiders have come to the conclusion that City Planning Commissioner Joe Rose's plans to update the Zoning Resolution are dead.
The plan, known as the Unified Bulk Proposal (UBP), would have streamlined New York City's Zoning Resolution, last updated in 1961, and now horrendously out of date. It would have removed the "plaza bonus" which was responsible for many misused and unappealing public spaces. It would have limited heights in most areas, a response to Trump's World Tower, near the United Nations. It would have modernized zoning.
But that chance is generally considered to be over now. City Planning extended a November 8 deadline for voting on the proposal to January, and it is expected that in January the plan will be voted down. Some reasons given:
OF THE PLAN
Commissioner Rose's personal announcement of the plan was a slight to Mayor Giuliani. The last official in the Giuliani administration to take any credit for anything was William Bratton and he was promptly fired. When Rose went public without the mayor present, he doomed the proposal to failure. The Mayor has never made any public comment on the plan, which is interpreted as non-support or even opposition. Any mayoral support whatsoever might have given the UBP a chance.
TRICKS BY THE REAL ESTATE BOARD
This powerful interest group of developers initially reserved judgment and even mildly encouraged Roses' efforts. However, once the heat died down, the Real Estate Board of New York and Bernard Mendik (a former city official and longtime friend of the mayor) lobbied heavily against the Uniform Bulk Proposals. Developers hated the set height limits outside of the central business district. Since this area is fully built already, this would severely curtail potential larger developments in other areas (like Long Island City, other areas of Queens, Brooklyn, and Upper Manhattan). Ultimately, developers love predictability and the Uniform Bulk Proposal was completely unpredictable. To these people a known evil is preferable to a potentially good unknown.
Though one of the most important issues in Municipal affairs, Zoning is one of the most arcane and unsexy of topics. Even though the current zoning resolution is outdated, inefficient, and desperately in need of revision or wholesale replacement, no one cares.
Sites For Beginners:
- Municipal Arts Society - A great place for all things regarding New York architecture, design, and land use. Most relevant: their coverage of the Zoning Reforms, and its accompanying informational booklet.
- NYC Department of Planning - The official City site, and much better than you might expect from a government agency. Complete text of the Zoning Resolution (a hard copy would run you $400+) and downloadable zoning maps. Find out what zone you live in!
- Regional Plan Association - The venerable and still influential pro-planning organization. Particularly good for information on big-item controversies, e.g. Governor's Island. Second Avenue subway, anti-sprawl legislation. Check out their recently unveiled MetroLink proposal and the Gowanus Tunnel Study.
- NY Metro APA - Tri-state focus, with rich info on patterns of municipal interdependence. Good online newsletter searchable by topic. See summary of Governor Whitman's new open-space legislation.
- NYU's Urban Planning Links Page - This page is chock full of great land use links which focus both on NYC and the USA.
- The Mayor's announcement of the Governor's Island Plan – The Official report.
- Richard Mooney – In a recent commentary piece for the Gotham Gazette, former Times writer Richard Mooney explains what has happened, and what needs to.
- "The Cultivator by Martin Filler" - A fascinatingly critical article about Fredrick Law Olmsted and what's wrong with Witold Rybczynski's new biography of him. From The New Republic.
- New York Landmarks Preservation - Packed with information on preservation and restoration of landmarked buildings.
- Pace Law School Center for Land Use - Excellent introduction to land use issues by a leading academic think tank. Check out the "Land Use for Local Leaders" section.
- Van Alen Institute - An immense amount of information on current and future NYC land use issues. Start with the well organized, user-friendly contents page and then zero in on your prime concern.
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