Internet resources for what you need to know on NYC Land Use/Zoning
Sites for Beginners
Election Special-Zoning, Planning, Housing, the Olympics, the Waterfront
(Oct-Nov '00) Land use decisions are local, and therefore mostly debated on the local level, a level too local for most candidates. But there are five broad and important issues in land use facing New Yorkers.
1) New Zoning. Likely to pass, but still little-known to the population at large, is the current drive to update NYC's zoning resolution (last changed in 1961). The changes seek to limit heights in all but the most central area, eliminate the much debated "plaza bonus" and simplify an overall indecipherable set of rules.
2) Housing/space. Always at a shortage, NYC housing crunch is at an all-time high. Housing for anyone but the very rich is scarce and must be addressed. Also commercial space is nearly gone (vacancy rates are in the low single-digits) which will drive business to other cities or New Jersey!
3) Waterfront development. The waterfront is currently the most underutilized segment of city land, due to the collapse of waterfront commercial and manufacturing activities. Hundreds of waterfront acres lie vacant and crumbling. Parks, housing, stores have been planned, but momentum must be increased.
4) Olympics. NYC 2012 is a chance to change the face of NYC. The Olympic Games may only last for two weeks, but the infrastructure it would leave behind, especially new stadiums and transportation improvements, would be invaluable, and probably otherwise unobtainable.
5) Community Planning. Since the 1970's, community planning boards have wielded much power over land use decisions in their own neighborhoods, and rightly so. Early planners trampled over neighborhoods when it suited them. But these boards too often serve as obstructionist, myopic community-only voices, while sometimes not even representing their community well. The voice of the city as a whole must be restored in the land use process.
Few candidates are addressing these land use issues. I've rarely heard a politician give more than lip service to affordable housing; few can even define it well. [See the Housing Topic Page] The Olympics are too far away. State and national-level politicians care little for the workings of community boards, and the boards are too powerful for local politicians to come out against them. However, specific waterfront projects are of concern to the politicians.[See the Waterfront Topic Page]
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.
Visit the Topic Archives!
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