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'Vertical Cheese Boxes' and Other Complaints From the Zoning Hearings of 1961

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The policy nerds at the Department of City Planning are gearing up for their Zoning the City conference later this month?by releasing a trove of zoning documents from 1961, the year one of the city's major zoning resolutions was passed. Among the documents are transcripts from public hearings on the zoning change, from which we learn that NIMBYism, grandstanding, and snark were as alive and well in the public hearings of 50 years ago as they are today. We unleashed our inner history nerd on the documents and pulled out our favorite quotations and disses. This is the first step in a City Planning project to catalogue and post more of the documents in its archive, so there's plenty more where these came from. Here we go:

· "The choice before us today is a very simple one?either we enact the new zoning resolution which will allow us to grow and to develop, a zoning resolution that will be a symphony of order and beauty or we will have chaos and disorder and the ugliness of an unzoned City that some day will be strangled by uncontrolled growth and slowly perish and die."
· MR. CEDZICH: "? Gentlemen, they will not sacrifice their future and their homes for apartment houses that would rise like monsters and black them out from gardens and skies, forcing them to a regimented mode of living with which they are totally unfamiliar. I wouldn't know how to live in an apartment house. I don't want to live in these vertical cheese boxes."
CHAIRMAN FELT: "In other words, you favor the upgrading, is that right?"
MR. CEDZICH: "Absolutely."
(Applause)

· "This arbitrary curtailment of orderly progressive building construction by unsound whimsical unrealistic zoning by inexperienced planners, who day dream, will bring decline and decay, relegating our world's greatest city to a third rate city, far behind Chicago, if the stupidly conceived new Comprehensive New York City Zoning amendment is jammed through the Board of Estimate, unless the entire amendment is first withdrawn, properly amended to coincide with present bulk and uses throughout, so as to encourage building construction in all its facets, new housing, commercial and industry, along with necessary extensions to expand business enterprise."

· "We regard the proposed zoning as a Magna Charta heralding new freedom from blight that should be the right of every citizen in every community in New York."

· "It is no accident that family problems affecting the emotional stability of children start in one room dwellings in older neighborhoods which have been blighted by the indiscriminate cutting up of homes and apartments into small units."

· "From long years of observing the point of view of building committees, I can only say it is human nature for most people to be against anything new because there is security in the fact of what exists compared to the hypothetical future of the new. Therefore, I would recommend that all statements in favor of the new resolution be weighted at least ten times as compared with those that are opposed."

· "I have lived in this area for the past 25 years and there have been vast changes. A large number of unusually tall buildings have appeared which are not only huge, but box-like. This has led to overcrowding and overtaxing of services?.Some of these new buildings are very high priced in rents, yet inadequate in space and comfort, with the result that instead of having stable families, they have transient residences."

· "Realizing that the margin of vacant land in Queens has all but disappeared, we had hoped that at least the low height areas might keep their suburban character. We shudder when we see the ghost of Manhattan approach us as closely as Hillside Avenue on VanWyck Blvd. Only the strict residential Zoning Code now in force has spared us as yet from that fate."

· "Without protection for the suburban nature of Queens, it will not be worth the paper its written on and will only hasten the demise of New York City. Large apartment houses are already offering three months free rent."
· DCP History Project [NYC.gov]