Zoning Probs

New York State Senate and Assembly bill calls for removal of residential FAR cap

Development East
New York City skyline (Courtesy bud ellison - from the street / Flickr)
New York City skyline (Courtesy bud ellison - from the street / Flickr)

One of the biggest changes in decades to New York City’s zoning may be coming.

The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) sent out a memo and statement regarding Senate Bill 5469 and Assembly Bill 7807 which would change the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) for the city of New York. The city’s current residential FAR cap, set at 12, has not changed since 1961. This bill looks to eliminate the cap by amending the Multiple Dwelling Law.

If the FAR cap is removed, many of New York City’s high-density residential neighborhoods could experience added levels of density. MAS has expressed its disapproval of this bill, fearing that its passing would “overburden the city’s stressed infrastructure network and crowd out light and air for neighboring properties and public spaces.”

A spokesperson from sponsoring State Senator Simcha Felder has stated that the bill will be voted on tomorrow. MAS has noted that the bill has been “rushed” through the State Legislator and believe it to be at the request of the Mayor. The spokesperson mentioned that Felder sponsored the bill on behalf of the city.

Another concern of MAS is that the bill’s passing could “lead to the preference for residential development in mixed use districts, as residential use commands a much higher price per square foot, compared to other uses.”

Additional concerns are that the property owners could look to increase past 12 FAR, following approval of the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA). The process to receive that approval “does not require the same level of public review” as the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP).

Ultimately, MAS and other critics of Senate Bill 5469 and Assembly Bill 7807 fear that there is not an adequate understanding of the effects of this bill if it were to pass.

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