Amendment to close zoning loophole ‘misses the point wildly,’ says city council committee

By Caroline Splvack

City Council members are pushing to revert a contested zoning amendment that seeks to shrink mechanical voids used to beef up building heights back to the city’s initial, slightly stricter proposal.

The Department of City Planning (DCP) originally set out to cap voids, which have been exploited by developers to dramatically boost mostly residential towers, at 25 feet before those spaces are counted toward a building’s overall footprint and mandate that the voids be 75 feet apart from one another. But after a slew of concerned engineers and architects argued for more space, the City Planning Commission tweaked the amendment to allow for a maximum height of 30 feet—despite a chorus of elected officials and advocates urging for greater restrictions.

City Council members slammed the limited scope of the amendment at a Tuesday zoning and franchises subcommittee hearing, arguing that the city has zeroed in on capping void heights while not doing enough to address other areas that builders can exploit.

“I feel that we have gotten lost in technicality and are losing sight of the big picture here,” said Council member Mark Levine, who represents a stretch of Manhattan’s west side. “This is a battle over height and if you close one technical route to excessive height while leaving several more open, developers are certainly going to divert to the other avenues.”

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