HDC's Best of 2008: Damaging Zoning Text Amendments Withdrawn!
Early last winter, a series of zoning text amendments were proposed by the American Institute of Architects/New York Chapter that would have reworked how new development was built in contextual zones throughout the city. The amendments were broad in scope and dealt with issues as diverse as side yard requirements, rooftop bulkheads and corner lot coverage. Individually, some of these changes were minor, but taken together as a package, they had the potential to rip open the allowable building envelope of contextual zones and maximize allowable building size. Equally disturbing was how these amendments were proposed. Since this was an application affecting citywide zoning text, all the community boards in the city had to review and vote on it, but because it was a private application, the Department of City Planning was not responsible to present the proposal. The end result was that many community boards remained unaware of how these changes might effect their neighborhoods.
As contextual zoning is one of the most useful tools in the preservation toolkit, HDC gathered a five-borough coalition to oppose these amendments. In addition to concerns about the effects of these changes, the process by which they were being adopted ran counter to community-planning practices. Working together with Council member Tony Avella, longtime chair of the City Council Subcommittee on Zoning & Franchises, HDC and its partners (which included 18 community boards and several council members) successfully fought against the amendments, resulting in their withdrawal by the applicants.