Crain’s 2016 New York City Summit: Getting Ready for 9 Million New Yorkers

On the morning of November 1st, at the Sheraton Times Square, Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke to a diverse business crowd about the ever growing population of our City – trumpeting the fact that at 8.55 million, NYC has never been bigger. The Mayor discussed “diversifying the economy,” including using City resources to incentivize a “five-borough economy” with involvement of the City in encouraging “advanced manufacturing,” real estate development and upcoming rezoning initiatives. The Mayor also spoke about the need to build trust in neighborhoods and stressed efforts being made to inform communities that development isn’t happening to them, “but by them and for them.” He added that many of those who live in these developing neighborhoods look at development “through the prism of past (and not good) experiences” but by building trust through “guaranteeing that developers do what they promised,” their attitudes would be able to change as well.

Could You Be Fined for Hanging Illuminated Halloween Décor?

Potentially, yes. If you live in certain areas of New York City, you may be fined if you hang illuminated Halloween signs on your property that are higher than 40 feet above curb level. This is based on a ruling last week by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which affirmed a decision from Judge Jed Rakoff in the Southern District of New York – namely that a Manhattan resident’s first amendment rights were not violated when she was fined $800 for not abiding by New York City’s zoning regulations.

Political and holiday signs are typically temporary, so usually the City will look the other way – unless you live in a neighborhood of one- and two-family homes. This woman hung an illuminated peace sign in her apartment window at the Ansonia, on Broadway between 73rd and 74th Streets.  While I am not sure why the Department of Buildings singled out this apartment –  it could have been the year and a half that she had hung her peace sign – I don’t think the DOB would pursue residents who hang holiday décor for a short period of time.

De Blasio administration considers major changes to NYC’s air-rights policy

Welcome back to the Herrick Zone.  We have a new editor and intend to revitalize the blog to keep you current on news and updates that involve land use and zoning issues.

De Blasio administration considers major changes to NYC’s air-rights policy

Herrick’s Land Use & Zoning team will be monitoring the developments of the De Blasio Administration as they consider policy recommendations in the near future over the city’s air rights. If the city decides to adopt any reforms, they would fall into two broad areas that were discussed at a meeting with city officials and stakeholders on September 30th. The first would involve private transactions, which allow developers to buy unused square footage from owners on the same block. The second area of discussion concerned landmarked buildings as owners often have the right to build much bigger structures but can’t because of the building’s protected status.

For the full article on Crain’s New York click here.

Please continue to follow this blog for updates and information.

New York Times Questions Rationale Behind East Midtown Rezoning

East Midtown

Today, the New York Times weighed in with its commentary on the City’s East Midtown Rezoning – and we think they miss the mark.

The piece (which is misplaced in the Arts Section) argues that the plan, developed by the Department of City Planning, calls for too much density, without sufficient focus on infrastructure and mass transit – and it seems to suggest that people won’t be working in high-rises so much (but is silent about living).

Density is good for the environment, and it is good for New York.  It is a key reason why the City’s “carbon footprint” is so low.  Density is also good for the workplace – as it brings people and corporations together.  It is good for neighborhoods and for the life of the City.  The rezoning’s focus on Grand Central (contrary to the main theme of the Times’ commentary) demonstrates an awareness of the basic need to support the highest densities at and around established transit nodes.  The plan is not an irresponsible call for enormous buildings – but an incentive program to encourage the replacement and rebuilding of undersized and obsolete Class “B” buildings.

The plan doesn’t pretend that zoning is a panacea – it’s but one tool in an overall effort to keep New York City globally competitive while also balancing a regional focus among Hudson Yards, Lower Manhattan and Midtown.

The Times piece would be better placed in the Metropolitan section – and would better serve the readers if it were more comprehensive.

(Image borrowed from Department of City Planning presentation of East Midtown Rezoning).

Too much manufacturing or too little?

Notwithstanding the plethora of rezonings accomplished by the City Planning Commission (with the approval of the City Council) over the past decade—many of which erased industrial zoning—New York City continues to maintain multiple manufacturing districts throughout the five boroughs.  Yet, except for certain niche industries and highly specialized manufacturing businesses, the decline of traditional industrial uses continues.  Of course, key concentrations of industrial jobs do exist, at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and portions of Industry City (also in Brooklyn), for example.  But it seems quite clear that these are not in the “traditional smokestack” industries, where assembly lines of people engage in round-the-clock mass production.  On the contrary, a range of manufacturing sectors has actually lost hundreds of jobs over the last few decades, of which garment businesses are among the most recognizable.

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Transparent Zoning

 

As a pedestrian, we want to see a lively street-scape at eye-level; we want buildings to have a “street life”, not a blank face.  A recent goal of new zoning for commercial strips is to mandate retail use and “building transparency” at the ground floor — see new zoning requirements for Park Slope.  (This follows long-standing rules prohibiting “pedestrian-unfriendly” uses – such as banks – along 5th Avenue in Midtown and Madison Avenue in the Upper East Side.)

Is it “proper” to use zoning on certain streets to achieve a design goal of avoiding a blank wall of dentist’s offices – or worse, interior parking – when such uses are otherwise allowed?  Is this an aesthetic issue – avoiding a solid wall along the street (where a building essentially “turns its back” to the pedestrian)?  Or, is it a question of enlivening the street with retail activity? Continue reading

Landmarks Commission does 30!

Following the recent designation of the East Village Historic District and the major expansion to the existing Upper West Side Historic District, the current Landmarks Preservation Commission – or LPC – has approved a total of 30 historic districts and 8 historic district expansions – the most approved by any administration since the LPC’s was founded in 1965.

It is fair to note that a good chuck of Manhattan is now landmark-protected – including many of the Boroughs most desirable and “hot” neighborhoods (e.g., the meatpacking district).  From SoHo to the Upper East Side, from Harlem to the Ladies Mile and from Chelsea to Fulton Ferry, a diverse array of landmark districts governs ALL development and ANY façade alterations for thousands of Manhattan properties.   In quiet, deliberative fashion – often without much publicity or notice – the LPC has dramatically expanded its jurisdiction.  And, since we’ve never un-done (repealed) a historic district once adopted, this authority is likely with us forever.

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I Am As Old As the Zoning Resolution


Last week, the Municipal Art Society (MAS) held the first of what will likely be many 50th anniversary “celebrations” of the City’s thousand-plus page Zoning Resolution.

Alas, like President Obama and the Zoning Resolution, I too was born in 1961. I don’t have my long form birth certificate – but trust me – I am as aged as the City’s zoning. Continue reading

Updated MDL: Should I Stay (longer than 30 days) or Should I Go?

Last year, New York State updated its Multiple Dwelling Law (“MDL”) to address a loophole exposed by Single Room Occupancy operators.  The law originally said that Class A multiple dwellings were “occupied, as a rule, for permanent residence purposes”.  The SRO operators won a legal challenge that hinged on the phrase “as a rule” – whereby they argued, and the court agreed, that the proper interpretation of this phrase meant that up to 49% of a building could be for transient purposes and still meet the intent of the law.

The line between permanent and transient uses is 30 days.  Essentially, if someone rents a room for 30 days or more, it’s a residential use.  If they rent for less than 30 days, it’s a transient (or hotel) use.

The State and the City were very unhappy with the outcome of the lawsuit and saw a need to act to prevent these transient uses from operating in residential zoning districts, where they would otherwise be illegal.  So the updated language has removed the phrase “as a rule”. Continue reading