Internet resources for what you need to know on NYC Land Use/Zoning
Sites for Beginners
Up And Down
(July '00) From a pragmatic view, land use ultimately answers a very practical question - Should a structure (building or otherwise) go up or should we tear one down? Some go without a fight, but most involve argument. Let's look at a few recent situations.
Should it Come Down?
Who's for saving Two Columbus Circle? The 1950's, windowless lollipop style building has little character and no one will miss it when it's gone. But somehow, somewhere, an ivory-roots (that's what happens when and ivory tower crosses a grass root) contingency showed up to save it. Here we have a useless building being defended for potential landmark status as an example of a style with dubious architectural merit.
It Goes Down!
On a similar note, directly across from Two Columbus Circle, is a building that did come down -- Robert Moses' pride, the New York Coliseum. It was really good to see that rubble. I've never met anyone that had ever even been in that building, let alone defended that one as architecture.
Should It Go Up?
No good deed goes unpunished. NYU Law School in its attempt to transform itself from a commuter school to a fully residential campus is planning on breaking ground on a multi-purpose building on West 3rd St. The problem? It involves demolishing some older buildings, one of which Edgar Allen Poe once lived in. John Sexton, dean of the Law School provides perhaps the sanest commentary in this tussle, "We want to build a building that belongs in the neighborhood, that looks good in the Village, and we will do so in consultation with the community. But we do not accept the views of preservationists who say nothing can ever change." NYU seems to have worn out some neighborhood patience with other projects, like the currently rising Kimmel Center. It all gives the Law School less latitude, but the final outcome remains to be seen.
It Goes Up!
The Airtrain has progressed quickly near Kennedy Airport. The much-maligned plan to run a light-rail system from Jamaica Long Island Railroad station to Kennedy terminals was approved by the City Council and then its opposition fell off the map. I don't know if it'll be open ahead of the scheduled 2003 completion date, but they've working for months, the piles and even some track bed is up. It's not a perfect project since it won't be a one-seat ride from Midtown, but at some point you have to agree that something is better than nothing. This sure will be something. Avoid the Van Wyck due to construction congestion for a while, though.
Sites For Beginners:
- 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.
- Municipal Arts Society - A good place for theory and practice on public spaces, public art, and architectural preservation.
- 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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