State Bills Propose Major Zoning Change, Allowing Housing Towers of Any Size

Downtown Brooklyn. Photo by Evan Daniels

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As New York continues to struggle with its high rents and expanding population, two bills have been proposed that could pave the way for residential buildings of any size in dense areas such as Downtown Brooklyn. The state bills would allow for new development at the expense of one of the most entrenched zoning laws.

The bills — Senate Bill 5469 and Assembly Bill 7807 — propose the elimination of a cap on the residential floor area ratio (FAR), which has been set at 12 since 1961. (FAR is the ratio of total floor area in a building to the size of land it is built on.)

Should the bills be passed, development in some of New York’s highest density areas, including Downtown Brooklyn, would be significantly less restricted, and residential construction would be allowed to be larger. The bills could mean upzoning many areas of New York City, according to critics of the proposal.

NYC Zoning

Downtown Brooklyn. Photo by Evan Daniels

The bill comes on the heels of major zoning changes led by Mayor de Blasio, including Zoning for Quality and Affordability, Mandatory Inclusionary Housing, and a rezoning of East New York, intended to create more affordable housing for low-income New Yorkers.

The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS), a civic improvement group, has come out against the bill, stating in a memo [PDF] that the bill’s passing, “could lead to dramatic citywide increases and bulk and density without sufficient public review” and “overburden the city’s stressed infrastructure network and crowd out light and air for neighboring properties and public spaces.”

“I think it’s a terrible idea,” Simeon Bankoff, executive director for preservation advocacy group Historic Districts Council, told Brownstoner. “I’m not advocating for depopulation but I am saying that there are some profound infrastructure and planning issues that need to be addressed before we allow the density in our densest areas to overflow.”

“This is a sensible planning step to create more housing, including affordable units, in areas of the city with the best access to mass transit,” said John Banks, the president of the Real Estate Board of New York, a real estate industry association.

NYC Zoning

A rendering of Brooklyn’s future tallest tower at 340 Flatbush Avenue Extension. Rendering via SHoP

[h/t: Architect’s Newspaper]

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