Statement in Support of Residential Tower Mechanical Voids Text Amendment by Council Member Ben Kallos
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Statement in Support of Residential Tower Mechanical Voids Text Amendment by Council Member Ben Kallos

WASHINGTON, D.C. – (RealEstateRama) — “We’re saying no to empty buildings filled with voids simply to give the 1% better views while leaving the rest of us in their shadow.

“There is something wrong when developers would rather build empty spaces to prop up the wealthy rather than building the affordable housing that 99% of New Yorkers need.

“Every New Yorkers should have a right to light and air, to see the sky, and should not be condemned to live in the shadows of the wealthy.

“Buildings on stilts looked cool on the Jetsons, but the reality is more like Blade Runner, where the poor must live in the shadows below the wealthy above.

“None of this would have been possible without expert and advocates at Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts and Landmark West!

“Thank you to Mayor de Blasio and City Planning Chair Lago for ensuring new buildings are not empty voids but built for people.

Background

The Department of City Planning’s text amendment to close the mechanical voids loophole follows years of advocacy from Council Member Ben Kallos and community groups. Since his election, Council Member Kallos has invested $283,675 in Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts with $75,750 earmarked for planning, research, and education around zoning and land use. In 2014, soon after his election, Council Member Ben Kallos provided $24,700 to Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts, $10,000 of which was earmarked to “provide help, education, training and community engagement around land use.” This grant helped fund their report released on October 7, 2015, “The Upper East Side – A Framework for the Future of Five Neighborhoods.” The report recommended: “Restrict the Height of Buildings to 210 Feet” and “Limit Zoning Lot Mergers.”

Council Member Ben Kallos has held forums on overdevelopment on July 23, 2015, June 8, 2017, andJune 14, 2018 (video), with another planned for 2019.

On June 30, 2017, Council Member Ben Kallos sent a letter advocating for DCP to “close loopholes” including mechanical voids and floor-to-floor heights. Later that year on October 20, 2017, Council Member Kallos, Friends of the Upper East Side, and George Janes met with Department of City Planning to present their proposal to close loopholes.

Council Member Kallos invited Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts to ask a question at a Town Hall with Mayor Bill de Blasio on January 17, 2018. In response to Friends’ executive director Rachel Levy’s question, Mayor de Blasio and City Planning Chair Marisa Lago committed to fixing loopholes. On March 15, 2018, Council Member Kallos asked City Planning Chair Lago at a Budget Hearing about progress on closing loopholes where she promised to have a proposal by the end of the year.

Buildings with voids are being planned or built throughout Manhattan. Council Member Kallos has supported a community appeal to stop a skyscraper alleged to be in violation of the zoning text, which features a 34-foot void to help make it the tallest building on the East Side of Manhattan north of Trump Palace. On July 17, 2018, Kallos held a press conference with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and community advocates to bring attention to the voids and other zoning loopholes.

On Friday, January 25, 2019, the Department of City Planning sent a letter to Council Member Ben Kallos a proposed a zoning text amendment that would regulate excessive mechanical voids within residential buildings in high density residential districts citywide (N 190230 ZRY) planned for review and certification by the City Planning Commission (CPC) on January 28, 2019.

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