The Department of City Planning has responded to the growing chorus of city dwellers who are decrying the proliferation of 1,000-foot towers in Midtown. In an August 12 letter cited by Crain's, City Planning chair Carl Weisbrod explains that the city has no plans to curtail as-of-right development in Midtown, despite concerns over the impact of shadows on Central Park. "Given the important role Midtown Manhattan plays in the city's economy, we have no immediate plans to reduce the current as-of-right density or bulk requirements," Weisbrod writes, noting that every tower along the southern border of Central Park was built "pursuant to existing bulk and density regulations."
While a main argument against the towers focuses on their lack of context in the surrounding neighborhood, Weisbrod says that their development may actually help preserve some of the character of the surrounding neighborhoods in decades to come,
The 'super-tall' buildings occur due to a redistribution of available development bulk from neighboring sites through zoning lot mergers. Additional bulk on one portion of the zoning lot requires a permanent retirement of potential bulk that could otherwise have been built on another part of the merged zoning lot. Thus, 'super-tall' buildings do have the effect of preserving existing height on neighboring sites, which usually also means that buildings with different heights and of different eras (even if not of landmark quality) are much less likely to be demolished.
As for the shadows, Weisbrod says that they may stretch deeper into Central Park, but are also more slender than the shadows cast by a wall of buildings, meaning that they'll pass over the park more quickly.
Developers haven't gotten off scot-free, though. Weisbrod reiterates that the revision of the 421-a tax abatement policy was largely driven by concerns of abuse. The revised policy should "reduce, if not eliminate, the utilization of the program for multi-million dollar luxury penthouses: 421-a will no longer be available for condominiums and co-ops in midtown Manhattan."
The Municipal Art Society, a main advocate for the reduction of as-of-right development in Midtown, issued the following statement to Curbed,
The issue of super tall towers continues to catalyze public attention and interest in them won't stop anytime soon. As more towers rise, we expect the Administration will face more questions about whether city regulations and the public review process effectively balance public benefit and private profit. Read Carl Weisbrod's full letter here. (h/t Crain's)
· City defends supertall towers near Central Park [Crain's]
· Plea to Curtail Sky-High Development Gets Even More Support [Curbed]
· Spooked by Tall Tower Boom, Midtown Residents Propose Revised Approval Process [Curbed]
· All Shadow Real Estate coverage [Curbed]