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.

This Week at the City Planning Commission, 9/30


For the most part, much of the public drama over the Department of City Planning’s East Midtown proposal has been played out.  At this point, most anyone with a stake in New York City real estate has (often quite forcefully) thrown in their two cents:  architectural pundits and practitioners, big-time property owners, citywide civic advocacy groups, a consortium of affected Community Boards, present and presumptive Manhattan Borough Presidents, and nearly every faction of the fourth estate.  But ultimately—or likely penultimately, as the City Council will most certainly take its turn to weigh in—it finally comes down to what the City Planning Commission thinks, and its moment arrives this week.

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This week at the City Planning Commission



For those of you planning to attend this week’s CPC public hearing session, remember that the host venue is the National Museum of the American Indian, in the former U.S. Custom House building, at One Bowling Green in Lower Manhattan.  When the CPC expects an extraordinary turnout for a public hearing, it makes special arrangements to move the proceedings—normally at its headquarters at 22 Reade Street—to an offsite location, and this week’s agenda should validate the move.

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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).

City Planning Looks to the Future with East Midtown Zoning Proposal

Last week, at a meeting of Community Board 5, City Planning finally released details of a much anticipated zoning proposal for East Midtown. The proposal, which could be the last major rezoning initiative of the Bloomberg administration, concentrates on the blocks around and north of Grand Central (the boundaries stretch roughly from Fifth Avenue to Second Avenue and from 39th to 57th Streets), which are already home to a number of high density office buildings.

The rezoning looks to incentivize property owners and developers to upgrade the area’s office building stock by permitting new development at a significantly higher density than is currently allowed.  The new regulations may also incorporate a “district improvement fund” type program, similar to what already exists in Hudson Yards.  As part of this program, developers could contribute to a fund, intended to finance the construction of a pedestrian plaza on what is now Vanderbilt Avenue, in exchange for even more floor area.   Under today’s zoning, a limited number of property owners are permitted to purchase excess development rights from Grand Central, and that program might also be expanded under the new proposal. Continue reading

Tribeca Rezoning Puts the Squeeze on As-Of-Right Hotels

An article from this week’s New York Observer discusses limitations on hotels proposed for Tribeca. Generally, hotels, considered a “commercial” use under the zoning resolution, are permitted in New York City in all commercial zoning districts (which also permit residential uses) and some manufacturing zoning districts (which do not permit residential uses) with no limitations. The proposal, which is part of a general overhaul of the zoning in northern Tribeca, would limit hotels permitted as-of-right in the area to those with 100 rooms or less. This is worth taking a closer look at, since it’s the first time in recent history that the City has proposed restrictions on hotels in a commercial area. Continue reading

Council Land Use Committee Says Domi-yes


Last week, the New York City Council’s land use committee unanimously approved CPC Resource’s application for the New Domino development.  As we discussed back in January (when the project was certified), the approval will permit the development of 2,200 units on the Brooklyn waterfront, along with community facility, office and retail space.   The project also includes 660 units of affordable housing, over 4 acres of publicly accessible open space, including a waterfront esplanade and a 1-acre lawn, and the preservation of the landmark Refinery building. Continue reading

Judge Sides with City in Adult Use Zoning Case

This week, the New York Supreme Court decided in favor of the City in an “adult use” zoning case (For the People Theatres of NY Inc. v City of New York), drawing yet another chapter to a close in the ongoing saga of adult establishments vs. the City of New York.  As a result of this decision, which places substantial additional limits on the location of adult uses, a number of adult book and video stores that have been operating as “60/40” establishments — businesses where only 40% or less of the floor area is occupied by adult uses — will likely have to close or move elsewhere.  The case, which dates to 2002 (and was remanded from the Court of Appeals), was in response to a 2001 amendment to the Zoning Resolution expanding the definition of “adult establishment.” However, the controversy over the regulation of adult establishments in the Zoning Resolution dates back to at least 1995, when the ZR was originally amended to classify adult establishments as different from other commercial uses.  Continue reading

Is NYC Manufacturing (Zoning) Dead? New Zoning Plans May Continue A Trend

manufacturing building

The City’s industrial zoning districts are increasingly being lost.   So-called “M-zones” (M1, M2 and M3 zoning districts) – where everything from Glue to Auto Manufacturing are permitted – have been modified or eliminated in such diverse places as Chelsea, Williamsburg-Greenpoint, the southwest Bronx, Long Island City and DUMBO.    Over the past 10 years or so, new “mixed use districts” have emerged in waterfront sections of Brooklyn and the Bronx – and inland areas such as Hudson Square, Bed-Stuy, Gowanus and Long Island City.    (These join the already established mixed-use zones in DUMBO and Hunt’s Point.)   Now – and here’s the real news – M-zoned areas of Hudson Square are under consideration for rezoning. Continue reading