Despite a very public effort by the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) to stop City Council’s landmarks subcommittee from approving Downtown Brooklyn’s skyscraper district, the measure passed, paving the way for a full Council vote on February 1. As the proposed district always had full support of Council Member Stephen Levin and Borough President Marty Markowitz, it wasn’t likely that REBNY’s shot across the bow would make much of a difference. But it may point to a more assertive stance by the group which has been decrying layers of regulations from Lanmarks and ULURP.
The New York City Department of Design and Construction is now managing the majority of capital construction for the Department of Sanitation and the Department of Parks. DDC spokesperson John Ryan Martine confirmed that the agency is now officially responsible, adding that the shift was in response to a request from City Hall to facilitate consolidation. The DDC already works closely with both departments. For example, DDC will be responsible for the design and renovation of Tavern on the Green. Recently, Sanitation ceded responsibility to DDC for construction of its controversial garage at Spring Street designed by Dattner and WXY.
[ The AN editorial team is on hand for Zoning the City conference, now in progress at the McGraw-Hill Conference Center in Manhattan. We'll be live blogging and tweeting @archpaper with hashtag #zoningthecity throughout the day, so check back and follow us on twitter for updates! ]
In a wrap-up conversation moderated by Kayden, a panel brought together Thom Mayne, A.M. Stern, and Mary Ann Tighe to investigate a few non-planning factors, though of course it rounded back to planning within moments. The exchange was peppered with A.M. Stern wit, Mayne theory, and Tighe pragmatism.
Remarking on the more than 4 billion square feet of undeveloped FAR in New York City, Stern remarked, “That’s a lot of development–even for Related!”
Tighe said that zoning remained necessary, at the very least, for developers’ peace of mind. “I think we need some boundaries,” she said. “Things that will allow capital an amount of comfort that it’ll need to move foreword.” Tighe, who heads up New York’s real estate board, provide an audience full of zoning wonks and architects an investors voice, “What we keep forgetting after the vision is that the money has to come, the as-of-right things are needed.”
Stern replied no spoon full of sugar was needed to let this medicine go down. “Architects complain, they always complain,” he said “But they do their best work with difficult clients, financial constraints.”
Mayne broke through the realm of brick and mortar. “New York is inseparable from its intellectual capital, that’s it’s certainty and predictability.”
Matthew Carmona of University College London played to a re-caffeinated crowd, using humor to diffuse a very complex approval process for zoning London’s 32 different boroughs. With each borough weighing in with their own distinct processes and opinions, plus the mayor putting his two pence in, and even the secretary of state having a say, its amazing London plans as well as it does. The process looks more nightmarish than a West Village community board debating a university expansion. One intriguing aspect was the specificity of the Views Management Framework, which include river views, linear views, townscape views, and panoramas. But it was left to Loeb Fellow Peter Park, paraphrasing Goldberger, to best describe London’s beautiful mess. “Some of the greatest places in the world were built before zoning,” he said. “There’s an element of serendipity.”
Attention Zoning Wonks! In honor of the 50th anniversary of the 1961 Zoning Resolution, City Planning is hosting the Zoning the City Conference on November 15. Mayor Bloomberg will open the conference, while planning commissioner Amanda Burden will moderate with Harvard planning guru Jerold Kayden (a recent AN commentator). AN plans to blog live from the event and City Planning will be tweeting away @ZoningTheCity. The event, co-sponsored with Harvard and Baruch’s Newman Institute, has already been dubbed “the Woodstock of Planning” by one at least one registrant.