The Alleys of New York

Freeman Alley on the Lower East Side

Lower Manhattan has several small – and sometimes forgotten – narrow alley-ways.  Often rubble-strewn, dormant and seemingly neglected, these urban paths appear to be worthless byways of a time long ago.  They also have names that hearken back to a bygone era:  Stable Court; Great Jones Alley; Franklin Place.

Who plows these “streets?”  Who owns them?  Can they be gated and made exclusive?  What lies beneath them?  Why were they created?  And, how are they taxed?

These are not mundane questions. Alas, they are not easily answered either. Continue reading

Car Sharing for All!

Yesterday, the New York City Council approved City Planning’s timely car share zoning text amendment.  As we discussed in our previous post, the new zoning text permits car sharing vehicles – like Zipcar – in both accessory and public parking garages throughout the city.  Although such services existed in the past, they are now officially sanctioned and regulated by the Zoning Resolution.

Car Sharing Zoning Text Amendment – Approved!

SoHo’s Zoning Secret

The SoHo Grand Hotel, located on West Broadway, has a relatively unique design.  The hotel’s main lobby is on the building’s second level.  The set-up lends the hotel an air of exclusivity.  However, this design wasn’t just an architectural choice or a way to give visitors to the hotel more privacy when checking in – it was mandated by zoning. Continue reading

City Finally Considering Elimination of Parking Requirements

image via

image via

Streetsblog reported last week that the Department of City Planning is re-analyzing its minimum parking requirements in certain neighborhoods with good transit access, such as Downtown Brooklyn, Harlem and western Queens.  Currently, the Zoning Resolution requires that parking be provided for almost all new developments throughout all areas of NYC, with the exception of Manhattan below 110th Street and in a limited area in Queens. Continue reading

BSA (Board of Standards and Appeals – NYC) and the NSA (National Security Agency – USA)

photo courtesy of wikipedia

photo courtesy of wikipedia

The NSA is often called “No Such Agency” – since its operations are cloaked in secrecy – while the BSA has been called, by the Times, “a (powerful, but) relatively obscure agency”.  See the similarity?

Now, we can’t say that the Nation’s security hangs in the balance at the BSA – but, it does carry out a vital – and often misunderstood – role in City government and zoning law.  It is a powerful and quietly effective and efficient organization.  Like the NSA, it manages to avoid the spotlight, all the while subject to the (exclusive) control of the executive branch.  (NSA’s chief is, of course, appointed by POTUS – code for President of the United States; the BSA is controlled by Hizzoner, the Mayor). Continue reading

NYC Zips Into Future With Car Sharing Text Amendment


A Zipcar, soon to be legitimized by the Zoning Resolution. Image via

This Wednesday, the NYC Planning Commission held a hearing on the City Planning Department’s proposed car sharing zoning text amendment.  The text amendment would officially recognize and regulate car sharing services such as Zipcar.  Currently, Zipcar and other car sharing services are in somewhat of a gray area when it comes to zoning, in that they are not mentioned in the zoning resolution at all.  The proposed text amendment would allow car sharing vehicles in both accessory and public parking garages throughout the city. Continue reading

Once a “Development”, always a “Development”? City loses lawsuit, subsequently aims to overhaul entire Zoning Resolution!

161 E. 94th St.

Image from Google Streetview

In 2007, an owner of an upper east side townhouse submitted a proposal to the Department of City Planning requesting permission to convert the townhouse basement into a 1-car garage.  Doing so would require creating a 9’2” curb cut in front of the property in question.

The Department of City Planning rejected the application, citing Section 25-633 of the zoning resolution:

In the districts indicated, curb cuts are prohibited for residential developments on zoning lots having a width of less than 40 feet…

City Planning felt that this section disqualified the applicant, since the property: Continue reading

Just a Suggestion: Task Force Puts Forth 111 Recommendations on How City Regulations Can Promote Sustainability


Earlier this week, the Green Codes Task Force – a group convened in July 2008 by Mayor Bloomberg and Council Speaker Quinn to review the regulations affecting buildings and provide suggestions on amending these regulations to promote sustainability – released their report.

The report covers a wide array of topics, ranging from health and toxicity to energy and water to urban ecology.

The recommendations suggest changes to the general approach to new construction and existing buildings.  Additionally, specific changes to the building code and zoning regulation are suggested.

Some tangible changes that the Task Force recommends are: Continue reading

City Planning Commission to Parking on Your Front Lawn: Drop Dead

Parking Garage Sign

The City Planning Commission yesterday put forward new proposed parking regulations that aim to prevent the utilization of front yards as parking spaces.  The proposed regulations will prohibit new “parking pads” in single and two-family districts and will also prohibit some new curb cuts.  [Curb cuts are literally breaks in a curb that lead to a driveway or parking area.]  Curb cuts allow for the creation of these “parking pads” while simultaneously eliminating an on-street public parking spot.  Prohibiting them allows City Planning to kill two birds with one stone.

Additionally, the citywide text amendment proposes to: Continue reading