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Almost Half of Manhattan's Buildings Could Not Be Built Today

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Many historic buildings could never have been built with today's restrictions

New York City’s zoning code was put into effect in 1916 as a way to address overcrowding and mitigate shadows cast by skyscrapers. To mark its 100th anniversary, the New York Times celebrates the role that zoning has played on shaping the city of today.

Stephen Smith and Sandi of Quantierra, a real estate firm featured by the Times that incorporates data analysis into its method for finding investment opportunities, discovered in their analysis of 43,000 buildings in Manhattan that at least 17,000 of them do not conform to one or more parts of the current zoning code. This means that about 40 percent of the buildings in Manhattan don't live up to today's zoning standards.

For instance, buildings on the Upper East and West sides tend to be taller than what is now allowed. Buildings in Midtown and the East Village have too much square footage allotted to commercial use, and West Village and Chelsea buildings tend to be too densely populated. All this goes to say that many of the buildings that contribute to New York City’s architecturally diverse landscape could not be built today.

Here's a rundown of some of the buildings that woulddn't fly by today's zoning standards: 19 Jones Street, a former tenement built in 1910 (too wide and too many apartments); the 17-story 720 Park Avenue (this violates for not having enough apartments); and the cumbersome skyscraper at 120 Broadway, also known as the Equitable Building.

If these buildings were to be built today, many of them would be shorter and a lot less bulky. Chances are, many of them would be sporting a much slimmer design as well. Although current codes are much more restrictive, here's some good news for developers: the city has been reconsidering a new proposal that would allow for noncompliant buildings that have been demolished to be rebuilt to their original size.