Berman: Lower East Side Building Height Limits Endangered by Mayor’s Plan

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Some preservation and affordable housing advocates are sounding the alarm about Mayor de Blasio’s plan to change zoning regulations throughout the city. It’s part of his signature initiative to create or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing.

Last week, Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society of Historic Preservation paid a visit to Community Board 3’s land use committee. His message: the new proposal could endanger the contextual zoning measures put in place by CB3’s 2008 rezoning of the East Village/Lower East Side. In the Observer, Berman elaborates:

Big real estate, not average New Yorkers, would be the main beneficiary of some of the plan’s key provisions, and its cost would be the undoing of neighborhood zoning protections years in the making. The proposal is quite broad in its scope. But a central element is raising the allowable height of new development in “contextual zoning districts” — areas where specific height limits and streetwall requirements help ensure that new buildings fit their context. These rules are meant to keep much of the “sore thumb” development we see around the city from cropping up in residential neighborhoods with strongly defined character, from the Lower East Side to Harlem, Crown Heights to Jackson Heights, the Village to Sunset Park. Many of these height limits took years of effort by local communities to secure, and often involved compromises and trade-offs with the city and real estate interests to attain modest controls. Now those rules would be upended, with the height caps lifted by as much as 20 to 30 percent, across the board.

The mayor’s plan just entered the environmental review phase. The public review process begins this spring. More details available here. It’s likely that CB3’s land use committee will take up the issue in some detail in the next month or two.