New York City changing zoning rules to reduce shadows cast by high rises

Revisions impact set-back requirements, street wall design, lot coverage, and parking.

July 27, 2015 |
New York City changing zoning rules to reduce shadows cast by high rises

Photo: Greg Knapp, Creative Commons

For decades, the New York City’s zoning rules have made it hard to construct high-rise buildings that seem airy and minimize the shadows they cast. The city planning department is now working to change that.

In medium- or high-density areas, the department wants to measure how buildings are set back from the street line differently and update rules for street wall design, so that designers could add gardens or more articulation on building fronts. It also wants to make it easier to build on irregularly shaped lots by changing the rules for lot coverage and the distance between buildings.

The Department of City Planning is working on the first serious update to the city’s zoning code since the 1980s. A guiding vision is to allow more flexibility in the shape of buildings so that the city’s built environment can look more like it did in the early 20th century. That means more interior courtyards, street-side gardens, and ground-floor shops.

The measures are part of the housing plan of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration. The aim is to increase the city’s density in a more aesthetically pleasing way.

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