In an 12-to-1 vote, the commission accepted a change that could mandate the maximum height of a mechanical void that does not count towards a construction’s allowable floor area be raised in 25 ft, which was originally proposed in January by the Department of City Planning, to 30 feet–a rise engineers and architects say is more realistic as not to cram in mechanical gear at the expense of design and performance.
The City Planning Commission approved a zoning amendment that cracks down on excess voids from advocates and competitions back and forth after months of ferocious.
That practice would be weakened. Voids within 75 feet of one another would also count toward a building’s operational footprint. The rule is geared toward residential buildings, but there are some exceptions for structures — if the section is less than a quarter of the distance that was usable, for example.
Condition officials slammed the updated amendment as”stunningly weakened” and directed to laws that’s been introduced at the state level that aims to enact harsher restrictions.
“This [change] relies upon the testimony of the various engineers and our desire to guarantee that new, more energy-efficient mechanical gear not be constrained by zoning,” City Planning Commission chairperson Marisa Lago said during Wednesday’s hearing. “Further, the analysis which has been performed by the Department shows that the excessive mechanical voids we believe violate the aim of our present zoning aren’t spaces that are a foot or two above the norm–but rather are patently unreasonably tall spaces”
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer along with a cadre of City Council members called the amendment a good first step toward curtailing the practice of excess voids, but felt that the zoning change was riddled with loopholes and asked the CPC to strengthen the amendment with server restrictions, including capping voids in 14 feet and increasing the space in which voids can exist close to one another from 75 to 90 feet.
A slew of neighborhood groups advocated for the modification, but many felt that it didn’t move far enough in curbing additional ways voids can be employed to improve the ever-soaring building heights of Manhattan. Now that the change has been approved by CPC, the zoning change will visit the City Council for a last vote. 1 community group that supports the amendment, save Central Park NYC, penned a letter to Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Brewer, and City Council members advocating for elected officials to push for changes that were stricter.
“Don’t be fooled: the text amendment presented does not close the loophole, it actually codifies it,” Assembly member Linda Rosenthal, State Senator Robert Jackson, and eight preservation groups wrote in a joint-statement. “While the City has an opportunity to fix this, we’re already moving the struggle to the country level, in which a recently empowered legislature has its sights set on fixing the root of inequality and wresting the power away from the real estate electricity agents and restoring it back to the people.”
Under current zoning code, there are restrictions on voids. This has contributed to some controversial structures with excessive voids to boost buildings’ heights, enabling them to charge higher prices for units on the upper levels.
Elected officials wanted the amendment to recognize unenclosed voids–such as Rafael Viñoly Architects’ contentious”condo on stilts“–as mechanical; charging that such areas should count toward a building’s floor space. They still would not under the amendment that is present. Additionally, requests that the blocks bounded by West 56th and West 58th roads, and Fifth and Sixth avenues, that can be outside the district affected by the amendment and include suggested or in-progress supertalls, were not heeded.
“We look to you to make sure that this first loophole is closed at a purposeful manner.”