By Brendan Krisel
NEW YORK, NY — Developments rise to new heights every day in New York City, casting new shadows over the precious few green spaces that provide despite to weary urban dwellers. A new bill in the city council is seeking to reign in the darkness.
City Councilman Mark Levine — who represents parts of the Upper West Side, Harlem and Washington Heights — introduced legislation that would create an inter-agency task force to study any new development that will cast shadows over city parkland. Levine, the former chair of the council's committee on parks and recreation, noted that six new developments taller than 1,000 feet have risen on 57th Street in Midtown alone in the past few years, casting new shadows over Central Par.
"Parks and green spaces are essential pieces of our City's infrastructure and parks need sunlight to thrive," Levine said in a statement. "We want to tackle this problem before the next boom on super-tall towers attacks Central Park. They cast shadows that can be a mile or longer in the park. If it was just one, you would wait for it to pass, but there are potentially seven more and that's going to affect the ecosystem of Central Park alone."
It's not just Central Park that's contending with shadows. Parks as small as Midtown's Greenacre Park — which occupies a single lot on on East 51st street between Second and Third avenues — are fighting for light as new towers rise around it. Greenacre Park was fortunate to receive a designation on the National Register of Historic Places this year and officials have pledged to preserve the park.
But not all parks will get the same protection.
"Currently, there is no process in the zoning resolution to assess, let alone mitigate, the impact of buildings on parks and open space," Layla Law-Gisiko, Chair of the Central Park Sunshine Task Force of Manhattan Community Board Five, said in a statement. "As a result, we have seen numerous parks throughout the city plunged into shadows with no ability to protect the public's access to sunlight."
A task force to study shadows is urgently needed now that developers have a wide range of tools for expanding on as-of-right zoning including transferable development rights, zoning lot mergers, mechanical space loopholes and new building technologies, Levine said. Projects applying for discretionary approvals or permits from or receiving city funds must conduct shadow assessments, but private as-of-right construction does not need to, Levine said.
"With the number of out-of-proportion developments increasing throughout the city, it's well past time New York takes action to protect our parks," Levine said in a statement.