MR. WOLLMAN: We have a lot to do this morning. I'm Henry Wollman. I'm the director of the Steven L. Newman Real Estate Institute at Baruch College, and on behalf of the institute and Baruch College, we welcome you very much to this event which has been in the planning for a while, and it could not have happened without the cooperation of Department of City Planning and Joseph Rose, and I think it will prove to be an interesting morning.
There are some ground rules, mainly about speakers sticking to their schedule which are imperative if we are to accomplish everything that we want to do, and I am the sort of now hard bitten task master of keeping people on schedule, and we'll talk about that more in just a few moments.
I'd like to begin by introducing the new president of Baruch College, Ned Regan, who is of course no stranger to almost everyone in this room as the former New York State Controller, Erie County executive and chairman of the municipal assistance corporation for New York City.
Ned has forsworn me from making an extended introduction, and I will obey his rules as I had better, but I do want to say that I think he is a symptom of resurgence of the city university and exemplifies the resurgence the city university about which we read something about in the New York Times this week and is an absolute sort of personification of the role, the public role, the private roles, that the city university aspires to play and will play in the life of New York in the coming decade. Thank you.
MR. REGAN: What a beautiful day to talk about the city, University CUNY and Baruch in the context of New York City, Henry. I share those thoughts, and I think everybody else in this room does. I want to think Henry and Bill Newman, Joe Rose and all the others that have made this possible and thank the few of you that realize that I was stressed out Friday and won't embarrass me too much, all you fancy dudes out there, but let me just quickly say two things about what you're doing.
I have to relate it to what I know about obviously and hope that it strikes a cord or two with you. In going through the material I spotted obviously two words. One was neighborhood and the other was economy. We're in what I think New York City -- Joe, would call us a neighborhood, but when I've checked the maps, I go way back, we were called at one point Rose Hill. That's what we were, but we're kind of pieces of neighborhoods, and I don't like that.
Across the street is going this marvelous, marvelous building, a very unique academic structure, unique in all the country and certainly unique in New York City, and I wanted to try to create a neighborhood campus feel that when you got near us, you realized that you were you walking into a mixed environment of campus and neighborhood, one where ideas were exchanged and bagels were sold all at the same time with the general feeling of synergy to this whole thing.
We have a neighborhood feeling in this sense and everybody is to blame and nobody is to blame but across the street on the wall of the building on 25th Street near Third Avenue there's going to go up a plaque that at one point -- we allowed preservation groups to role us. It's not their fault, it's our fault, but that's what happened. We got a plaque that celebrates this neighborhood which never existed and it cost you as taxpayers $800,000 and four people a day will see it if they don't mind their coffee getting cold on the back way from the deli. That's it.
And what we are here -- and that's a problem, a minor, teeny problem which we're going to cure and I'll tell you in one sentence and then conclude on the more important topic of the economy.
What we are here is first one block away you is another Baruch facility which will remain, which is our major classroom in addition to this marvelous library of space, is the site of the very first institution for higher education for kids of modest means in the United States of America and the guy that did it in 1847 he said why have to quote him accurately, the sons of 15 years later, it was the daughters too the sons of Menatoy [phonetic] take their place next to the sons of wealthy to learn and move on into the economy and culture of this country and created something called a free academy and that was the very first. Then came the Moral Act, the Land Grant Colleges and the great Michigans and Wisconsins, the North Carolinas and SUNYs and CUNYs of this country and there it all was. Teaching, by the way, the arts and classics for 15 years because even the land grant colleges remain vocational in nature for 15 years before anyone duplicated for the sons and daughters of the Menatoy [phonetic] and that's what we are. That's what this neighborhood is, so what do I do? Well, I'll go look at that plaque once and then try to get it out of my mind, but I've called up the dean Ranalli but at CCNY and said get us a team of students who will give somebody to the lead and somebody at the end and come down here from your great institution and create for us a plan for a neighborhood and we'll pick the winner and then we'll go to war and you'll just hope you're around by then (pointing).
There's going to be some changes here and then we're going to do it. I don't know how that's done. That's your job. That's Joe's job. That's your discipline and it's not mine, but we're going to do in five years here, it will take that long. I'm from government, so I know. It will take that long, but we're going to create a neighborhood here of a great campus, wonderful students, of commercial enterprises, people that can walk in here and walk out, know they've been into a community of learning but a community, a mixture of poor and rich and great businesses and little delis all at the same time, so to the extent that what you're doing today bears on that kind of thing, please go to it.
I only know of one city in the country that preserved their neighborhoods and that was Boston and that was at terrible racial animosity expense, but they still got them and they still cling to them and they don't let any government at any time interfere with the neighborhoods.
It's of course costing you federal taxpayers $13 billion to build a four-mile tunnel under these neighborhoods because the neighborhoods wouldn't let them go on the surface, but so what. They've got livability and the quality of life there which is preserved by zoning and preserved by smart people like Joe Rose.
Let me conclude with just a notion on the economy. We graduate 2,000 students a year in the business disciplines and they go out into New York City. I like to think of Baruch as kind of like the but for test, but for Baruch. These 99 percent kids, first in their family to go to college, well motivated, well motivated from the New York City high schools go out into but for Baruch they wouldn't get the chance of a business education that they get here and get a chance and get that career ladder into the economy of this city, but they get it here and why this is so exciting is because where we are located in terms of Silicon Alley and Wall Street and the great midtown district and of course, now Park Avenue South. That's what this name ought to be in this neighborhood. Park Avenue South is just burgeoning.
Anyone who knows who's involved with building there just knows what's going on which we think is terrific and we're cheek by jowl with all this excitement.
Question? What is it about zoning that enhances or preserves the idea that this city, greatest city in the world is built -- I'm using the word idea in a different context now -- where ideas are just exchanged. You get something. You go into the deli and you bump into somebody or go into a restaurant and something just goes click and it's just the last thing you needed to take you forward.
What is it about the zoning, about how we live and work in New York that does this like no other city does. Leneen [phonetic] of terrible fame said once that power lay in the streets. He abused it, but ideas lay in the streets of this town and what you do in terms of zoning and building, development enhances and preserves, preserves and then enhanced this idea that makes this city the most exciting place in this area, the most exciting place in the world and a wonderful opportunity for each year several thousand of our students that go and partake and participate and grow into the culture.
You ask do things they would have otherwise not done were it not for New York City and I would like to think as having indicated we're if not for Baruch.
That's my take on a limited slice of what you're doing. It's not professional, but it does speak to some deeply felt concerns about the quality of life and you effect that every single day in everything you do. Thank you for being here. Welcome and Henry, it's all yours. Thank you very much.
MR. WOLLMAN: Thank you, Ned. Just a few grounds rules about the morning. We will try to stay and we will succeed in staying very much on time. Some of you may wish to take notes. I do say to you that the book on the Unified Bulk Program will be available at lunch on the seats of each of you, so you don't have to worry so much about taking such careful notes. It presents a compendium of different materials on Unified Bulk as they have appeared from various city institutions as well as the press, as well as a particular case study which the institute itself commissioned to deal with development implications in the outer boroughs from the proposal, so this will be available.
The institute as part of the city university takes no position on the proposal in any formal way, but I think I would be remiss in not pressing some personal feelings about what Joe Rose and his staff and the department have put forward. And before introducing Joe, I'd just like to say one or two things about that from my own perspective as both a past architect and a present real estate developer.
First of all, the ambition of the document is extraordinary. We have all lived in our lifetimes in a world in which city planning, in which city agencies have looked at the minutiae of the fabric of the city, whether by intent or by design or by default. Here was the attempt at looking at the city as a whole, of taking on the zoning resolution out of doing something which would have great consequence and engage great ideas about what the city can be.
Clearly there were two ideas which for me at least said at the heart of what Joe and his staff were about. One was engaging the issue of growth. What shall the growth of the city as a whole be? What is the proper rate and pace of it and most of all that unaskable, unanswerable, never to be talked about question, are there absolute limits to what the growth of this city can be given its infrastructure, given its geography, given its population, given the nature of what density means to successful or unsuccessful cities.
There was another idea, though, that was equally startling in a way for New York City maybe not for other cities, but for New York City certainly that Joe introduced which was that the word design would come out of the bag and that design and effect should play a role.
Design is perhaps a word that deals with quality of life and what the meaning of quality of life in this urban context is and that it's not simply although the most perhaps most subjective of all issues, it is not one which is not amenable to rational discussion and hopefully some organized communal discourse and decision making.
We have to be grateful I think to this proposal that it brought both the issues of growth and design to the fore. Then I think we have to be grateful that there was the courage on the part of the commission, on the part of the department to take on -- how shall I say it in the most polite way -- the most powerful vested interests in this community. After all, real estate is no child's play in New York. It is the stuff and fabric of everyday life. The dollars, the power are there and this proposal looks at it and looks at it from the point of view from not only what is best for the development community -- after all their well-being not an insignificant interest in all of our lives, but what is best for the city as a whole for all of us.
And finally, I think the thing that the proposal did which in a way for me underlies all of these previous few items and I don't know if Ms. Baruch is here because she's a champion of the idea of the impact of ethics on every day life and the importance of it within the business school and the business environment as Baruch teachers, but the document is ambitious in raising the underlying issues about what is just in the future of this city.
What is the role of government? What shall the nature of deliberation be about issues as complex as the ones that the proposal puts forth and the open nature of so much of the discussion and deliberation is in fact a model I think of what discourse can be in this city regardless of which side you come out on in this proposal.
For all of these things I think we have to be grateful to Joe Rose, to the department, to his extraordinary staff -- many of whom are here, some of whom you will hear -- and to those members of the city council who have been good enough to come this morning to listen to this, and I urge you to join with me at least in these sentiments about what has been accomplished by this proposal.
Joseph B. Rose is chairman of the City Planning Commission and director of the Department of City Planning. He was appointed to the position by Mayor Rudolph W. Guiliani on January 29, 1994.
As chairman of the 13 member commission, Mr. Rose manages the city charter, expanded responsibilities of the commission which include approving all zoning and land exchanges, city franchises and concessions, urban renewal plans, landmarks and disposition of city-owned property.
The Commission is charged with planning for the orderly growth, improvement and future development of the city. The City Planning Commission includes seven members who are appointed by the mayor and one each by the five borough presidents and the public advocate.
Mr. Rose is also the director of the Department of City Planning Mayoral Agency responsible for long-term strategic planning concerns that have broad implications for the city.
The City Planning Department facilities economic development and coordinates its activities with relevant city agencies such as the Department of Transportation, Housing Preservation and Development and the Department of Environmental Protection.
Please welcome Joseph Rose.
MR. ROSE: Thank you. Good morning. I'll try to be brief and get us rigidly adhered to the schedule that's been laid out. First of all, I think Ned Regan, President Regan, appropriately touched on a couple of themes that I want to return to for those of you who still have the endurance to still be here at lunch. I will touch on the issues of neighborhood and economic growth and the incredible strength and revitalization of the city that's going on right now and how these issues interact with each other and how they do so hopefully within the context of a successful regulatory framework, but I want to jump in right now to the topic on hand which is the Unified Bulk Zoning Proposal.
I want to thank Henry and the Newman Institute and Baruch for staging this forum this morning, because it's a very crucial time. We expect to vote on this proposal at the planning commission next month. We have gone through an exhaustive process. We have spoken with a wide range and interacted and taken counsel from a very wide range of participants.
We still have some issues to address and resolve, and this is a very good moment to be taking both a step back and also jumping into the details and hearing both forcing us to state again clearly what it is we're doing, why we're doing it and hear the comments and the praise and criticism and refining the proposal as it heads towards what we hope will ultimately be adoption by the Planning Commission and City Council.
But just quickly before we turn to the staff of the Department of City Planning, the drafters of the proposal, I want to discuss what we're doing and why we're doing it in broad strokes.
A year and a half ago I gave a speech at city hall that deliberately, consciously opened what I called the Pandora's Box of zoning reform. It wasn't without a sense that this was in the context of the politics and the process and the bureaucracy of New York City something that was scary, something that would be controversial, that people would have strong reactions to, but I stated very clearly that this was necessary because the zoning resolution is in crisis.
It's in crisis and it's not unusual for people to describe X or Y or Z, and you create a lot of passion and people try to get attention by saying something is in crisis, so the first question, why is it a big deal that the zoning resolution is in crisis and the answer is because the zoning resolution in New York City embodies our values about the environment. It embodies our outlook towards the future and our whole notion of growth.
We are not a city that master plans. There are many us who believe we are not a city who can master plan. We redevelop within the context of our own borders. We are a built city by the standards of the U.S. We've been around for a very long time. We don't annex new territory and then decide okay, here's where this will go, here's where that will go. We redevelop within the borders, within the context of our own borders, within our built environment, and the document that controls that is the zoning resolution.
So it's not just another set of municipal regulations. It's not just the building code. It's not just of the park regulations. It's not -- not that those aren't important, but it is not a casual document. It is the essence of our outlook towards both the present, our neighborhoods where we live, where we work and also how we're going to change and evolve in the future.
So it's not to have something that important in terms of our relationship to our environment be in crisis is a very serious problem, so why is it in crisis? The first is that this 900 and approximately 80 page document is at this stage of the game largely incoherent.
People do not understand it. Even the people -- even the few people who are purported to understand it don't understand it and those of us -- I've had to come and partially become one of those people and it's one of more depending on the kind of day you're having it can be either distressing or amusing to see people who are purported experts to grovel with an attempt to try and pose some meaning on things that are at this point have for all practical purposes lost any context with what the rules are supposed to regulate.
The second thing is the regulations are inconsistent. Similar pieces of property in similar locations have wildly different things that are permitted to happen on adjoining lots. There's no rationale. There's no discernible rationale in terms of why some things are allowed and some things are unallowed, so we have an unintelligible, inconsistent document governing how neighborhoods grow, how the city exists.
One of consequences of this condition is that -- because it's so incoherent and inconsistent and no one understands what it says and requires so many kinds of interpretation and filtering and debate back and forth about what a particular sentence means and how it refers back to some other provision 600 pages away in the text, is we've created a culture and a process and a system that rewards manipulators and schemers at the expense of people who simply want to come and find out what the rules are and do what they're allowed to do. And often the question is asked what can I do here, and people try to give a straightforward answer but that's not the way a vast number of people play the game.
You come in. You start having a few meetings. You say well, can this mean that and next thing you know, you have a secret handshake and a secret club. It's a constrained world. It's not a healthy way in which the most important city in the world, the command center of the global economy should conduct business. It's not healthy from an economy perspective.
It's not healthy from a wide variety of perspectives and creates among other things a cynicism, a lack of public confidence in the legitimacy of the regulations and the legitimacy of the approach towards the redevelopment of the city of New York and that is at the end of day one I think the central reasons why the resolution is in crisis and why reform is absolutely necessary and that's because if such an important document lacks a sense of legitimacy, lacks confidence, is the subject of the such cynicism and such in a sense that it really is the province of a small group of connected people as opposed to a real legitimate -- not blueprint, but legitimate -- set of parameters of how the city is to redevelop, then we've undermined the political legitimacy of the core values of the document and what zoning has to be for New York, which is change, which is
growth, which is reinvestment.
If we don't have a set of rules that allow for growth, allow for change, allow for the production of housing and commercial space that's so necessary for the city to continue to play the role that it has, then we are I guess by default but also to some degree consciously creating a series of skirmishes, neighborhood battles, the sort of zero sum briante [phonetic] development growth, no growth battle, that at the end of the day the city can't afford because change and growth are critical to the city of New York to play its role both locally and regionally and nationally and globally as well.
So the reason for opening Pandora's Box is because would can't afford not to and at this point after 45 years of working with a document that we now have little less -- 43 years, the fact is, it's broken.
The car -- there's no more quick fixes that can make this thing work. We need to do a significant overhaul.
The other problem in addition to the fact that it's inconsistent, it's incoherent, it lacks legitimacy, is that it also embodies the zoning resolution as it currently exists to the extent that one can decipher what it says and how provisions work and embodies a very rigid ideological vision adopted in 1961 formulated throughout the 1950s of an urban renewal aesthetic that really is intolerant of any other vision and very much at odds with the way that much of the city is built and valued and protected in terms -- and conceived of in terms of its neighborhoods, and to have such a rigid vision that doesn't allow for what -- for that matter -- the private sector, neighborhoods, the public sector wants to do, has created a situation that has led to some of these kinds of manipulations and interpretations and the process that has led to the lack of legitimacy.
So we consciously opened the box in order to address problems that we feel -- and Henry described in his introduction what my charter responsibilities are. To allow for the orderly growth and development for the city, we felt it was absolutely necessary to take this on.
One of the final things I said in the speech, I went into the other provisions as well that aren't the topic of today's discussion, but I said clearly I know this will be controversial, know that we have a couple of different modes of responding to innovative or significant proposals in the city and especially addressing the development issue. One is to be constructive, to be cooperative, to work things out at the end of the day.
I mean, this is a city built on compromise, on a combination of initiative and achieving results. We also have and this is after several decades and various versions of this had business we have a very destructive zero some way where reference is at pitch battles with each other. There is a noncooperative approach and everyone has their turf and it's either anti-growth or no regulations, no development and that's a very unproductive, dangerous place for the city to go and I made it clear.
If this is a process that gets high jacked, I would not -- I said I will not let this process get high jacked by people who are fundamentally hostile to the notion of change, hostile to the notion of growth, hostile to the understanding of the flexibility that is necessary within the context of the city's economy, and I have to say that my fear -- I mean, I think it was a legitimate fear, but I have been impressed that -- many of the sources who I was afraid would take the willingness to take on some of these problems that I laid about before which is inconsistency and a hostile aesthetic vision, would be -- would try to go too far.
Instead the response has been by and large very enthusiastic, both from working with the community boards, with the civic groups, with the professional associations. There really has been I think the kind of conductive, positive outlook, really making the proposal that I think had a lot of merit, and I'll try to go into and I'll try to wrap up, but get that -- get the best possible proposal we can within a modest and moderate agenda, not trying to forestall growth, not trying to create uniformity or restrict the ability to do the things that the city needs to do.
There has been at the same time some criticism which I will put into three categories. One is the well-deserved but the legitimate necessary, inevitable corrections, comments, suggestions that we at any time -- we take on a project of this scale in terms of reforming something so central to the built environment in the city, there will be mistakes we make. There will be issues that need to be refined and addressed and we have had -- as someone who spent 20 years in the legal use regulatory process, I believe in the integrity of that process.
I believe at least in the possibility of the integrity of that process, and we have had a very constructive interaction and the proposal has benefitted from the comments of the community boards, the comments of the real estate board, the comments of the professional associations, the AIA, APA, Municipal Arts Society, the institutions that have raised issues about how their expansion needs and program needs to be accommodated within a general set of regulations, so that's one category; constructive suggestions that have really delved into the essence of what we're doing and try to make it better.
Second issue, second category I guess, would go into this general philosophical criticism and I mean, I don't know what to say about that other than that I don't recall which Shaving [phonetic] play has the scene and Paul, you may remember, but the two patagonists are hurling advectives at each other and they're coming up with the worst possible insults they can address at each other and finally one trumps the other by saying critic. And there are a couple of critics who failed to delve into the essence of what this proposal is and simply created -- used the zoning proposal as a vehicle for amusing them or whatever it is they chose to amuse and presented a very distorted picture of what we're actually doing. So we're happy to get into that subsequently. But the good news is we don't have to spend a whole lot of time on that issue.
The third set of responses that we've had and we take seriously and we refer it as something that necessarily both politically and also in terms of interests of the city in terms of something we need to address are concerns raised by the real estate industry or at least some in the real estate industry about what the affects of this proposal will be on the capacity of the city to grow, on the private market, on development, and we were having a very cooperative series of discussions of dialogue on this back and forth, as I said, including some of the kind of technical issues that are affected and then I guess not talks but the dialogue changed into a sense that we were doing something that had -- that might be very destructive and really was the whole notion of imposing limits was something that wasn't really valid and the problem -- we were perplexed at this at first because we really had tried and we think we succeeded in crafting a document that balanced, that it was reasonable, that gave serious thought to how to make sure we didn't have an adverse affect on housing production.
We worked within the context of both flexibility, architecturally and economically and related to the character of the growth orientation of the city of New York. It turned out that that -- what I think a lot of problems stemmed from is a misunderstanding of the way the current zoning works, so in order to understand the changes, you need to understand what we have now and that is something that says, as I said since nobody does, the sense of what the difference was between what we are proposing and what is currently allowed is something that unfortunately takes a vast amount of time to understand.
Now, as a result of all of criticism I after seven years as the chairman of the Planning Commission had to do what I had up till now allowed myself to not have to do which was understand the intricacies of zoning resolution. I unfortunately had to become something of an expert on tight factor zoning and open space ratios and the difference between an R7 A and R7 B in ways I hoped I would never have to do, and one of the things and purposes of this proposal was to not make me have to understand every minuet distinction.
Now in responding to some of the criticisms that have been raised and the concerns and the political problems, I've had to delve in and understand just what it is, what the heinous thing is we've been accused of doing, which means I have to go and understand what the current rules are and what the changes are.
The good news is that after this exhaustive process, I like our proposal even more than when we proposed it, but it's something that I think at the end of the day while there are some open issues that still need to be addressed, that when one genuinely understands what the current regulations are, and I think some of the presentations this morning will highlight this and what the affects are compared to what the current situation is, that we're not as far apart from reaching a successful balancing of the various interests involved than it looks.
So what are we doing? I'll say very quickly before I turn this over to our staff, there are five basic principles of what we're trying to do. One is to come up with a document that is as simple as it can be given the wide varieties of the things that have to be accommodated within the built environment of the city of New York.
You shouldn't have to be one of a handful of specialists in order to understand the basic parameters of what can and cannot get done on your land, on the property next door, in your neighborhood. Reasonably intelligent people prepared to devote a certain amount of time to understand the rules should be able to do so, number one, an intelligible set of regulations.
Number two is a set of regulations that work, that retain the fundamental New York City orientation towards as of right development. As of right development means you don't have to come in and go into a long political process any time you want to do something.
This is a city of more than seven and a half million people, millions of housing units. We can't afford -- and our political system no matter who's running it, no matter how efficient we make it, cannot take the vast amount of interactions and activities that go on in the city of New York and put them into the political process. The system would break down. Things that needed to get done wouldn't get done, so maintaining a fundamental as of right set of regulations that allow for some flexibility.
The third is whatever we allow has to be economically viable. We can't just create something that looks good on paper or fits some illogical vision of ourselves and doesn't translate into economically viable commercial buildings, affordable housing. If we create a set of rules that doesn't work in the marketplace in terms of costs, in terms of economic viability, then we have failed.
The fourth principle is that there should be some relationship between the character of a neighborhood and how it's regulated pursuant to the zoning regulations in 1961. The zoning imposed the same ideological aesthetic straightjacket on every neighborhood in the city of New York.
If there was one vision, it was a tower in the park vision. If there was nothing in the zoning resolution of 1961 that said oh, you may be a row house neighborhood in Brooklyn and here you may be in an area that should have co-op city or here is difference between midtown Manhattan and a small -- low density neighborhood in another part of town, so it's a relationship between what the zoning allows and what the character of those neighborhoods that are being regulated is a fundamental part of this.
And the final principle is that there needs to be complete flexibility but not through the kind of back door negotiations and hand dealing that goes on in the bureaucracy, a public kind of flexibility. If you want to do something different because we know whatever regulations we come up with there will be conditions that do not allow -- that don't fit within the box, whatever that box is, and we need to have what every other place in the country has, which is a publicly legitimate way of getting to do something different.
Right now we don't have that vehicle because there's this very rigid, ideological vision and the result is in order to do something different, because the world is such that it demands often if not on occasion something different, that the only way to get to that process is to go through the back door, to slither around with these interpretations. That's not healthy. It undermines the legitimacy and at the end of the day it jeopardizes the capacity of the city to grow.
So that's what we're doing. I will turn the microphone over now to the principal drafters of the regulations within the Department of City Planning, and I should just say in closing that having spent decades on community boards, public -- not for profit advocate and various aspects of the land use regulatory enterprise, I knew about the planning commission. I did not have an appreciation for just how dedicated, impressive, sophisticated and enlightened a group of people we had at the department -- the city has the good fortune to have at the high reaching ranks of the department of the city planning who really have been an invaluable team in being able to tackle these issues.
So with that I'd like to turn the podium over to Sandy Hornick who's our deputy executive director of our department and the director of strategic planning.
Henry, you're going to formally introduce Sandy. Thank you.
MR. WOLLMAN: We'd like to move on to the first part of the morning which is the clarification and explanation of the proposal. I'm wondering if I can invite Sandy Hornick, Eric
Kober and David Karnovsky to join us here.
Sandy Hornick has worked as a planner with New York's Department of City Planning for 25 years, including six years of zoning director and currently serves as deputy executive director for strategic planning. At City Planning he played a key role in preparing the city planning commission 1992 report shaping the city's future and the 1994, 1999 mayor's strategic policy statements and numerous reports of the Department of City Planning.
He played significant roles in the development of the city's land use policies including it's lost policy contextual zoning and the comprehensible waterfront plan and the waterfront zoning and has authorized a number of articles on planning issues.
Please welcome Sandy Hornick.
MR. HORNICK: Good morning. Can somebody lower the lights? I have just say few pictures to spice up the whole subject. I'm going to begin this with a little background. I'm a history buff, and I understand what we're doing and unified both. It's helpful to me to turn on
the machine, technically advanced. Thank you.
The history, the background of the Unified Bulk Program really goes back to the 1950s when the conceptual ideas behind the current zoning bulk were in place. Back then the city for the first time at least since the consolidation in 1898 was confronted with a loss population, a loss of demonetization to suburbs.
What they sought to do was to radically redesign the city as sort of an urban suburb. They were going to dramatically (inaudible) density and the zoning and by the way (inaudbile) the density in the city by 80 percent in 1961, but they also had a physical vision that was different and that physical vision loosely based on this drawing that you see right here which had actually appeared in the 1961 materials that preceded it.
This is Raven Wood Houses in Astoria, Queens, and what they thought is the way to compete with the suburbs was to take large areas of the city, clear them and build and lower density in cities that had been previously built, tall slender towers surrounded by open space.
Some of these are some of the best houses in still desirable neighborhoods with long waiting lists, where the other models Thinson Town [phonetic] had a long waiting list and 40 years later still has a long waiting list 50 years after this was done.
To help create the large sites, they also had urban renewal which was use of government power, of condemnation to clear land and create large spots. The zoning was designed to work very much together with that in the sense that it rewarded you for building taller and thinner and punished you for building shorter and squatter. I'll give you more floor space to do it.
These buildings began to appear first in the mid 1960s as a grace period and once they began almost immediately people began to complain about them and it began to be a different view and that view has become that may be the that looks just like the Raven Wood Houses in its entirety is not a very exciting place to be, but that cities where particularly in the urban centers where the buildings relate to the street, where there's activity, where there's eyes on the street and so on have a positive value.
And in fact New York epitomizes this and probably one of the reasons it is one of the most dynamic cities in the western world.
As I said, from the mid 60s on we became increasingly aware of the controversies over those older -- the newer type building and from the 1960s on we banned to fix the zoning.
Originally people thought about this, thought the fixes were local, that there was a particular problem in a particular neighborhood and that it was just in this one neighborhood, that we really don't need a tower and plaza opposite Fifth Avenue in Central Park, so they began doing special zoning districts in a handful of special cases and eventually they produced 33 current special zoning districts as it spread from neighborhood to neighborhood.
As more and more places came up, we came up with other solutions, infield zoning, special districts, limited height districts, special permits and so on. More and more rules were added because these developments kept spreading to more and more neighborhoods and more of the diseases that I think all bureaucrats suffer from is the belief that they have to solve the problem themselves, so each one found their own solution creating -- producing this incredibly unduly vex of regulations.
I guess I'm one of those people that Joe described as supposedly an expert, and I can assure you that I often find some of the issues mystifying. I'm also the only person ever to weigh these more than 17 pounds and I'm convinced that I'm going to suffer some physical injury in light of that (inaudible).
The average citizen or property owner for whom zoning is not a full-time job has very little hope of ever understanding what's in it. This is a good as a (inaudible) consultant but not much good for anyone else.
Not surprisingly, sometimes these lead to uncomfortable results and surprising results. This is a theoretic block in an R 7. This is the type of thing you might see on the lower east side or upper Manhattan, and we've run three different development sites here and what's interesting about it is not that one block would look like this, but depending on what the conditions are on the block next to you, you can get anything from a six to a ten to a 19 story building next to you.
The zoning is not very easy to predict to produce if someone really chose to, it might be (inaudible). In recent years the commission has moved away from the sort of one spot fits all zoning for very specific locations and did two things. One, it did contextual zoning which more or less buildings should copy the format of the existing city, most of which was built before the 1960 zoning ordinance or it should do something else in the very tall buildings because it was towers use something called tower on base which I'll return to in a second, but one of the things that happened, contextual zoning is appropriate in some places.
I'll use West End Avenue as an example of a consistent street in line with Park Avenue, but there are a lot other places in the city built over wide periods of time that are not uniform, and I dare say come back to this again and we really don't want all of the city look like
one shape and one form.
The flip side of that is that when buildings like this get built, this is on the upper east side or this, this is in Park Slope, these are the rare, I do mean rare, buildings built under particular (inaudible).
The public reaction to that, the public surprise in having these things next to them, produces a reaction which says -- demands of the political process a solution that is either going to be down zoning, contextual zoning, whether it's appropriate or not or land marking, something that will prevent future development.
And as Joe mentioned, we very strongly believe there is not -- the city doesn't suffer from the surplus of excessive zoning but rather, needs development to continually upgrade its housing and so on and not what because of a rise in population and I'll touch on that a little more.
So what are we trying to do with the Unified Bulk Program? Well, first of all, in the heart of the city we have had the current rules remain in effect, the liberal rules with no height limits, in the central business districts creation of a new central business district in Long Island City and the zoning in addition of a central business district in downtown Brooklyn.
Part of the change in Unified Bulk has to do with the neighborhoods touched on earlier. It's really to recognize that most of the city's neighborhoods have prevailing characters. Unlike what some of architect critics said, it recognizes that the city's neighborhoods are diverse and the city benefits from renovation.
Even if the program -- and it's interesting because a number of you told me in writing and some people talked about it, keep referring to it as a uniformed program going to promote a uniform architecture or uniformed something. It's a unified program. (inaudible) was we mean we unified is the regulations unlike today where we've got 40 years of previous rules conflict with each other. It is a unified set of rules that we hope will be coherent together.
So what is the heart of this for the city's neighborhoods? Probably the thing that get the most attention is the fact that in introducing height limits in communities which do not have height limits. Why height limits? Height limits in the proposal is more coherent and easier to understand than the current rules. It is still going to be about a zoning resolution complicated text. It's a complicated city.
The height limits provide certainty that all parties can understand. They reflect the general character of the neighborhoods. They provide some limits on issues like zoning, lot mergers and development rights, transfers and mechanical space and other so forth moments people have been concerned about while being marginal to accommodate all the (inaudible) allowing some to be scooped up from other properties and to help preserve those buildings or to preserve some open spaces that are important and also to allow design subsequent.
How will these height limits work? Each district basically will have two height limits, standard height limit and a district height, and I'm not going to go through each one of them.
This is standard in say an R 6 district. It produces a six-story district. 97 percent or 98 percent of all development in the last 20 years in R 6 districts complies with this or less, and it is one that when built in these communities are generally not controversial.
In the same districts, it will be a set of conditions and we have an alternate taller building and these are not architects, so they're just, you know, presume people will make them look better than we have here, but an alternative outlet would be that a taller building be built but not as tall as you can build them today with those intricacies and only under very specified set of conditions.
Why not a -- why couldn't you get a much taller building in an R 7 district and the truth of the matter is in most situations these buildings won't be any taller than this in any event because there's only so much floor area for R 7 district which allows less than one-third of the floor area than you would get in a high density Manhattan district I mentioned. All right.
So one question that ultimately is going to be is how often should you go with the standard of how much should that be the motto and how much should an alternative envelope be available and how flexible should that envelope be.
In the high density districts, the overall height of the buildings is not going to change the current count on the base rules. I won't go into exactly what they are because they're pretty complicated. Pretty much cap height of the height of the building at 360 feet today and this proposal has a 360 height limit in those high density Manhattan based residential neighborhoods, but what it does is it removes certain restrictions that result in lower foot ceiling heights, in essence, lower foot ceiling heights on lower floors and (inaudible) changes to it that approved by the commission would allow for more of a slender 25 percent terraces (inaudible) have recommended that would allow more the slender terrace characteristic of the Empire State Building and so on.
Last but not least and I will just mention this very, very briefly, these rules can be guides, that there should be a way out of these rules, and Joe talked about the need to do this and we are continually hearing from architects who are when they design something they are typically from outside the city confronted with the fact that they can't build what they want to build because the constraints of the 1961 proposal would not allow you to do it, and there is no legitimate way, public way, to say that something else should be allowed; so that's the gist of the proposal and we're trying to be brief, so I'll stop here.
MR. WOLLMAN: I'd like to now introduce Eric Kober, who has been Director of Housing, Economic and Infrastructure Planning at the department since 1986. He has a Master's degrees in public affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School in Princeton and in economics from the Sterns School of Business at NYU.
Mr. Kober's responsibilities include tracking demographics and economic indicators, analyzing transit and conducting studies particularly in how these trends affect land use and infrastructure needs.
He also advises the planning director of the City Planning Commission in land use, housing economic development and infrastructure policies.
Please welcome Eric Kober.
MR. KOBER: Can you kill the lights again? I'm going to talk a little bit very briefly because I've been asked to talk fast about the impact of the Unified Bulk Program on housing and economic development in the city.
As Sandy mentioned -- it was very good the way it was before. Thank you. As Sandy mentioned, most of the new housing city conforms to Unified Bulk program prototypes and this is because the prototypes and the housing prototypes go back to the contextual zoning of the 1980s that housing prototypes were built in recognition of economics of housing construction and the kinds of housing which are more economically efficient to build, and I think I just lost my carousel.
The Unified Bulk Program, however, would remove some of the very obscure but meaningful impediments to housing design which are built into the 1961 zoning which is height factors, open space ratios, zoning room counts and light area set asides, and these are all designed to promote the town and park prototype on cleared renewal sites, but what they do on the typical sites is as Sandy alluded to, they interfere with the design and development of housing in unpredictable and unexpected ways that really have no underlying purpose except make it difficult to achieve the economic additional building.
The way in which the city's housing tested form with the Unified Bulk prototypes can be gathered by looking at some data. I'll just throw out some brief numbers on housing construction in New York City.
New York City issued permits for 12,400 new housing units in 1999 which was the best year for new housing permits since 1989 as the city's economy recovered.
There were 3,800 permits in Manhattan and 8,600 all the others in the other boroughs. Almost all the Manhattan permits were in buildings of five or more units, not surprisingly; however outside of Manhattan, only 2,600 of the permits were buildings with five or more units. The rest were built one to four units, really small buildings.
About 1,500 of the 2,600 units in buildings of five or more units were in Brooklyn and many people don't realize it, but if you're familiar with Williamsburg, you know where those buildings of five or more units are being built. There's a huge submarket serving the Orthodox Jewish community in Williamsburg which produced a new volume of new housing in recent years and that's why so many new apartment buildings have been built in Brooklyn.
In Manhattan most new housing construction takes place in the community district south of 96th Street, that is, the high-end luxury housing, most of it in the town and base configuration that Sandy talked about. There's also been a number of new publicly assisted developments in upper Manhattan in recent years.
Some of you may be familiar with Renaissance Plaza, for example, at 116th Street. These are buildings that were built either under the contextual zoning regulations which were unchanged in the Unified Bulk Program. They would
otherwise conform with the Unified Bulk program.
In the other boroughs, most construction is in one- to four-family buildings and this reflects the economics of housing construction. One- to four-family buildings are less costly to build because they do not require elevators or common areas such as lobbies, stairwells and hallways. Lighter construction materials can be used because it is not necessary to support the weight of multiple upper floors.
Now, though less costly to build, these buildings actually are more marketable. This is what the public who is buying or renting new housing in the boroughs outside of Manhattan actually wants and return the projector back on I'll show some slides.
This is in Park Slope in Brooklyn. These are three story row houses. They are kind of nice and as you go around the city, many different zoning districts but even in the R 6, R 7 zoning districts where apartment houses are permitted, you see three-story developments like this which are both economically efficient and very marketable. This certainly conforms within
the Unified Bulk Program prototypes.
As even more apartment buildings get built and this is a new apartment building on the lower east side which we kind of like and there's actually a facing building on the other side of the block, so it's one of those mid block sites in the R 7 district where they could have done a 19 story building which Sandy showed before, but instead they built these six-story buildings and they're just more economically efficient. They're less costly to build and don't need as many elevators and the construction is less costly and this is generally the favorite prototype even in the place where you could build the tower park building today and where you see the tower park buildings.
This is an example also of an R 7 district. This is in the west village. Usually it's the catch of views. It's not a question of affordability. It's a question that the apartments at the top of the building often can be sold or rented at very favorable rates and it's a matter of capturing views and there's nothing wrong with capturing views, you know, there's nothing -- people make money in the real estate business this way, but sometimes when people do this, they do it in the midst -- particularly outside of Manhattan -- they do it in the midst of -- (inaudible) and the consequence of this is that the public is understandably upset and changed the character of the neighborhood they've come to expect and often zoning changes are enacted that greatly reduce the ability even to do the kind of free form five, six, seven story buildings that would be more characteristic of development in the outer boroughs.
For example, this neighborhood was all zoned R 6, including the built houses that you see up front.
AUDIENCE: Where is it?
MR. KOBER : This is in Forest Hills, Queens. It's now zoned R 3A, which has FAR point six and this has happened often enough that we're really concerned about the notion that it's better to let that one building get built because then somebody gets to make a good profit on it and, you know, let the contextual ideas come later because it harms actually the amount of construction
activity in the city.
Just briefly to talk about nonresidential prototypes and most of the office development that takes place in the city takes place either in Manhattan or lower -- midtown Manhattan, lower Manhattan business districts, both of which have special zoning districts which are not affected by the proposal. They're the same.
There are high density commercial areas met outside of midtown and downtown. There are some on the perimeter of midtown and downtown and there's some in downtown Brooklyn.
Downtown Brooklyn is going to get its own special district which has very generous 495 foot height limit and accommodates continued development of the very sizable buildings and we're studying critical areas of downtown Brooklyn which are now zoned at relatively low densities to determine whether it might be possible to expand the boundaries of the high density commercial area but within the existing high density commercial areas some of the obsolete like front setback areas and sky exposure areas will be eliminated and a special district will be created with a very significant height limit to reinvent commercial development.
Where we have an EIS in preparation to create a special district in Long Island city, another major potential business area of the city that can do the same thing in the city's current four business districts which you may not realize is Flushing.
Downtown Flushing we're also going to have special regulations which accommodate again commercial development at the densities which are rather -- lower than they are in downtown Brooklyn or in midtown and lower Manhattan, but again, there will be special height limits to make sure that the continued development of that is a -- that area is a satellite business district to be accommodated.
This prototype what we're looking at is 10 or 12 FAR with a plaza -- district on the periphery of midtown. This is a site on the periphery of midtown which would get a 495 foot height limit.
As you can see, it continues to accommodate this 10 to 12 FAR regulation, a very sizable office building. There was a slide that I'm going to reverse to because we got out of sequence. This is another office building. This is a local office building. This happens also to be in Park Slope in Brooklyn and in the local business districts and the regional business districts outside of Manhattan and downtown Brooklyn, Unified Bulk promotes a community office building prototype similar to this.
The idea is to good get rid of the provisions that from the '61 zoning this promotes buildings pushed back from the street and try to get a building that accommodates certain floor areas economically efficient and has a large floor space and accommodates ground floor retail that promotes street life and makes the city a better place to live.
At this point I'll stop and we'll turn it over to David. You can turn the projector off.
MR. WOLLMAN: Thank you. I'd like to now welcome David Karnovsky, the general counsel of the Department of City Planning. Prior to joining City Planning, Mr. Karnovsky served as chief of the legal counsel division office of the corporation counsel and a special counsel to the deputy mayor for operations. A 1982 graduate of Harvard Law School, he has worked in New York City government since 1987. Please welcome David Karnovsky.
MR. KARNOVSKY: I'm a lawyer, so there are no slides. One of the stated goals of the Unified Bulk Program is that the zoning resolution should contain the simplest regulations compatible with the city's planning objectives. Now you may laugh. You should have laughed at the thought that the words simple and zoning coexist in the same sentence.
Indeed, the resolution is one of the most confusing and opaque documents a man can hold. It's full of arcane mathematical formulas, curves and pros, vague terms and definitions, and exceptions and errors and omissions.
Unlike Sandy and Eric, I come at this issue as a relative neophyte. I have been the counsel to the department for only the last 20 months, but prior to that I worked for ten years as part of the corporation counsel's office that deals with legislation, state, federal and local; so I know something about legislation and I have to say, I've never seen anything quite like the zoning resolution.
Now, perhaps a tax lawyer steeped in the Internal Revenue Code and internal revenue rulings would feel more comfortable with the resolution having an affinity for it, but something is wrong when communities, regulators, even developers don't have a clear sense of what is or is not permitted at a particular location.
I think as Chairman Rose said, that those who are witnesses to the result of all these interpreted gymnastics can fairly question whether the resolution remains a coherent expression of land use policy.
Well, how did we get to this point? I think as Sandy indicated, the answer has partly to do with the fact that the zoning resolution is a document that wore with itself. The basic shape of the document was established in 1961 with the urban renewal tower and the park aesthetic.
That '61 resolution was soon perceived as alien to New York city's built fabric and what happened over the next four decades is that hundreds of zoning amendments were enacted in a variety of ways to address some of the problems of the '61 resolution and the result of all of these efforts has been to make the resolution unduly complicated, inconsistent, ambiguous and not the least, very difficult to enforce.
Another reason we've gotten to this point has got to do with the nature of the zoning itself. The resolution is not a constitution; it's not a charter. It's not authorizing legislation. It doesn't merely establish a general framework for zoning, rather, it's a working document that prescribes in detail the use bulk and density regulations applicable to every part of New York City except for parks and sometimes with debate cemeteries and for that reason, it's examined, interpreted, applied and sometimes ignored day in and day out by architects, engineers and lawyers throughout the city and it's constantly being tested against the peculiarities of a particular site and peculiarities of a particular development and the results put a lot of stress and strain on the document as the interpreters stretch, squeeze, pull to make it work.
And that takes place at various levels of government, at the City Planning Department to be sure, but also at the five borough offices and the Manhattan headquarters for the department of buildings or standards and appeals and to a lesser extent the environment control board and in the courts.
I think the result is there are really two zoning resolutions; one that you can buy in the book store at city planning and the one that's set forth in 40 years of memos, letters, technical bulletins and other miscellaneous of the various agencies.
Some people have called this the hidden zoning resolution and that name is that I think because only a small group of people have a real command of it, and there are some people in the zoning business whose most valuable assets is their filing cabinets, that is, cabinets full of these miscellaneous rulings, opinions, letters and other past interpretations.
I was reminded recently of this in a phone conversation with a zoning lawyer. I said that section such and such clearly said X, and he said but don't you know about the old department building memo that say that X means says Y? I'll fax it to you. I guess that's what it means to be the new kid on the block, but at least now I have the memo in my filing cabinet.
The development of this hidden zoning resolution is perhaps inevitable after 40 years, but no one can claim that the situation is healthy and all of this was demonstrated in the Trump litigation. Whatever you may think in the merits of the project or the merits of that litigation, I don't think anyone can claim that it's a healthy situation when the question whether a 900 foot building can be built is so unclear that it has to be resolved by the courts.
So how does Unified Bulk make zoning simple? Well, it doesn't, but simplicity is a relative concept and Unified Bulk does go a great way, great distance to clearing away some cobwebs and eliminating some opportunities for interpretative gymnastics and it does so if for no other reason that it eliminates the number of pages in that 17 pound resolution.
Beyond that, the use of height limits sweeps away complex systems of sky exposures, height plains, height factors, open space ratios as well as several other mathematically based formulas including the pack and bulk requirement for tower on the base development, formulas that in many cases are only indirect and perfect and sort of disguised after it's to controlled height and in the very complex and confusing area of split lock rules which govern circumstances under which bulk can be transferred across zoning district lines.
The Unified Bulk text does something truly radical. Rather than leaving to interpretation this question of whether and under what circumstances those zoning districts can be considered comparable for use of these bulk transfers, it uses a chart to tell us just which districts are comparable, so the mysteries of split lock will now be accessible to anyone who can read a chart.
There are other ways in which Unified Bulk makes life simpler. They haven't received as much attention as the areas I have just described. For example, it eliminates the anachronistic of zoning counts with a simpler set of dwelling unit limits.
Did you know that by dividing your bedroom into two when you have a newborn baby you may be violating zoning room count regulations? I won't report you, but that would not be true under unified building.
I also wanted to say a couple of things about the proposed special permit to authorize modification of building heights and other bulk regulations based on a series of findings, including that the building is of superior design.
I've been asked how can you grant waivers on some kind of beauty contest. And agree, this attempt to introduce design excellence into the resolution is an innovative concept, but I think that Unified Bulk introduces the concept of design excellence into the resolution in a way that is both consistent with legal requirements and mindful that in general, government should
only play a limited role with regard to design.
Other jurisdictions have established mandatory design controls on development with very mixed results. By contrast this proposal seeks to foster innovative design through a voluntary set of basic systems.
Is there legal authority for introducing these kinds of design considerations into the zoning? Well, we've come a long way since 1905 when a New Jersey court striking down a billboard ordinance said the following: Aesthetic considerations are a matter of luxury and indulgence rather than of necessity, and it is necessity alone which justifies the exercise of the police power.
The modern view is very different and is well expressed in the classic statement by Justice Douglas. The concept of the public welfare is broad and inclusive. The values it represents are spiritual as well as physical, aesthetic as well as monetary. It is within the power of the legislature to determine that a community should be beautiful.
Now, there are limits of how far you can go with this. Assume for a moment a hypothetical amendment to the zoning resolution under which no building permit could be issued for a new building unless an architectural review board determined that the proposed construction was for an exceptional design.
An amendment of that kind would raise a host of legal concerns ranging from constitutional issues of free expression and due process to the very fundamental question of whether it's really a police power purpose to demand a design excellence, and the New York courts have been very clear that aesthetic regulation must, and I quote, bear on the economic, social and cultural patterns of the community and district and they warn against the dangers of arbitrarily imposing a standard of beauty on the community.
Now, clearly architecturally distinguished buildings are a social good, but it is highly improbable that any legislation to mandate superior design can meet legal requirements but that of course, is not what this proposal does.
It has no impact on as of right development. It doesn't set up the City of New York as a kind of fashion business czar. Instead it makes the very simple point that if you want the privilege of waiving or modifying the height or other development regulation, you better have a better product.
It recognizes that the grant of zoning waivers is not cost free and that in the cost benefit equation the design merits of the building that seeks to use those waivers is a valid form of consideration.
So you ask, well how are we going to define what makes a design excellent. To a large extent, my answer is that to define upfront the specific design features that make a building exceptional, excellent, whatever word you want to use, would defeat the very purpose of the permit which is to encourage diversity of outstanding architecture.
Perhaps it would be more fruitful for us to focus on the process by which these judgments are made to be sure that they are made carefully, openly and fairly. At a minimum, of course, we have to follow the selective notice, public hearing and common proceedings of the Hewlett process which involves the boards, community boards, borough president planning commission and city council.
Is there something more that would make a more informed deliberate process and our proposal was to create a panel of architects and design professionals to advise the actors in the Hewlett process in the design issues. There may well be other ways to approach this issue, but I'd suggest that rather than attack our advisory panel as a kind of star chamber or as a committee of comity hall tracks [phonetic] as some suggested, we should instead put our minds to putting constructive ways to introduce design excellence into the restoration. Thanks.
MR. WOLLMAN: With that base, I thank information and presentation about the proposal and we'll move on now to look at the issues for the city as represented by two of its leading organizations.
It gives me pleasure to introduce Kent Barwick, the president of the Municipal Art Society. Kent was welcomed back as president of MAS in New York in January of 1999. Previously he had served the society as its president from 1983 to 1985 and for most of us represented the sense of what the Municipal Arts Society could mean for the city. From 1995 to 1997 he was president of the New York state Historical Association and was the historical associate advice chairman from 1993 to 1995.
In 1998 Mr. Barwick became director of the waterfront project now known as the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, the null created project organized by a coalition of leading New York and New Jersey foundations which was originally housed at the Rockefeller's Fund. Mr. Barwick continues to serve as director of the project which is now under the auspices of the Municipal Arts Society.
From 1978 to 1983 he was chairman of the New York City's Landmark Preservations Commission and in 1977 was administrator of the Adopt a Station Program to improve New York City subways.
From 1981 through 1987 he served as an advisor to the National Trust for Historic Preservation and was its northeast regional chairman from 1988 to 1990. Please welcome Kent Barwick.
MR. BARWICK: I've been meaning to get that resume changed and show you the wisdom of Joe's good sense in learning something about the zoning resolution, so one day if Sandy retires or goes to the bench, it would be something important me to do.
My assignment we're going to have some slides here to say something about the issues for the city. We're lucky to live in the most dynamic city on the face of the earth today probably as a memory of man. We're as exciting and new with a population that's as ever changing this year than we were at the end of the 19th century.
I think the issue for the city is how to fashion a set of controls to govern its growth that are respectful for its built conditions but are also respectful of preserving another important tradition which is architectural and commercial ambition.
This is a city that has made us great by its exceptions like the Guggenheim, the Chrysler Building, perhaps even soon to be under water Frank Gary [phonetic] in lower Manhattan and I think we all want it that way. We don't want this to be museums of the 19th century.
So the job of a good city planning commission, good mayor, is to try to construct a way to balance these, to balance the tensions between the dynamic and the predictable and the bankable. We're a city that's been meek in shutting out small investors by having a development process so complex that only those with very, very deep pockets can survive the (inaudible) owners processes, so the Municipal Arts Society is very proud to have been responsible for introducing zoning into the city of New York rather like boasting the naval architecture of the Titanic.
Father of the tax code, but because I think it would be hard to get many people who would think that was a great introduction, but everybody in this room is here thanks to Baruch for sponsoring this. I think it's exactly (inaudible) having this discussion. Everybody is now very comfortable.
We are -- what's in the Unified Bulk and what isn't and I think there's a growing sophistication about it that I think this conference comes along at exactly the right moment.
It's traditional in these events to begin by praising Mayor Guiliani and Joe Rose for taking on this job and I'm going to save that praise until the end. And now it seems to me that we were deeply concerned, I think, like many in this audience and in the city, we bought the intent and eloquently stated by the chairman of the three terrific staff people who have just spoken making a simpler resolution and willing to deliver better results on average and leave the door open for exceptions, and we thought it would be useful and what we've done is what I'll now show you is that I asked Michael Cortler [phonetic] who some of you know.
I asked Michael Cortler through environment simulation center to actually go out and we asked borough presidents and neighborhood reaches, for examples, for sites they'd like to see remodeled and we remodeled some sites and I thought we'd take you through those sites and tell you traditionally telling you what I'm going to tell you, telling you what I told you that in general you find evidence that the intent of Unified Bulk Program -- our support and your support it demonstrates there are some issues that are not being addressed and that is the case in one case where the situation is made worse -- (inaudible).
Let's see if this all works. We're supposed to be doing these side by side. We're looking here will be looking at a site just north of Frederick Douglas Circle between 112th and 113th Street. It's R 72. Under the current zoning -- and we'll be with that in a minute. Here we are. Under the current zoning on this site likely get a 14 story building with a large amount of open space on the side street devoted to the required parking.
On the right you'll see the aerial view of this same site as it would be developed we think under the Unified Bulk, essentially a six story building with parking placed beneath the structure on the side street.
Let's look at this from street level. I think here I think a street that needs the test that we've spoken about a few moments ago, configuration is looking like it fit it comfortably with that neighborhood.
Here's a very dramatic example. This is the lower west side. This is a full block known as Varick, Vandam, Spring and Hudson zoned M one six. Under the current zoning on the left, it's possible using the bonuses that are available to construct a building that is over 170 feet high and on the right is the consequence of the proposing the Unified Bulk regulations, building much more closely reach to the full brackets of this neighborhood.
This is probably the good moment to announce that Mr. Karnovsky's presentation was just terrific in spirit and a good sense of it. I think most people in New York realize that the right building on this site is neither of the buildings on this screen. That 700 foot building is a monster in that particular neighborhood and that the building on the right doubly (inaudible) and this seems to be one of those places where it's good that there's a special permit process and it would be wonderful to see terrific members of international design community that's centered in New York have a crack with a good developer doing this thing.
The illustration we're showing you is an office hotel combination which we don't think is unlikely on this site, so this would be a good example of a place where we'd like to see somebody go to the trouble of designing a superior building and presenting it.
One of the assets that we have as a city is we're not only a financial capital, communications capital, fashion capital, food capital of the world, but we have the greatest collection of designers ever resembled on the face of the earth in this city and sadly is little touched by the ---this is a good place to put the work.
The city should call upon the architectural community to participate on the advisory role in this process (inaudible) just
spoke about go out to Flushing.
Current zoning just showed these yesterday at the city planning. I think we have the arithmetic wrong, but in effect we're not sure that that's true, but in effect, the current zoning on the left and the new zoning is on the right and this is revision under the Unified Bulk makes it possible when there's a building that's sort of out of scale with the neighborhood, this is awful out of -- R 6 site and this particular case the current zoning allows a mid block tower is much taller than the present allows something to build a building within ten feet (inaudible).
Nobody can remember street hidden zoning resolution, how the building in this area ever got approved. The building is unpopular and how it ever got approved but because it's there (inaudible) we think that's silly. We think the qualities of this block are better protected by eliminating this provision, and we mean to be in the context of our broad support for this resolution to be saying to the commissioner's city planning commission we think this is a (inaudible).
Finally, I apologize for the slide on the right. It's no better. This is a site that demonstrates a big problem that we're not pretending to address in the resolution and this is a problem of community facilities. We're looking at 132nd Street in central Harlem, and it is zoned R 72. And under the current zoning there are three major (inaudible) here theoretically not necessarily but just for purposes of illustration you see that you're not getting the results that we'd like on this side street and under the proposed state in the slide that shows the blue, you're not getting much of an improvement.
This is -- the city planning commission is not advertised in solving this problem. In fact, they have been very frank with everybody saying they haven't. I think this illustrates what I think I'd like the main point to be.
It's terrific to gather every 50 years to redo the zoning, but that's absurd. In a city that changes, basic economy changes, population changes, new technology makes things possible, it's silly to be shackled with zoning resolutions that can't be changed regularly and the prerequisites are really in this program. That is making the zoning resolution for ordinary people can understand.
I have nothing against the ten or eleven people in this city that make a substantial living decoding the zoning resolution. There will always be a place for them, but I think it helps all of us elected officials, community board people, investors as Joe has spoken to, make it predictable and understandable to use these tools rather than to brand-new tools of computers, old fashion tools, paper boxes to figure out what kind of results we're getting and then make changes.
We're deeply concerned about the consequence of the present city policy on industry and the subject we're studying. We're very glad for the work they've done on the waterfront, but the opportunities are so great for work in the city we suspect that there needs to be free -- let work take advantage of these extraordinary growth opportunities that exist for us and we reclaim these long neglected and impacted lands, so it seems to me that in the search for the perfect there's a danger that we may not recognize the value of this program and the balance that I spoke about between tensions.
Is this the perfect balance we've brought forward today? Well, of course not. Does anybody think Al Gore is FDR? Is there public anywhere who thinks there's a possible resemblance between George Bush and Abraham Lincoln? Yet we commit ourselves to choosing a leader that will have in his hands the future (inaudible) is they're so timid of changing (inaudible) it's hard to recognize that this isn't perfect.
It hasn't been presented as being perfect. It's I think the consequence of which revealed in these slides and the ones that were shown suggest that this is a package that is worth support. Thank you very much.
MR. WOLLMAN: In the book that we have prepared, the comments of the Municipal Arts Society previously to this as some of the slides that you have shown, that Kent has just shown as well as some of the drawings from city planning commission are all contained in particular chapters.
I'd like to now welcome Frank Braconi, executive director of the Citizens Housing and Planning Council, non-profit policy research organization concerned with the physical and economic development of the city.
Frank has written numerous support articles dealing with housing community, development and the urban environment. He teaches urban economics at NYU Real Estate Institute at Hunter College. He holds a Master's Degree in economics from NYU and is completing his doctoral studies at the CUNY Graduate Center and perhaps more than anyone else has made the Citizens Housing and Planning Council a very valuable and effective voice for housing and planning issues within the city.
Please welcome Frank Braconi.
MR. BRACONI: I would put down I had a few predecessors who had something to do with CH as well. And I think it's -- I have no slides for you today, no graphics, but it's very convenient following Kent because I can just refer you to his slides and they will serve very well.
In fact, Kent's comments are very consistent with the ones I would like to make although I would like to take a slightly different point of view, slightly different perspective and look at the Unified Bulk document not so much as a zoning document but as a planning document and look at the underlying planning rationale that's here and basically I think it's something that's been missed.
We hear a lack of planning has gone so long in this city that when we see planning, we don't recognize it for what it is, and I think the Unified Bulk proposal is first and foremost a planning document.
Now, if we look at the proposal just in terms of its individual specific provisions, we can kind of total up which provisions are favorable to development, the which provisions that are negative to development or more restrictive to development and get some kind of tally and go through the 600 some pages and kind of keep score and maybe mark them off with some kind of slash marks and finally at the end of the day, well, it's plus two or negative three or whatever the tally is.
I think that's a very wrong way to look at it. We have to look at the overall strategic idea of it and what it's trying to accomplish in terms of long term spacial development of city and how that looks in terms of whether it's favorable to development or negative to development.
Now, I think when we ask that question by the way, the answer that are an emphatic yes. It would be favorable to the long-term development to the city, sustainable to the city. Our land use strategy, not just specifics of the zoning resolution, but the overall land use strategy of New York City, is woefully obsolete and out of sync and that's what we really have to look towards.
Does this document going to forward some kind of modernization of that policy or isn't it. I think before in order to answer that question, we have to look at what has gone on in New York City in the '90s and what has become apparent in the '90s but has kind of long-term structural trends that have been going on in the city for a long time and the economic basis of the
city that Kent referred to briefly.
New York basically peaked as an industrial city in 1940. It's been in 50 years of industrial decline, continuous industrial decline. It's taken a long time and caused a lot of hardship, but that process is almost complete. The city's industrial base is just about gone. I think industrial manufactures form is less than 5 percent of all employment in the city now, and at the same time during that 50 years you had a modern sector of the economy, a service sector, commercial sector, finance sector, communication, et cetera. It was always communications, et cetera.
It was always there certainly throughout the 20th century and it was growing throughout the 20th century. What the decline to the industrial sector offset overshadows the increases in the more advanced service sector for many years sometime in the 1990s those lines appeared to have crossed.
There was not much left to lose in the industrial sector, yet the conditions, world wide conditions, global conditions, were favorable to the further growth of the service sector in New York City, so beginning in the 90s I think you're beginning to see a new economy and new growth spurt in New York City and the question is how are we going to deal with that growth spurt. How are we going do deal with those development pressures.
I don't think what you're watching now is a simply a business cycle. I think you're looking at a long-term structural cycle that is favorable to the city's growth, its development and its economy and how are we going to cope with that.
Are we going do have a zoning resolution that can handle that? Now, let me also throw some numbers at you from some slides in terms of the kind of facts we're now seeing during the 90s or culminating in the '90s in the city's spacial geographic and social geography.
One of the key aspects of what the new economy is producing in the city is a growth a professional class, highly compensated professional class of workers. That's -- yes, it is us. Some research that CPHC recently did we took a current population survey, looked at the wage premium for different categories of workers in New York City relative to the rest of the country, adjusting for demographics, adjusting for citizenship, for age, gender just trying to isolate out the premium that a highly educated person gets in terms of New York City gets in terms of their wages.
In 1992 it was $5,000 premium for a person with a college education or more in New York City compared to everywhere else in the country. In 1997 it was $10,000 more. That premium, that New York City premium to highly educated workers doubled in five years. That's a remarkable change.
Perhaps even more remarkable set of data recently done by the independent budget office New York City's independent budget office, they looked at the transit income in New York City, whose earning it in New York City over the last 15 years or so.
In 1987, 28 percent of all income in New York City was earned by households that earned at least $125,000. That's 28 percent. By 1997 ten years later 41 percent was earned by those households. That is an astounding change in the income distribution in the city in such a short time.
These are the kind of changes in our social composition that the new economy is bringing forward, but implications as they have the zoning and land use policy and it has very profound implications for it. First question I ask is where those people live, that burgeoning professional class, where we all live. I'll give you some answers on that.
My colleague Elaine Teribeo [phonetic] and I recently looked at this question. 1960, 20 percent of high wage family high income families in New York City lived in Manhattan, 20 percent. By 1990, 30 percent lived in Manhattan. We've also analyzed some data from 1990 age that's now available BHS which is now available. Those trends continued it looks like probably about 35 percent by 1995 of high income families live in Manhattan.
If you take all households not just families because families is kind of biased of that borough type households, if you look at for instance nonfamily households which is basically singles and unrelated individuals living together and look at high income nonfamily households, 62 percent of them live in Manhattan not south of 96th Street or in the two community boards of west Brooklyn that border of river. 62 percent.
What is that producing in the demand for land and land values and in housing values in the city. We all see it every day actually in our communities and in the newspaper articles.
Another set of data from the 1999 HVS what we looked at is we looked at the unrelated regulated housing market as a better indicator than the overall housing markets of where the -- pressures are. We looked at the change from 1996 to 1999, segregated the city into three income groups, community boards through income medium income and high income.
The average rent in the unregulated sector in low income community boards increased 7 and a half percent. In middle income neighborhoods 13 percent, in high income 27 percent. This is the market pressure that we're reading about in the New York Times, but it's not happening all over the city. It's happening in ten community boards. That's what's pulling it all up.
So what does that mean for the overall spacial geographics for the city? What it means is we're getting a lopsided development pattern with the new economy. We're getting over development in some areas and no development in others.
What I believe the Unified Bulk proposal is saying is that is not a sustainable development pattern, that that development pattern has to be fanned out if it's going to be sustained in the long run and facilitate the further growth of the city's economy.
People tend to focus on how many housing units we're producing in a year, and the trends of downward trend throughout the 20th century has focused on and remained, et cetera.
Let's pick 5,000 units as new housing units per year as an adequate amount or suitable goal to the city in the next ten years, 25,000 a year, that's 250 in a decade. Where are we going to put them? No one ever seems to ask that. Is the plan to put 250,000 housing units in lower Manhattan in the next ten years? Does anyone really think that's a politically feasible goal or even a physically feasible goal for that matter? We have to have someplace to put those units if we're going to create them.
In fact, if we don't have someplace to put them, they're not going to be created and core Manhattan is not the only place -- it's not going to accommodate them all.
Again, if the development is going to be sustained, it has to be more even and more balanced than we've seen in the '90s and I think that's what Unified Bulk is getting at. I think in the long run with the kind of economic pressure we're seeing in the city in the 90s in the new economy, if we don't start to create more neighborhoods that people want to live in, we're going to end up with no neighborhoods that people want to live in because you're going to have over development in some and no development in the others and nobody is going to want to live in any of them and this kind of economic resurgence that
we're now seeing is going to be choked off.
Now quickly, because I'm running out of time, I want to relate this back to you, Unified Bulk. How does Unified Bulk Program address something. Quickly the way I see it first I think by setting some parameters on the type of development you can have in Manhattan where the development pressure is.
Specific provisions, height limits, the rent restrictions on zoning lot merges, indirect or in some kind of restrictions on density bonuses, et cetera.
Secondly, I think it's making a statement about what is the best of New York. What is the urban -- what is the urban form that is attracting that new urban professional class back to the city, trying to identify what it is and I think that's where the contextual provisions come in.
Clearly when you look at the neighborhoods that are favored in the cities, they are primarily contextual neighborhoods that have some kind of cohesive form to them, and I think this proposal is trying to expand that urban form
to a larger area of the city.
Third, I think by beginning the process of coming to grips with community facilities, we saw that in Kent's last slide. Think about it. When the zoning resolution was passed in 1961, there was no such thing as Medicaid or Medicare. 30 percent of high school graduates went to high school, now 70 percent do.
We have to come to terms with the institutional needs of the city, of our population and of our communities and how those institutions are affecting the communities and the quality of life, deal with the parking, deal with the bulk and the other issues.
Now, I think it's very important also to realize Unified Bulk proposal is only beginning in all those areas especially in the last one, community facilities, as Kent indicated. It takes some tentative steps in the direction of coming to grips with these issues, balancing the economic needs of the city with respect to the service center and the non-profit sector and the environmental affects that those facilities produce.
In the long run let me just go through a couple of the issues which I was asked to talk explicitly about. What are the long-term issues that we want to get and that this provides a framework for us to start on so we can start to address these.
I think one, the issue of automobiles and transportation, how do automobiles fit into our transportation structure in the long run. Where do we put them when we're not driving them is a very important question.
Secondly, the balance between the economic benefits of the environmental impacts of the community facilities uses questions of mixed use districts and they're all limited in the modern economy as the border of work and home life begins to meld.
Mixed use buildings for that matter some -- most importantly, updating our zoning map. It's been 40 years really since the zoning map has experienced any substantial change and in that time our economy has been entirely been remade. Social geography has been reoutlined. The city has been totally remade.
We need to bring into sync the zoning map which says where things are supposed to be and the reality of where they are and where they need to go. We haven't done that at all. It's been almost a tabu issue to deal with map changes. If you're going to get them, though, you're going to get communities to agree to those map changes that are necessary. You have to give them some security about what they're bargaining for. What are we trading off here or else the status quo is going to be preferred if there's no surefire predictability about what they're trading for and what they're negotiating for and that's why I think the Unified Bulk proposal provides such an important framework.
If we are going forward in the next 20 years and make the city more liveable and make it more prosperous, we have to start moving on some of these issues. If we quiver on some of the details or let some of the quivers about some of the details stop us from going forward in that long-term reform, I think it's eventually going to come back and haunt us in a very serious way. Thank you very much.
MR. WOLLMAN: Thank you, Frank. We'd now like to ask Michael Sillerman and Bruce Fowle to join us here as we begin part three of the morning.
We divided part three into two parts. First Michael and Bruce talking about the implications of Unified Bulk on development in Manhattan to be followed after a very short break to give you a chance to stretch, maybe get a cup of coffee and by Richard Roberts and Mark Ginsberg talking about implications outside of Manhattan.
Michael Sillerman is a partner of Roseman & Colin and chairman of the Land Use and Growing Practice, group of the real estate department.
Mr. Sillerman regularly represents a variety of major developers and institutions including commercial banks, medical institutions, schools, museums and religious organizations in New York City's Land Use Review and Landmark Procedures.
Mr. Sillerman is chairman of the Landmark Committee and Advice Chair of Planning and Zoning Committee of the Real Estate Board of New York and is also a member of the Committee on Historic Preservation and Land Conservation in the real property section of the American Bar Association, the New York State Bar Association, the Association of the Bar of the City of New York.
Thank you for welcoming Michael Sillerman.
MR. SILLERMAN: Thank you. I've been asked to address the legal and development issues that will be the consequences of the adoption of the Unified Bulk and to discuss what systems will be affected by Unified Bulk and whether it's clear in terms of how much its criteria will be applied.
I come at it with certain premises that I think are required for realistic evaluation of Unified Bulk. First that land is scarce in New York and expensive rezoning is slow and often difficult to achieve a consensus upon and this city planning administration should be complemented in getting ahead of the curve in some instances on that, for example, the Chelsea rezoning to allow mixed use, one of the rare examples of where the art activities came in and started changing the neighborhood and city planning got it. And finally that it is difficult and undesirable to clear occupied housing or to redevelop community facility sites.
We're the big picture here that one of our priority issues is that the supplied housing in New York has not kept pace with population growth. Our population has grown from 1981 to 1999 as a recent New York Times article pointed out by 350,000, but the supply of rental housing only grew by 442,000 units in that period and last year I think we were very happy that we got 10,000 units which is far short of the 25,000 that Frank mentioned and really should be a number that's 30 to 40,000.
The Unified Bulk at this point is very much a work in progress. It has raised a number of issues for the development community and for a number of non-profit institutions which have led them to conclude that in its present form, it's very problematic; but these are issues that are potentially fixable and solvable.
For our purposes today, though, what I'd like to observe is an analytic, what I think Unified Bulk says and what it does are in some instances two very different things.
The report concludes, and I'm quoting, that in the context of the overall development in the city and the distribution of the development among the city's high, medium and low density zoning districts is quote, development neutral.
It also says that the same amount of development that could be accommodated on a given site in the future without the action could be accommodated in the future with the action in the same location. Now, in saying that, it notes two exceptions and those exceptions are really the major issue or one of the major issues. It says with the exception of the imposition of height limits and with the exception of more restrictive split lot rules, so that if you say development neutral means can you build the same amount at the same cost on an as of right basis, it is decidedly not in its present form for the reasons that I'll explain.
It also really is a profoundly radical document which replaces an old ideology of sort of Corbuzy [phonetic]. I didn't know tower in the park, but an idealogy which also allowed a very varied building forms to be built because you could also do a height and setback building, a height and -- alternative height and setback building, you could do a housing quality building.
With a new varied prescriptive doctrine one size fits all contexualism which legislates a building form with very few alternatives and there are both issues of economics and both the kind of urbanism you get and analysts like an Ada Louise Huxtable have raised issues about the extent to which this promotes conformity in a kind narrow and reactionary and she actually said dangerous kind of trend, so I think in its present form the Unified Bulk has significant and problematic ramifications for the economics of building, for building quality housing production, the preservation of existing building stock and for the development of the community facilities, and I want to make three points about that.
First, it potentially changes development economics in important ways primarily by imposing closed envelopes and height limits and restricting the transfer of floor area across district boundaries, and you need to -- it's important to understand the importance of air rights to housing development and commercial development in New York.
Land is typically a third to almost a half of development costs and I asked Jerry Hanes [phonetic] to give me a list of recent projects that were developed and we looked at the percentage of footprint versus air rights and the projects like the Impala, the Chatum, the Sashill, [phonetic] Chartwell House Saint Agnus site, the related Random House project, and it ranged from 6 percent to 55 percent, but it was often in the higher range of that.
If you think of the typical site that city planning analyzes in EIS where you have a 200 foot block front with 10,000 into the footprint and you have four story air rights parcels, that's really saying that -- and it's a 10 FAR zone, so you have five to six FAR. You have something like 40, 50, 60 thousand feet that you can develop from those air rights parcels, and the ability to get that is very important because it averages down your land costs.
It gives you a project of the different scale. Obviously it gives you a better building. It gives you your best views and your most valuable units at the top, but it also relieves the pressure to clear the site and you know that's one thing in the whole air rights discussion and I think we haven't looked at it, but to the extent that air rights is really a preservation technique for landmarks for occupied housing, for community facilities and we focus entirely on the tall tower that you get --
END OF TAPE.
Uniform set of slashes going across a site and which would it be more pleasing? Is it better logistically and do you get more light in there on the street, so there are the features in the proposed zoning like the 33 percent tower coverage would restrict ability to do air rights and that has been pointed out and the revised proposal allows in turn five along with the amount of tower coverage that would change that effect, but the other place that it happens is these very aggressively low height limits, and I don't see how it can be concluded that you can build the same amount of floor area on the same site under the proposed zoning because the way height factor zoning works, you take into account the open space and the entire site and you don't have a fixed envelope so that if you had a site where a landmark church that was one or two stories high and it had a hundred thousand feet of air rights to use and you could sell it to your neighborhood in a height factor R 8 site, that institution could develop a 24 story building, say, and use the 100,000 feet of air rights.
In the proposed zoning where the height limit is 140 feet, it's 14 stories, you're not going to be able to use that and actually, the EIS does concede that, that for community facilities with existing buildings on the site, they may not be able to use that bulk and actually it concludes that there's not a development impact because you might be able to get a special permit to use it, but there is a certain kind of almost schizophrenia about whether we want as of right zoning or whether we want discretionary, so we say we should have that. We say that we don't like negotiated zoning, but then we have this example or we have Kent's example of the Hudson Square site where there is development desire down there.
So well, what's the answer? This should be a discretionary process. Obviously the split lot rules are proposed to be changed and everyone professes a great amount of mystery about these. I actually don't think they're as complex from a layman's point of view as everybody makes them out except when you look at the actual does a C what go into a C (inaudible), but the concept is simply saying that if a block could be all R 10, then you control the development that you get with the height and setback envelope, and if there are different commercial districts on the block or if you had -- why should there be less transfer among those districts if there's higher commercial zoning on the avenues than there is in mid block, than there would be in if it was a pure R 10, and we're changing this.
And actually, as I was coming over here, I noticed that one of the examples of split lot was the Baruch building across the street which is a combination of a C52 which is 10 -- is ten residential community facility and commercial but the mid block is C63 which is a nonresidential but a ten community facility.
Now, when I looked on the chart, the chart does not say that you can transfer between a C 5 2 and a C 6 3, and I don't know whether that was the intention or whether that was just another one of the hidden treasures in this 500 page document, but that's what happens as we analyze and that's another point I'll get to, but so to the extent that you can't realistically use your air rights or transfer them across district boundaries, that is effectively a change in development economics.
It's effectively a downzoning and there are other things that potentially make buildings more expensive to develop to the extent that you have to have streetwalls on two streets and you have to build two buildings on each side of the through lines instead of one on one side or in the middle, eliminating residential plazas, making things that are formally as of right into processes.
Obviously, changed development economics and some of these things are particularly difficult for community facilities because these as it's been pointed out these fixed height limits for buildings that have higher floor to floor heights -- and the AIA has gone into this -- presents a problem.
It is also a kind of irony because the effects on these are more in some ways emerging districts than in the mature ones because this doesn't affect midtown or downtown but Hudson Square or the Madison Square Garden area commercially or the middle density districts and Manhattan now north of 96th Street or on the lower east side or lower boroughs is something that the developers who work in that area have raised an issue to me, to the city about.
The second point is the Unified Bulk has been very disruptive to the orderly development process because we're in a period where we don't know when it's going to be adopted and there isn't a clear commitment to a grace period or to grandfathering, and if you talk to the active architects, you know, they're saying I have some projects where I could make it work either way but I don't know which one to develop, so what should I do now?
And the second affect is that the hidden treasure, one I just mentioned with Baruch, when you look at this document because all of these things interrelate, each time you look at it, there are some issues that come out and the department has been very responsive where there hasn't been an intention technically to have an effect to say we'll work with you to cure it. But when a document is that long, it's hard to catch all of them, so it would be very helpful at the point at which a consensus is reached that there is some period of time to either number one, to make sure it all works and number two, to have some kind of transition period.
The third issue which is really more of Bruce's issue, but I think there's a concern for builders about the lack of diversity and the lack of quality of the built form that we're going to get, and I think there's a kind of irony again that just when we're getting some very exciting and innovative architecture like the Louis Vuitton building on 57th Street that we're mandating this very prescriptive built form and that street which Michael pointed out, the AIA, proposal, look at midtown which does allow diversity right on 57th Street. You get very different buildings.
You get the Pay Frank Williams [phonetic], Four Seasons and you get the Platt Bargnell [phonetic] Building and then you get this Louis Vuitton Building and think of what that was like to go into the borough superintendent with those facets and say how do you measure streetwall continuity.
Well, you remove that issue with the Unified Bulk, but could you remove certain kinds of opportunities just at the time as Paul Goldberger pointed out in the New Yorker the other day and I'm sure we'll talk about it in his talks, the towers and the skyscrapers that we're building are not a simple form anymore, and there's a technology that allows for very varied things to do and that certainly for a builder or community facility we'd like the opportunity to do that and not just in the central core of midtown or downtown Manhattan, so I think that's an issue. Thank you.
MR. WOLLMAN: Bruce Fowle is a founding principal and a principal in charge of design of Fox & Fowler Architects. He created the fiscal basis of the firm's design and sets the direction for the design in each of its architectural projects. His work has been widely published and includes numerous award-winning projects from private residences to cultural institutions and high-rise multi-use complexes.
Among Mr. Fowle's best known projects are the Condanas Building [phonetic] and four time (inaudible) the American top museum, the addition and renovation to the historic Spence School, the Embassy Suites Times Square Hotel. The highly acclaimed Bausch and Lomb headquarters in Winter Garden, Rochester, New York was completed in 1996.
Current work includes the 39 story Royder's Building at 3 Times Square, renovation of the King Bridge Armory and the Roosevelt Avenue subway station. He is a former vice president of the AIA New York chapter and currently serves as chairman of the AIA New York Zoning and Urban Design Committee. Mr. Fowle received the AIA 1994 Harry B. Rutkins award for his contribution toward the innovative rezoning the upper east side avenues and continues to lend his expertise to the shaping of the zoning and urban design initiatives throughout the city.
Please welcome Bruce Fowle.
MR. FOWLE: Thank you, Henry. Leave the lights for just a minute, please. Speaking primarily on behalf of AIA, as Co-chairman Mark Ginsberg of the AIA zone design committee, it has been -- the AIA has supported this proposal from the beginning for all the reasons that Joe mentioned earlier in terms of pragmatics of the existing document and with the approval processes and so forth.
We had many concerns about the form giving aspects of it and we have been greatly encouraged by numerous discussions with Joe and his committee, many of whom are here, in working through some of these issues, and they have indicated that a lot of these concerns are going to be addressed in the final document.
We also see this document as very -- as not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a good foundation from which we can build and continue to change. As Kent said earlier, this is something that should be ongoing dialogue and let's not wait 50 years. Let's wait at the most maybe ten years and perhaps maybe even mandate some kind of review on some sort of cycle like that.
I think what frustrates us the most is a lack of vision of what we're doing here. We're talking about zoning. We're not talking about planning, and we don't really have a vision of what the built form of New York wants to be.
We're also concerned about quality of life and the kinds of -- we're talking about formulas for shaping buildings and reducing zoning lot mergers and so forth, and we're thinking from the outside; but are we really thinking from the inside? What kind of building stock are we going to have?
New York has some of the worst housing anywhere in the world and a lot of the massing, the low rise massing that we're talking about is not going to improve that. It can only make it worse.
Another concern is have we really found the balance between predictability and creativity, flexibility which is an issue that has already been addressed and predictability in the neighborhoods but are we really relating this to the neighborhoods. Are we being sensitive to the community scale and character.
Design, of course, is a primary issue and we're still wondering whether the formula that's been proposed of having this design review committee is really the right way to go. It certainly is better than not having it at all, but we're not convinced that we're with all the predictability and uniformity that is coming out of this proposal that we're balancing that properly or sufficiently with the options of flexibility and creativity.
The last primary issue that we have is a community facility which has been addressed and we know that the city planning is working on that and we are waiting for the concrete proposal as to how they wish to handle that because of the variety of conditions from individuals, small school additions to major campuses and so forth.
Now, to try to talk about everything the AIA has discussed in ten minutes is pretty tough, so since a picture is worth a thousand words, I'd like to start with some slides. Since my charge is to talk about Manhattan, I'll just start out with a little bit of the history and looking at a building like this reminds us that most of Manhattan was built as most cities in the world were built at pedestrian scale, no elevators. Everything was walked up and everything from institutions to town houses, row houses were all at a very low individual scale.
Each had its own sense of identity and character, and we're losing that, and I'd say south of 96th Street the bulk of Manhattan has now transformed into larger, less human scale buildings, and it's something that we have to face.
Of course, the early high-rises in any city around the world and a hundred years ago was the church spire, and we all know that has long given way to the commercial high-rise.
Once the elevator was invented, we started going up, and this is one of the finest examples of at one point the highest building in the world. It was still a straight streetwall building with a cap, but it followed very, very strong architectural formulas with the base shaft and cap work light on the top.
Then we started saying, well, the high-rise on the side streets were basically one-sided buildings or had one facade that was developed. The other three sides are really what we call scar tissues. You can see where actually signage put on the scar tissue is signage and it's simply painted over which I know is also something being addressed, and in the background you see one of the real early towers, kind of in the first spirit the church spires, but limited to the what is called the 45 percent rule, which as is this building which is very different from the rules that we're talking about today because this was a maximum of 25 percent of a site and in those days there weren't zoning law mergers, so it was actually 25 percent of the actual footprint of the building.
Now we're talking about between 25 and 30, 33 percent minimum of a zoning lot merger site which might be a whole block or a third of a block or something like that. But you can see the spirit of New York really evolved out of these towers.
Another thing that's unique about them that you don't see so much anymore is that they're what we call towers in the round, windows on all sides, architectural development on all sides. They don't back up to the lot lines and have windowless land facades.
Deco period started to come in. This was of course in the 30s, 20s, 30s, West Side Towers, very majestic, something which we cannot do today and really prewall buildings really culminated with the Rockefeller Center which may be the best of large development, large urban developments, anywhere in the world.
A lot of the neighborhoods started to create uniformity, such as Park Avenue and the beauty of Park Avenue was that because they had only this frontal facades to deal with, the developers and architects really put their money and energy into developing those facades, so we have a lot of texture, three dimensionality, balcony projections, ornamentations, cornices, which are no longer legal. Facades were beautifully scaled, beautiful developed mid-rise buildings.
And then after the war, we started to get this kind of mass development which is characterless, no humane qualities to it, very little light and air and so forth. And then along came East Vanderal [phonetic] who in a very underscale building maybe not built to the maximum allowable development made a jewel of a building that was setback from a plaza and everybody said well, this is heaven. Let's change everything to make this the way we build from here, which is really the genesis of the 1961 zoning.
So that produced a lot of things like sidewalk widening, so this building on the left is really setback a little bit. You can see a little scar tissue next to it.
Massive slabs like this which is totally out of character with the existing infrastructure of the kind of tenement scale buildings on the avenues. Total discontinuity in streetwall scale, character. Sidewalk widenings which sometimes work -- and I think this is probably urban plaza on the right. I'm not sure about that -- and the building zoning lot mergers started to become the predominant way to develop and produced more and more massive buildings.
This one you've already seen this morning and plazas that were just -- this one is actually relatively well developed, but you can see what we call the scar tissue on the left. It's a wall that was never intended to be exposed and this started to phase out in the late 80s, and in 1993 in the tower of midzoning and now will be gone forever in this type of neighborhood as are the midblock towers in certainly upper east side upper west side neighborhoods with the R 8 B zoning, so that we're starting to get definition of avenue main corridor in cross streets and the side streets, but we're still getting towers with undeveloped land, scar tissue going higher and higher.
These are buildings that we have to be careful about because when we start talking about these height limits combined with minimum lot coverage, you're forcing this kind of a building. You're forcing facades up against the streetwall where lot lines which means you can't have windows and you're getting low squat buildings that don't have any real form to them and that would be very difficult to -- it gets more and more difficult to put a dramatic, majestic top on a kind of building that has this kind of mass.
This is another example where the top of the building is starting to erode, but this would really became the genesis of the R 10 E rezoning on the upper west side where the towers have been basically eliminated on most of the wide streets.
Then we have a period of kind of Floridian architecture which has been fairly short-lived, but that isn't to say it can't be done well and this is in its right context would not be a nice building, but we're continuing to reach to the sky and of course, the more dramatic these buildings are, the more expensive they are, the higher the values are and so that we're not really doing anything for the middle class or lower income housing.
This is West 86th Street, which is looking as good an example of the building on the far left is R 10 A mixed in with some sort of tower in the park building that in the center there and some of the older buildings, massive buildings on the right, but there is a definition now of these larger, wide streets which are starting to evolve at least south of 96th Street, and you can see a lot of mid blocks.
The side streets have been preserved and again, sometimes when these towers back up against these spaces, they are not developed. They're not good architecture and we haven't solved that problem yet.
This is the culmination of the post 1961 period which is the tallest residential tower anywhere in the world and has really been the genesis of this whole proposal. It's unfortunate that it had to reach this level before this all happened, but that's the current state of this building.
So looking back at more of the kind of thing that is included in this proposal and kind of architecture that we're going to get in the high density Manhattan districts is more or less along these lines, this being a very good building with a nicely articulated facade with a streetwall with a low tower, but a good continuity of streetwall with the existing building.
We're starting to get some sensitivity in some of the side streets where the red building on the right is part of a new development. The bluish building is actually part of I assume was preserved because of zoning lot mergers. If there wasn't such a thing as zoning lot mergers, that may have been torn down; so there are some positive sides to that preserving that, and the tower itself actually has the name of the architect on the construction fence which is a real first in residential development in my lifetime, I think, and that's encouraging.
And you can see where the lots line windows that they're starting to wrap around the corner. They're starting to deal with the issue in this building, but this isn't to say it's mandated or is going to happen with every building. It easily could have been dealt with as a plain brick wall.
This is all part of the tower on the base and quality housing proposals that really were more refined in 1993 and what we are really saying is you have to ask the question is this really what we want the future of Manhattan high density districts to be and obviously this -- the present brick building would be the low rise base has a nice relationship to the block to the north and I can't say the same to the building to the south.
And we had always -- AIA had always hoped that we could mandate more of a graduate transition between high streetwalls and low streetwalls, but the city planning has relaxed a lot of the streetwall requirements. It's allowed much more articulation and erosion than had originally been intended and it's also to be heard frankly the bases is a very difficult thing to achieve in a residential building because when you size the tower, if the bulk of the building is tower, you have to size for the proper relationship between core and facade.
How do you deal with this base? You just add on to the living room or do you reconfigure the apartment and change the plumbing lines and so forth, so the more this can be relaxed without losing the integrity of the streetwall which is something that I think has been proposed quite well here is good.
This is the some of the newer buildings that we're getting where actually these are opulent times, but there's also -- it's a seller's market, so I think it's very encouraging that we're getting buildings that have this kind of articulation and character.
What we're concerned about, though, is when we talk about minimum lot coverage, whether it's 25 percent or 33 percent, is that you have to get much more massive buildings and lower buildings and we're comfortable with the height limit in this particular scenario the R 9, R 10 scenario because there's breathing room.
For most conditions, most reasonable conditions, you can actually have your minimum -- at this 25 minimum coverage you can actually get your coverage and not quite reach that height limit in most cases, so you can do some articulation. You can maneuver the top and so forth, but on the other hand, if you're right on the money and you won't be able to articulate if you're in 25 percent of your coverage, you won't be able to articulate your facade because then your facade would become less than 25 percent in your footprint, less than 25 percent, so that's a concern and it's the type of formulation that we're concerned about that we're using these formulas to control zoning lot mergers, but they don't relate to the architecture or the opportunity for that.
This is another recent building that is nicely articulated, but again, it may not be a 25 percent tower. It may be too skinny for what has been proposed. This is actually a Madison Avenue building which is a building which is I think is probably the most sophisticated of any zoning district in the city in terms of residential areas and a lot of these multiple setbacks and variety of the scales in the base and so forth I think are very positive and I would encourage in terms of going in this direction.
And of course looking from Manhattan across 96th Street, we start to get into the never never land of where there really isn't any provision in my mind and Kent showed a diagram of what the new versus the old would be, but to us that's really not a vision. It's a formula, and if anything, it requires remapping and redefinition of the avenues versus the side streets, so forth; so we can preserve the side street, stop and give some uniformity and character to the neighborhood.
As I said before, we're concerned about the specialty building design to go and what appeals to us about the architect review board is that it is a vehicle where you can go and get an early reading from the city planning or from the committee and then you can go through the process, but right now you have to go through the process, a very bureaucratic fashion, very political bureaucratic fashion without necessarily any support or indication from early on as to whether or not you have a reasonable chance to achieve this.
Again, religious structures or other institutions that want to articulate their buildings like this, which is the kind of thing we love to see on the street, are not possible under this kind of regulation, nor are they in many cases possible today.
This kind of development of community facility we all know we don't want, but are we willing to give up all that mean space, open space on that large campus in order to control height? I think this is something we're anxious to hear a firm proposal on.
This kind of facade articulation you can't do in R 10 A, for example. This has too much depth, too much recess and so forth, so we're encouraging more and more of this type of articulation be allowed and back to this, you can't do this building today because the streetwall is too high and you're projecting the corner south and it's something we have to keep in mind as we go forward as the buildings we really love in New York we want to be able to continue to do. Thank you.
MR. WOLLMAN: We would like now to take a five-minute break, through the doors on that side and that side, rest rooms over there and in five minutes we'll come back for the last hour of this.
(A brief recess was taken.)
MR. WOLLMAN: I want to remind you that the institute's compendium of materials on Unified Bulk will be available at lunch or we will send it to you at your office if you tell one of our people who will be at the long table back there. There is also for those of you who may be leaving early I want you to know that the institute's program for this coming year will be begun at the tables at lunch and you'll be able to read about the further conferences that the institution is doing.
This is our initial conference of the 2000, 2001 academic year. There are some splendid conferences yet to come including the annual development conference in December which will focus on the development of the west side of Manhattan between 57th and 32nd Street, 8th Avenue to the river, so that is the next major institute event. And this brochure, this packet of the materials describing all the things which the institute will do will be available at the desk or at lunch on your individual chairs.
And finally the next issue of the institutes journal of properties, this is on the Bronx and the things that have been going on in Bronx over the past decade will also be available and if you stop at the desk and leave your card, we will see that you get it. The institute is beginning to flourish after a number -- after nearly four years of very hard work, and we're very proud of some of the things that we've been able to do and we're very pleased and grateful to the many supporters within the professional and government communities of the city that have allowed this extraordinary endeavor in public/private dialogue to really flourish at the city university, certainly I think the proper venue I think for this to happen.
The next moment in the conference is devoted to the assessment of the Unified Bulk on the outer boroughs, so to speak. I know a lot of you hate that term outer boroughs, so I won't dwell on it,, but just to really to look upon the impact of the issues outside of the core of Manhattan. It gives me a special pleasure to be able to introduce Richard Roberts.
Richard Roberts is now president of Goldman Sachs and Company Investment Group, a private equity designed to expand economic opportunity throughout the country, particularly in the cities where Goldman operates. Prior to joining Goldman, Mr. Roberts served as the commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the nations largest combined municipal affordable housing and community development agency.
As commissioner of HPD, Richard directed an agency staff of nearly 3,000 persons and an annual budget of $800 million. During his tenure, the agency structured financing over $1 million and created over 40,000 units of housing.
In addition, Richard created several new programs such as the first middle income housing program in New York City in decades, the New Housing Opportunities Program. During his tenure, the agency also received national recognition for its programming including the prestigious Harvard University Kennedy School Innovation in American Government Award.
As an assistant to Mayor Guiliani from 1994 to 1995, Richard oversaw major policy and issues that emphasize reinventing city government. Areas for which he was responsible included inner city development, economic, public housing and education policy.
Please join me in welcoming Richard Roberts.
MR. ROBERTS: Thank you very much for the introduction, and I just want to commend everyone associated with Baruch and the Newman Institute and people involved in putting this on. I think it is just tremendous that you all are consistently able to take what we now say in the private sector bleeding edge -- because that's more advanced than cutting edge -- bleeding, public policy in the real estate and housing development and development issues here in the city and create a form in which we can talk about and obviously all of these topics as many of you heard this morning are extremely important topics and obviously, it's very important that we have an opportunity to talk about it.
Secondly, I just want to join and I really want to commend Joe Rose and the Department of City Planning. I as the commissioner of HPD would have never subjected a major policy initiative that HPD was pursuing to this kind of open dialogue and form. I would have been more than happy to go somewhere and defend it, but I would not have allowed this degree of analysis and dissecting, and I understand that Mark Ginsberg has a case study where he actually went out and applied this, and boy.
But it just goes to show that not only the level of confidence and control that the department and its leadership has, but also I think the seriousness in which they take these issues, and I think the first line of the institutes information packet about the conference commended the department for taking on this task, and I think that the spirit of this continued dialogue and this form in extremely important and I think they're to be commended for it.
Let me also just say that this will clearly be the view from 30,000 feet. I'm going to have a very interesting day. I'm going to talk about this. I would not consider myself to be a zoning expert. The only thing I'm really expert in is that I'm a recovering lawyer and I've spent my entire career avoiding practicing law and in certainly the work we did at HPD while we worked obviously very closely with the commission and the department and in particular the chairman who was very supportive of everything we tried to do, and quite frankly very few people know this, but much of the Guiliani housing program really comes from Joe Rose's guidance and advice to the mayor who was a candidate in '92 and '93, and so we have really had a strong and close -- we had a very strong and close working relationship with him.
But later on today I'm going to get on a plane and fly down to Washington to talk to a group of people at the form at the congressional black caucus is hosting about private equity in the telecommunications field. I know a lot more about this than I do about that, I'll just clue you in, but you guys probably won't be down there to hear what I say about that, so I'm going to have a very interesting day, but I think I prefer this.
Just talk a little bit about the current -- first let me just lay a little bit of context and talk a little bit about the current state of affairs, and then I just want to say one thing that I would come back to. The issue from my standpoint and the experiences that I've had and the construction particularly of housing in the boroughs outside of Manhattan or for that matter in Manhattan, say north of 96th Street, is essentially a supply issue and the ability of those of us who are interested in these issues to be able to produce enough housing to meet what is a very, very problematic situation that we have now in terms of the amount of housing that we have.
I don't think that this particular program gets to the heart of that issue or necessarily implicates all of the issues associated with how do we produce enough housing. I'll talk a little bit about why I think that is, but I think ultimately there are several other things we can do in order to get at that problem and I'm going to list some of those things at the end of my discussion. And I believe the department is doing many of the things that we're advocating for -- we were advocating for in terms of getting that done, but then there's several things of outside the zoning resolution and the department and the need for that need to happen if we're going to produce enough housing here in the city of New York. I just want to throw that out.
Now, just to lay a little bit of the context, when you talk about the boroughs, and I think the way we like to say it is the boroughs. We don't like to call them the outer boroughs. They're boroughs other than Manhattan. It's very politically correct and a very accurate way of describing the areas we're talking about and quite frankly, that issue is an issue from a contextual standpoint that is extremely important and I'll talk a little bit about that.
But first, construction and certainly housing construction in these areas and these neighborhoods and communities has traditionally lagged behind what has happened in Manhattan and generally the economic, the macro economic issues and policies and impacts that affect the city from a housing construction standpoint generally, you know, it takes longer to feel those effects I think both positive and negative, but particularly positive in the boroughs outside of Manhattan.
But secondly, you know, community politics even for those of us who live in Manhattan and only read -- now that I'm not no longer in city government, I'm back to just reading the New York Times -- but for those of us who live in Manhattan and only read the New York Times, you may be shocked to find out that community politics, policies and preferences are extremely, extremely difficult issues in neighborhoods throughout New York City.
People feel just as passionately about things that are built and the impact that those things have on their neighborhoods and communities in Laurelton and Bayside as they do in Chelsea and the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and that is an extremely important point and something to think about.
Also, now that I'm no longer now in the administration, I can say with some degree of objectivity that the administration, the current administration, is extremely sensitive to those issues and concerns and really came into office with a direct mandate it believed to actually create equal playing fields between the considerations of the quality of life issues and considerations that people living outside of Manhattan feel about the things that affect them, as people in Manhattan feel.
And finally as I kind of go through some aspects of the presentation, it will I think fold into why I think these first points are important, but also the economy and the expansion of the economy in New York City has a tremendous impact on many of these considerations and discussions.
Part of the discussion or focus and I know it's going to come up in the presentation of the case study and discussion of some of those issues, the fundamental issue that affects housing affordability in New York City particularly in construction outside of Manhattan is it's a cost issue.
Part of the reason that cost is so much of a stronger issue in boroughs outside of Manhattan as compared to Manhattan is that the housing market in Manhattan generally blows through most of the cost issues. The rents that you can command often have and certainly in this economy have no connection to reality or anything else. They are just unbelievable in terms of what you can command.
Things are much more realistic from a supply and demand and kind of traditional cost and pricing issue in the boroughs outside of Manhattan. However, in this economy, the current expansion we're experiencing, some developers that I have spoken to feel as though there is a chance in portions of Queens and Brooklyn that the market may actually and certainly in certain aspects of particularly the Brooklyn market there is a chance that those markets could start to mimic and reflect what's going on in Manhattan markets.
I think that would be a bad thing, but there is certainly that portion, some of that is under -- is bubbling beneath the surface here.
However, what is the current state of affairs? In 1999 according to some statistics from DOB and City Planning, New York City issued permits for about 12,400 new housing units. 3,800 of those were in Manhattan and 8,600 of them were in the boroughs other than Manhattan.
Almost all of the Manhattans were in permits of five or more units. Only 2,600 of the non-Manhattan permits were in buildings of five or more units. The rest were one to four unit buildings and about 1,500 of the 2,600 units or buildings of five or more units were in Brooklyn and so there's a definite skewing there.
In the other boroughs, most new construction is in one to four family buildings and this really reflects the economics of housing construction. One to four family buildings are less costly to build. They don't require the same infrastructure in terms of elevators, common spaces and so forth and also the types of construction materials and so forth is lighter and can be less expensive and so on and so as a general matter, the cost of building that housing is less.
And I'd also say that just from the standpoint of our experience with HPD is that much of the housing that we built had a subsidy component to it and that our interest was really trying to maximize the spread of that subsidy money throughout the housing units that we built, so we're interesting in seeing less expensive not lower quality I might add but lesser expensive housing being built.
And so most of this housing -- I guess the punch line with all of this is that most of the housing that I'm talking about would be permitted under the current state of affairs with respect to the zoning resolution, and the Unified Bulk Program that's being proposed really doesn't impact on that in any significant way other than I think some discussion about parking, and I'm going to leave that to my colleague to actually talk a little bit about.
And I'll also point out that some of you may have a question about Manhattan north of 96th Street, Harlem, and other parts of northern Manhattan. In a general matter over the course certainly in my experience in the three years that I was at HPD, is that we had started some time ago focusing on new construction, our new construction program, in trying to align that and be consistent with where we knew city planning was going, so most of the construction that we sponsored complied, had already complied with the program and I'll just look to the chairman to have him nod his head to that.
Absolutely. Now, you know, I know there's a lot of talk about this and again not as a zoning expert this tower in the park configuration and all this stuff that happens in the core of Manhattan, typically not as much of an issue in the boroughs outside of Manhattan. I think with the rare instance or situation where you had actually a site or sites that actually were large enough to actually command or to support that type of construction, but a large very large residential building, but more appropriately where some other consideration, qualitative consideration like a view of Manhattan from someplace might actually justify or support that type of development.
Now, there's obviously nothing wrong with building a huge or a very large building in the boroughs outside of Manhattan, but one thing that I will point out is that some of these issues that I spoke to earlier about community preferences and needs and interests, one of things that I think we increasingly see is a tremendous amount of opposition in neighborhoods to building things that are not characteristic with the neighborhoods, and as a result, I think that what's being proposed here is as a general matter a good thing to the extent that it is you have a zoning resolution that is more aligned with the way that most people that live in the city of New York would like to see their neighborhoods developed.
Now, what I'd finally say is that, you know, since I'm taking the view that most of this development that there's very little minimal impact on what people are currently building in the boroughs outside of Manhattan with respect to the Unified Bulk Program, the question in my mind really comes down to the following. How can we build more in Manhattan?
It -- I mean in the boroughs outside of Manhattan. How can we build more housing. Generally the biggest problem we have generally is a housing supply problem. There was an interesting piece that was done -- I'd like to say that I wish I had written it, but I didn't -- but without getting into the politics of the piece because I'm clearly not going to take a position in that regard, but I don't know how many people saw the piece that Henry Olson wrote in the Post on I guess it was Wednesday, just a couple of days ago on talking about the forum that the four present potential mayoral candidates had in focusing on how we can develop and construct more housing.
I would commend those of you that live in Manhattan to do what I did and have someone fax it to you, because I wouldn't have seen it because I didn't pick up the Post that day, but he goes through a litany of things that can be done in order to support additional housing construction and provide and bring more supply on the market, and many of those things track a presentation that I gave here, I think that John Gorge [phonetic] had sponsored maybe six, eight months ago, and actually sat at this podium and talked about some of those things and I'd also commend to you a study that Michael Shill did on housing costs in New York.
But I'm going to focus on five or six things that I think are important. I'll just check them off and some of them are mentioned in the Olson piece and some of them are in the report, but we at HPD when I was at HPD were responsible for working with the housing partnership to actually commission the study and we felt pretty strongly about its results.
The building code which is extremely restrictive and lends itself to -- if you want to talk about development in boroughs outside of Manhattan -- lends itself to different interpretations as between Staten Island and Manhattan and Queens, and New York State I think is the only state now -- even Wisconsin has jumped on board -- that has not adopted the model building code.
Corruption in the construction industry, which if we could do something about that I think would significantly reduce the cost of the development, environmental laws that work across purposes and serve not more appropriately to block unwanted development as opposed to actually focusing on protecting the environment, land use review process that is I think entirely too cumbersome.
I will point to in one example we crafted and had state authorization under the urban development action area program to not only provide tax abatements to housing construction but also to figure out a way to advance projects and without kind of a full (inaudible) process and that program has been subjected to an extreme amount of politics at the particularly in the city council and we were able to recently secure legislation that reduced the amount of time that the council that is looking at a particular projects and essentially has to put up or shut up provision, and says you don't have to approve the project, but you have a certain amount of time to let us know and not just continually lay the project over for ever and ever.
And then, you know, the city planning commission, I mean we worked very closely on Williamsburg agreement that not only I think provided appropriate housing for the orthodox Jewish community in Williamsburg but also for the Hispanic community in Williamsburg but the chairman worked very closely with us to rezone several areas that had been previously been manufacturing areas and to rezone those areas and make them available for housing construction, and you'll see a lot of talk about that in the shell study.
You won't hear a lot of talk about what city planning has done in that regard, I'll point out, but they've done and I just want to commend them for and it and we need to do more of it. That I think is ultimately really the real issue, because part of the reason that the Unified Bulk Program is what I would refer to as a wash is that the cost structure of construction in New York City really means that you're only going to build a building of a certain size anyway, and so if we could ever do anything to reduce our costs, we might actually have a problem that we might need, you know, more -- it might have more of an incentive to solve for, but that's the real issue. Thank you.
MR. WOLLMAN: The next presentation is in effect a case study which the institute commissioned from Mark Ginsberg, and we'll tell you why in a moment we went to Mark, and it really, again, is focusing on the issue of the implications of housing development in the outer boroughs -- in the boroughs -- and the constraints that are on development there.
Because of the hour, Mark is going to go through it in a relatively speedy fashion, but the entire presentation is in this book image by image, text by text; so you'll be able to review it at your own leisure.
Mark Ginsberg is a founding partner of Curtis & Ginsberg Architects whose practice covers residential, commercial and institutional, governmental projects including award winning architecture and urban design projects.
Mark is the current co-chair of the Zoning and Urban Design Committee of the American Institute of Architects, New York Chapter, and therefore intimately familiar with the Unified Bulk Proposal and its implications.
He was a vice president of the chapter for 1998, 1999 and is a former chair and
current member of the housing committee.
Mark sits on the AIA New York State Board of Directors. He is the 1997 recipient of the Harry B. Ruskin award for service to the chapter and the profession. Mark also sits on the board of directors of the New York and National Housing Conference the Citizens Housing and Planning Council and he is also a member of the zoning committee and is a fellow of the institute for urban design.
Please join me in welcoming Mark Ginsberg.
MR. GINSBERG: Thank you, Henry. If somebody can turn down the lights and turn on the computer projector. As Henry said, this is going -- you had a handout of this not in color, so I'm going to try to go through things quickly.
I also would like to thank Frank Braconi and Kimberly Miller from Citizens Housing Planning Council who gave me much of the data that is in this report and/or analysis and what I'm looking at is only outer borough or non-Manhattan -- though that isn't quite correct -- residential development, and once the -- I'm going through the questions on the first page which is what I'm trying to cover.
What will outer borough Unified Bulk residential development look like? How does it differ from current residential construction in the outer borough? Who can afford new market rate construction? Reality of what is being built under current zoning. Parking issues which will be a major part of this and then some examples taken from city planning's environmental impact statement.
Okay. Here we go. And outer borough residential development that I'm looking at is R 6, 7 and 8 because R 1 through 5 aren't changed and R 9 and 10 are almost exclusively in Manhattan and I think defining it -- is where parking is required is also critical because in Manhattan south of 96th Street and 110th Street and the small area of Long Island City, the only two areas parking isn't required and we'll get to why that is in a second, so the areas in red are what we're talking about and you can see the western half of the Bronx, a good hunk, the western part of Brooklyn and areas of Queens and a small area of Staten Island and most of the northern Manhattan and this again shows you where parking is not required.
The next thing is to look at are housing projection which people have talked about before. Just to make two points, it's emic. This is five year average through 1995 that assisted or subsidized has become a larger percentage of that and I'm not including 421 A or 8020 programs which typically don't count in zoning.
The other thing to point out is the budget in 1965 is somewhat due to the grandfathering when the present zoning resolution was enacted and people trying to take advantage of that.
The next issue is income. Citizens Housing Planning Council did a study that said you need to pay a rent of approximately $1,800 a month to afford new market rate construction, and at 30 percent of income, that means 19 percent of the city's households can afford it, but in most of the rest of the country when you get to middle, upper, middle upper income groups, they're paying significantly less for rent or ownership and so if you look at 15 percent which is more closer to the national average, only 4 percent of the households can pay for market rate construction and then what is currently being built is largely subsidized in the outer boroughs except for the one and two family, is largely using the quality housing envelope which is somewhat more restrictive. But what the Unified Bulk envelope is based on is typically below the permitted density.
Also, parking is a major factor in that but for subsidized housing, the parking requirement is reduced. Cost is the critical issue and a lot of the issues and the type of housing, one to four family Commission Roberts was talking about, is very much code driven.
There are two basic types of outer borough multi-family development. One of gut renovations and conversions of existing buildings and two are the partnership housing, the two, three and sometimes four-family town house and rural house. So this is a Melrose Court by Meltzer Mandell [phonetic] which is a partnership housing and this is a Laplaza Dela-anglasaw [phonetic] by Larson, Shine, Ginsberg and Magason [phonetic] which is also partnership housing and these are two gut renovations and my firm did that were actually for the housing authority.
And so now we'll talk about Unified Bulk, and it is FAR neutral but it's not development neutral. Higher lot coverage gives less at grade space for parking. These are the cons: fewer choices for building envelopes, lower buildings equal fewer units with views. Proceeds are greater, predictability that has been talked about, buildings that better fit with the context, and then hence, less opposition from neighborhoods and communities and current types of production largely fit in the proposal but will have greater flexibility.
What I mean by this is most of the current housing that's been going under the quality housing envelope for contextual zoning, this proposal is a more flexible version of that. And this really may be fairly self-evident, but the vision of tower in the park is really tower in the parking lot, and I think that that's important to realize and it's also important to realize city planning's vision is you put the parking under the building, but as we'll get to in a minute, given the cost of such an issue, that just doesn't happen outside of Manhattan and now we'll get to parking.
Parking was originally required in the '61 zoning reform. Parking not FAR is major detriment of building size in outer borough development in terms of size of buildings.
There's then an issue of required parking, varied parking demanded by the market. Market rate housing typically as having one space per unit. Required parking is less than that, so there are two different issues here. Also homeowners typically like to have the car in front of their building, so does the suburban American model.
Just quickly, when you have subsidized housing, the zoning resolution reduces your parking requirements. You can look at this chart in more detail and then in terms of car ownership, I think the most important line is the bottom line where I took Bronx, Kings and Queens Counties, the average household 66 cars per 100 households which is in general more cars than are required by the zoning.
Manhattan has a lower number and Staten Island has a higher number, so then parking strategies and I'll go through a few of them. One is behind the building. This building -- it's again, a partnership housing. The entire lot area is taken up with parking.
The second strategy is in front of the building if you have the space. There are urban design issues with this, but this is what people want when you're selling it.
Below the building is the ideal, but it costs a lot of money and I'm also putting in the stacked parking because this is an interesting issue.
The stacked parking is not permitted and this is what I -- a zoning lawyer has told me, it's not permitted to be counted for your zoning parking requirements, but the stacked units are permitted obstructions in your open space or -- so it is a way that if you met the zoning requirements if you were a developer and you want to have more parking and you're doing an assisted attendant parking to do that, then just going into the cost of parking and you need less space for self parking but then you need attendants and there's a lot of insurance issues. Basically it's very expensive when you do it in that grade.
Once you do it in under the building or below the building it gets more expensive. Under the building is somewhat less expensive, however you're losing either good commercial space or space you could use for residences. Below the building varies a lot depending on the subsurface conditions and then I just have some minimal list of the marking spaces because those dimensions are critical.
What I have now done is took three examples of an R 72 site that City Planning did, added a few dimensions and calculations. This is an existing under the existing zoning where 35 foot rear area really doesn't allow for parking. One might look to try to reconfigure things a bit. The 55 foot area will allow for parking and presuming 900 gross feet per dwelling unit, it would require 38 spaces.
Now, under the existing zoning, high factor zoning, you could only cover 50 percent of your required open space with parking, so the 38 and 22 are the critical dimension. If you had 100 percent and ultimately the building department seems to be looking (inaudible), you could obviously double the number of cars and these are basically all somewhat theoretical.
Under the proposed envelope, and one thing I should add, on a wide street outside of Manhattan which this is on a R 72, you have a slightly higher FAR and hence more units and more parking required, but you have very tight dimensions. The 40 foot area back in here is of minimal for single loaded parking. It isn't very efficient.
I could see somebody if you were playing with the design looking at a 55 foot depth instead of 60 foot depth and changing these wing designs to create more parking, so any way, at 100 percent coverage, you have 31 spaces and 18 for unattended.
Then the alternate tower proposal under the Unified Bulk is the best solution for parking issues because you have a lot of open space and it all can be covered with parking so that you're required to have 39 spaces and actually at 100 percent you almost make it with unattended and you overshoot it significantly with the attended parking.
And then just in summary, you can see the parking in red are where you can't meet the parking requirement. And as I said before, the one thing is under the proposed standard envelope because the FAR is higher, it's somewhat misleading. You'd really need 38 or 39 cars and you'd almost make it as attended, but even then you start to see why parking, if you're not putting it under the building, becomes the key factor in the design of the building; so then the impact is going to be very limited as we've talked about before.
Typically you don't build if the maximum FAR people are using the quality housing envelopes already which will fit totally under it. Something else I should note, it is very seldom that there have been air rights transfers outside of Manhattan probably north of 96th Street. I know of one or two examples, so the impact on the air right transfers is minimal.
Cost is the key issue, keeping the cost of the units down. The effect, there will be more limited envelope choices. Predictability should hopefully help with neighborhood acceptance and approval, and I've already talked about parking and I guess the other point there will not be major market rate construction in the outer boroughs without a change in the demographics and economics of the population. That's something that Frank Braconi talked about before and that may be happening.
So finally the conclusions of the impact is minimal on housing production. Current production is very limited and basically limited to the high end largely in Manhattan and to the low end which is subsidized, and the way to increase it we'll either have more people who can afford high end housing or more subsidies and that's the final point. Thank you.
MR. WOLLMAN: Again, the copy of every one of the images you saw will be in your book. Moving on to part four, looking at how critics and noted academics look at the proposal.
Paul Goldberger, one of the best known writers in the world in the field of architecture design and urbanism holds two positions at Conde Nast Publications. Since mid 1997 he has been a staff writer of the Architecture Critic at the New Yorker magazine and in September 2000 he assumed the additional title of executive editor for architecture and architectural digest. He moved to the New Yorker after a 25 year career at the New York Times.
In 1984 he won the Pulitzer Prize, the highest award in journalism for his architectural criticism.
At the Times he served as an architect critic, cultural news editor and most recently as chief cultural correspondent.
Mr. Goldberger contributes frequent articles and essays on architecture, historic preservation, planning and design issues to a variety of publications and lectures widely on architect and design issues in the United States and abroad.
Please welcome Paul Goldberger.
MR. GOLDBERGER: Thank you very much. I've been asked to speak about the relationship of the Unified Bulk proposal to design, and as you heard, to give a critic's perspective on the whole zoning situation; so I'm going to take a step back from a very specific thing we've been looking at in the last couple of sessions and try to make some very general points about the whole proposal.
Let me start out by saying that I think zoning has everything to do with design and nothing to do with design. It's easy to say that zoning is the most powerful architect in New York. I think I said that myself more times than I can count, but it's also irresponsible and wildly inaccurate to leave it at that.
Zoning laws -- and I'm here thinking of the whole history of them and not just of the new proposal. Zoning laws may have created Third Avenue and 6th Avenue and white brick apartment houses and plazas that we now all love to hate, but they did not create the Empire State Building or Rockefeller Center or Lever House or the Ford Foundation or the Guggenheim Museum any more than they created the great buildings that were created in New York before 1916 like the Woolworth Building or the Plaza Hotel.
Zoning does not make architecture. It sets parameters. It does not make great architecture any more than say the rules of basketball make Michael Jordan's leaps or the rules of baseball determine the arch of the ball that Mike Piazza hits into the bleachers, but we all know that if rules don't shape the great moment, they govern the ins and outs, the normal play, and indeed as such they become all the more important not when something extraordinary is happening, but during those much more common minutes and hours of normal play.
Now, I know it's a somewhat fraud analogy of connecting the zoning to the rules of sport. In fact, I think in truth the better metaphor is to think of it as a social contract as the urban design equivalent, the social contract for it's what enforces the implied agreement between buildings that must live together in the city scape. But I still like to look at the zoning ordinances in terms of rules of football or basketball or baseball because of how well it makes the point that the rules aren't about the great heart stopping moments but about the things in between.
The greatest impact of the zoning is not in its connection to the highest architectural achievements but in the average every day architecture that forms of fabric, the infill, the normal playing minutes so to speak of urban form.
Zoning means much more to the backgrounds of the city than the foreground. It is in what kind of background it gives us that that is the test, which is why in a nutshell the 1961 zoning ordinances has been so problematic. It thought primarily in terms of foreground and not background.
Whatever else can be said about the current proposal, it firmly, emphatically and absolutely corrects this flaw in the 1961 ordinance. Its emphasis on background and created a coherent background architecture for the city. Its ideal is not the tower in the park but the street. It was created under the direction of a planning commission chairman who grew up in the post war city that has been severely damaged at least in urban design terms by the 1961 ordinance, and Joe Rose was trained to believe that respect for the urban context and for the idea of street were the highest values.
If the 1961 ordinance was a reaction against the original 1916 one, the Unified Bulk proposal is at least as much a reaction against 1961. Although I think I do want to digress for a second and say that we've all made the 1961 ordinance such a whipping board that I'm tempted for a moment to play the devil's advocate and give it its due and say at least it did have the strength of a coherent vision, a vision of a new kind of city.
Unfortunately, that vision pretended to be rational and what it really was was a highly romantic wrong headed vision of what a modern city might be and in fact, ironically by 1961 it was already being proven so because 1961 is also the year of the publication of Jay Jacob's [phonetic] Death and Life of Great American Cities, the book that did the most single thing to turn thinking around; so zoning was historically very much behind the curb and by the time the city adopted this sweeping regulation, the beginnings of this
political and cultural shift were already there.
Anyway, the situation we now have poses for me a couple of questions. First, can any zoning ordinance however well intentioned give us great architecture? I'm not talking about great foreground buildings which I've already said I don't think are created by zoning, but merely about whether zoning laws however well crafted can ever in and of themselves create the civilized background architecture that we all want.
Yes, scale and texture and respect for the street are urgent values and the new proposal responds to them in a way this 1961 ordinance did not. But what aches in a civilized city are also a million tiny details that can't be regulated or prescribed. If they could, then Kay Street in Washington, which is a truly awful place, would be as wonderful as Paris. After all, it has the right scale and the right bulk and the right height and the right street width, so how come you'd rather be on Second Avenue in the 50s?
No zoning ordinance in and of itself can give us surprise and serendipity and that sense of constant change that is absolutely vital to the New York street scape. Those things usually mean more than architecture anyway. I'm not supposed to say that, but I know it's true.
What a good zoning ordinance can do, what it must do, is encourage these qualities just as the very first ordinance encouraged light, street light, public life, visual variety and enhancement of the public grounds. Actually, we've been doing much more in the last generation to nurture these aspects of city life through planning, generally in New York through special districts and programs that have been mentioned this morning such as quality housing and contextual zoning.
I think the Unified Bulk proposal is clearly a child of this value system, encouraging street lights and viable public space and I'm on the mystic it will give us a more viable background architecture than we've had any time since World War II with much more orientation towards the street.
Now, what I've been describing as representing a certain value system or aspects of the Unified Bulk Program that others have been looking at in more particular terms, height limits in residential neighborhoods, restrictions on transfer of development rights, elimination of plaza bonuses and so forth, I think all of these are consistent with a set of urban design values and while I worry about their being applied too simplistically in urban design, the exceptions are often at least as important as the rule, and we need a mechanism that allows some breathing space as Joe Rose himself said this morning.
All of that said, I believe these provisions are basically valid. We know it was a loop hole that permitted the World Trump Tower to be built, and this plugs that loop hole. That alone is an architectural piece of progress. I do have concerns as Bruce Fowle did about the use of facade, articulation and site coverage, and while I believe that height limitations in general seem philosophically aesthetical to New York, the truth is they're not proposed here for midtown Manhattan but for residential neighborhoods in which tall buildings would be a significant and unwelcome break in context.
Yes, there is -- it was said this morning the risk of discouraging more generous floor to floor heights, but it should not be difficult to create a formula, say a height limit of 300 feet or 30 stories or perhaps 300 feet or a ten percent overage permitted for a fixed number of floors that might otherwise fit into that height limit.
Are buildings going to be too squat, too low now, too difficult to lay out? They will be slightly squatter and residential units will be slightly more difficult to lay out, yes. I think we have to see this as a trade-off between the public role of a building and its private role.
Buildings in a city do not exist only for their owners or even only for their occupants but to some extent every one of us who passes by on the street. Now the balance of power has not been in favor of the public faces of buildings for a long time. The 1961 ordinance disingenuously pretended through all those plaza bonuses to be caring for the public role in building, but in reality it was shifting the balance of power away toward the private role of building for it implied that all power belonged to the owner and the occupants, the people who looked out the window from the 37th floor, and none of it belonged to all of who passed by that building on the street.
I think shifting some of this power back to the public face of the building is a worthy goal both architecturally and urbanistically. Now, does that mean that romance, some magic will disappear from the skyline? I don't think zoning alone really created the romance and magic of the skyline, and I don't think zoning alone can destroy it. I agree that slender towers are more enticing and I would love to see more of them, but I think the economics of the marketplace were taking us away from slender towers any way, certainly commercially, regardless of the owner. Nobody wants them, at least not as offices.
We do need to find a way to encourage those occasional slender but not sliver residential towers that will be strong punctuation marks on the skyline and I am encouraged that the Unified Bulk Program will not rule out those buildings that may be economically viable.
It does encourage the tower base combination that recent contextual zoning amendments also encouraged and which is a strong and important model, though I think work still needs to be done on the precise ratios and formulas.
Let me say finally that while I have had a lot of concerns about the idea of the design review panel, I'm coming increasingly to think that it may be sort of as Winston Churchill once described democracy, as the worst possible system except for all the others. This may be the worst possible way to encourage good design except for all the others. I do believe that in general the solution lies in the marketplace and not in zoning. It lies in the culture in a way since you cannot order up design excellence and I would never want to see New York controlled by a design czar.
On the other hand, we've had marshal design review in effect for many years in historic districts, and to the extent that the landmarks commission has become a de facto land use agency which is a whole another discussion for a whole another symposium some day, in reality in fact
this has not had such a terrible effect at all.
I'm making this point to underscore my earlier point that I really believe zoning is not a vehicle to create great architecture, but its urgent that it also not be a force that prevents great architecture.
That old line about, you know, you either lead or follow or get out of the way in a funny way maybe applies here. Maybe it's in fact the role of zoning to get out of the way where certain architectural situations are concerned, and maybe the design review panel shouldn't be formed and make its greater contribution by being the agency that says we'll get out of the way, that in effect authorizes the city to get out of the way at certain key moments.
We are, after all, much more open to architectural experimentation in New York than we were a generation ago. Not enough, perhaps, but still we have new buildings are interiors by Chris Jenport [phonetic], Seth Park [phonetic] Ram Coolhouse [phonetic], Bernard Shuman [phonetic], Greg Lynn [phonetic], Dillar and Skafilio [phonetic], Todd Williams and Billy Chen to name but a handful of the architects working in New York who may be described as cutting edge.
Commercially, certainly nobody is doing any more than like the Uryss [phonetic] brothers and they haven't been for years. Institutionally right across the street the new Baruch College building by KPF could not have happened a few years ago.
You all read a piece in the New York Times yesterday about that newspaper's new possible headquarters, whether or not any of those buildings is built as proposed, it's an extraordinary leap from where things were a generation ago.
I think the Times Square project has pushed the common denominator of architectural ambition in the commercial mainstream and it continues to rise in spite of not because of zoning. The greatest architecture is always the result of a conveyance of forces. An excited client, an architect with imagination, the right program, some money, the right feeling in the culture and a lot of luck and when it happens, it always comes as a surprise.
The most urgent thing to remember as the Unified Bulk Program reaches its final form is it must be written in such a way as to make sure that in New York we remain always open to surprise. Thank you.
MR. WOLLMAN: We thank Paul Goldberger for joining us today, and we hope he will not be a stranger to programs at the institution.
Alex Krieger, a fellow of the American Institute of Architects, is a founding principal of Chan, Krieger & Associates, architects of urban design firm based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Mr. Krieger has taught architecture and design at the Harvard Graduate School of Design since 1978 and currently serves as chairman of the Department of Urban Planning and Design. He brings to us today a Boston perspective, the perspective of another city in regard to the issues of urban design and the impact of the zoning on those issues.
Mr. Krieger's public service roles including serving as one of the founding members of the Boston civic design commission from 1988 to 1996, director of the national endowments for the arts, Meyer's Institute on City Design, the Design Review architect for the Providence Capitol Center Commission and the vice president of the New England Holocaust Memorial and Museum.
He continues to advise the mayors of a number of American cities on various downtown planning and design projects from 1994 through 1996. His master plan for the central corridor was one of the 18 projects in the urban revisions exhibitions organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art of Los Angeles for a two year tour of North American museums. Please welcome in New York fashion Alex Krieger.
MR. KRIEGER: I just overheard someone behind me saying I'd hate to follow Paul Goldberger. It's true. Nonetheless, I am an admirer of this zoning initiative. Now, some of you will say so what, he's from out of town, but you know those of us in the outer, outer boroughs need to pay very much attention to what happens in New York because eventually we of course follow suit.
Now, the reason that I am an admirer without understanding the full nuances that have been described this morning, the reason I am an admirer of this initiative is because it happens to tackle my two favorite, though impractical, maxims about good zoning.
Now I'm saying practical, but I also think these two are essential for good zoning and these two, I'll recite them first and describe them. These two are the following.
One, at any one moment zone stringently but have the curse to change the zoning regularly. Actually, as Paul just mentioned, much zoning actually shortfalls the curve of innovation as opposed to leads it, and the second maxim is if the project or design is inferior to ordinance, insist on the ordinance. If the project is better than the ordinance, forget the ordinance, and I think that this tries to tackle both those issues in a somewhat innovative fashion.
The wisdom of the first maxim, zone stringently but change zoning regularly actually is borne out by the very history of New York zoning, a bit of which we've heard today.
We cannot be clairvoyant forever, right, into eternity with our zoning decisions and yet there's something in the exceptions in the nature of zoning itself which makes this the case or suggests this is the case.
By making laws out of things that are largely subjective or at least debatable, institutions are saying through these principles we will make a better city. We'll create better urban form, but forever? Well, of course not. For a generation or two, for 50 years, for a decade, that becomes less clear.
There's an aspect of zoning which is actually anti-urban though of course its principal notion, reason for being, is to make our city better and the anti-urban aspect of it as aesthetic series of laws and rules it actually tends to diminish the ability of the city to change dynamically as we've heard New York always tries to do.
Cities are eternal but not actually the rules that govern, either their government or their development, so there's this little paradox about zoning that one has to be attentive to which is why the first maximum should govern, impractical though it might be.
Cultural historians can read New York principal ambitions through their zoning code very, very easily. There was a very important -- it was very crucial reasons for why in 1916 the skyline setback rule came into effect, very important reasons, or why use segregations took place. It was right before its time.
I'm going to defend the '61 ordinance for a second as well as Paul did, only for a reason. There were many reasons. We can't blame it all on the La Cabusea [phonetic] Or Lese Mender [phonetic]. There were many reasons why (inaudible) open space became an important matter in the late 50s, early 60s, as by the way there are many reasons why incentive zoning which is actually one of the great creations of the '61 ordinances that hasn't been mentioned today became invoked in the 70s and 80s when the public seemed to be in a moment where it couldn't produce the public benefits that we all desire and had to somehow barter some of those out of the private sector who are not responsible in a sense for producing things like subway stations or parks or plazas.
And indeed, there are reasons why at this moment of in time the motivations for this ordinance will seem very clear and almost undeniable by future historians of urbanism or zoning codes.
Each innovation, they tend to happen too slowly. Each innovation in zoning in New York for example makes sense for that time and we don't need to quite sort beat them as much as we do. But predictable though we don't tend to predict these things, each unleash unintended consequences, what our military calls collateral damage.
Well, there's collateral material damage that emerges from zoning, so the art of zoning is nearly always in its form an active stage as is today in New York on account of sort of establishing over arch and principles, an act of ideology, indeed, a sort of noble art, but then in subsequent phases it begins to reduce to be something reactive, attempting to kind of harness in this collateral material damage or recalibrate how much of something we may need as of we may need such as how much open space we may need in parts of the city in certain dimensions or certain configuration.
Well, the problem, of course, is that laws as we've heard are difficult to change once they're passed and therefore, the convenience of turning towards amendments -- and by the way, part of the criticism of the '61 ordinances is there were something like 2000 amendments placed on the 1961 ordinances. You have a ways to go yet in this one and so that's why the first maxim doesn't work because the first maxim I said change the zoning rather than amend it.
Amending is of course much easier, so it limits the utility of the first maximum.
Change zoning frequently but zone surgically is of course the enormity of the task. Once in place, very difficult to change other than a piecemeal and eventually incoherent fashion.
This is where there's an additional cleverness in this particular initiative, I believe, because it suddenly shifts us into maxim two. If the thing is better than a rule, if the rule is better than the thing, stay with the rule and so I want to reserve a few minutes to discuss this issue of a beauty contest or judges and so forth, which I do have a little bit of experience at least in Boston.
By the way, few of us can serve ideological or planetoidally [phonetic] arguing with the notion that do the better thing, right? The only problem lies in deciding what's better for whom and who you would entrust to assess whether the rule or the thing or the project is better, but if indeed which is why I agree with Paul again, if indeed a community can become comfortable with a system that -- well, it creates some confidence in those that it trusts to occasionally dispense with the rules, that truly would be a wonderful innovation and making maxim two less impractical and of course far more useful.
I was going to describe a little bit of how the Boston civic design commission works, but there's not enough time to do so and you can sort of look it up for those of who you are interested, but let me describe the strengths of the design review board and the weaknesses and of course, the trouble the strengths and weaknesses are one in the same thing.
First, strength, it is by definition designed to talk about design not about dimensional standards or abstractions like FAR. It's created to talk about qualitative aspects of the built environment. That's pretty good and it not often happens in typical zoning review.
Number 2, extensively it's imposed of impartial and well enlightened members, not the stakeholders who of course have some special motive on their mind. That's good, too, in theory.
Thirdly, it creates exception of some sort of recent decision, deliberated decision rather than behind the table as Joe kept saying happens in New York or emotional or subjective or other ways. It's expectation of a recent decision making.
Four, as it becomes incorporated into law, at least in part, the Boston civic design commission is one of the articles in our zoning code. It then sort of empowers the sort of Solomon effect decision making as to whether the rule or the project is more preferable or better and lastly there may be a little kernel of hope to overcome the sort of the Ali Huxtable danger aspect of zoning being too stealthified which is not very often the case, but nonetheless, through design review some form of design and review you can perhaps reduce your fear of the stag nature of zoning overwhelming our environment.
Now, what are the weaknesses? Well, they're kind of same thing. The principal weakness is the judgment of the panel. I eventually resigned from the BCDC because I thought that the judgment of the panel was awful. Maybe they're happy I'm gone because maybe they thought my judgment was somehow flawed, and by the way, the problem is in selection and I hate to suggest this might possibly happen in New York, but those who tend to volunteer for such panels tend to have axes to grind sometimes or feel a little bit competitive to those who present better ideas to them, so the selection process in its constitution, how many professionals, how many sort of upstanding citizens, how many people representing institutions is very, very critical and presumably not yet resolved or I don't know if it's yet resolved here, so the principal weakness is also -- other side the strength is the judgment of the people who you appoint to do this.
Secondly, in fact, it is hard to maintain a sense of rationale in the discourse and the design review. It tends to break down into I think or versus you think and that's not very good.
Thirdly, it is subject somewhat as I observed this around the country to sort of the economy. When things are very hot, there seems never to be time for this reason to review. There's too much pressure to make decisions quickly. When these panels are slow, these panels deliberate for long periods of time of but who cares; so it's subject to the economy or as is many aspects of zoning.
Fourthly, there is a danger and I assure you it exists even among the sort of architects with great ideas, there's a danger in design review especially early in emergent of the design of the seductive, of the graphic packages, and there really is especially with our continuing sort of the sophistication of producing remarkable graphic packages and are you evaluating the graphics or are you evaluating the true qualities that lie behind them.
It's tough to tell sometimes especially early on in the process where of course design review ought to take place.
And fifthly, of course it reduces predictability, even though it's one of the stated objectives. All zoning and of this change in the zoning resolution and there are sort of two risks I think that are particular to New York maybe. One is that it's hard to find dependable taste makers. You need on the one hand to put on this panel people who are sort of beyond reproach and yet who do not have too narrow an aesthetic sensibility. Sometimes hard to do.
And secondly, doesn't everyone in New York want to be special? And so this provision which sounds as if it's voluntary, may indeed especially people who consider the actual base zoning is somehow too restrictive, may unleash a different Pandora's Box if too many people somehow striving for the exceptional and that's when I think just administrating special permits processes becomes a bigger headache than you might imagine.
This in fact has happened in Boston where somehow there is no more zoning, there's just review, and I urge you not to go in that direction.
But lastly, let me conclude again by repeating what Paul said. Design quality or innovation in my mind is far more often determined by clients, by taste, their taste, their expectations, by mediocre talent, by budgets sometimes, by market trends, by various fads, so the architects who spoke this morning, you should relax a little bit. There are other people to blame, not just the zoning ordinance.
But on the other side of it, think about (inaudible). He took a purely dimensional and abstract diagonal line and tried to create more sunlight on the street in 1916, and through it discovered poetry and a whole generation of rather remarkable setback skyscrapers which in most parts of the world are done for their aesthetic value having nothing to do with any sky exposure plan, so there are also moments of course when zoning can lead to a source of inspiration and others of course follow indeed as the '61 followed the bit of great invention of the public plaza, not the public tower, plaza proceeding a tower.
So I also don't believe that zoning can be the principal vehicle for somehow a renewed vigor of architectural invigoration in New York or anywhere else, but that is happening actually now.
But on balance, the proposed code seems like a much better tool including its sort of conciseness. Even if it takes some substantial risks in terms of bulk and height and design review which may develop a few of this collateral damage over time, but then you should go back to the maxim one, zone stringently but somehow tackle the aspect of the changing zoning more frequently than once every 50 years. Thank you very much.
MR. WOLLMAN: We're coming to the concluding moments of this and the last two speakers really have a very special connection. We are in effect announcing today and hopefully Herman Badillo, the chair of the CUNY Board of Trustees when he has the chance to address you later, will talk about the creation of a CUNY and institute urban consortium, a conglomeration of the facilities of many of the colleges which have urban programs connected to CUNY and bringing them together to work cooperatively with city government, with state government, with some of the federal agencies on some of the urban problems and urban issues in terms of both research and planning that preoccupies us today and that haven't even been mentioned today.
This is something that's come out of the institution's initiative but involves really the broad resources of the CUNY and here we have today in both George Ranalli and Stanley Moses, two of the leaders of this consortium.
George Ranalli, born in New York City, received his Bachelor of Architecture degree from Pratt and his Master of Architecture degree from the Graduate School of Design at Harvard. His work has been exhibited at the Cooper Hewlett Museum, the Sparrow Speroney [phonetic] West Water Gallery and various galleries all over Europe.
He is currently the deal of the School of Architecture and Urban Design and Landscape architect at the City College of the City University of New York.
Please welcome George Ranalli.
MR. RANALLI: I don't know what's worse, following Paul Goldberger or being the speaker before lunch. Either of the two of those are relatively daunting. I'd like to thank Henry Wollman for putting this together and Joe Rose for the enormous effort in the Unified Bulk Proposal who allows this very important conversation about the relationship of zoning and architecture to occur today.
It is an absolutely long act conference in the city of New York. The Unified Bulk proposal I think has proven to be a very interesting document to go through and certainly you've heard a lot about the pros and cons of that proposal and I think one of the aspects that hasn't been discussed and maybe hasn't been indicated is the relationship of the Unified Bulk proposal to an overall comprehensive plan for New York.
I guess the overused word in this culture has been infrastructure about what the relative consideration of this Unified Bulk proposal is to the current infrastructure to the city of New York which is long taxed and severely under studied, and one really doesn't understand the potential impact of the Unified Bulk proposal on the existing service aspects of the city of New York and there have been in the past long standing visions about the relationship of zoning to issues of public open space and these have been most characteristic in a vision of certainly through the turn of the last century in situations that have been built such as Central Park, the Pelham Parkway in the Bronx, the Grand Concourse, Prospect Park, a physical relationship between a quality of vision and public open space and density of building that was intended to it.
It was always seen as being kind of a reciprocal relationship between the two and of course, all of that you understand graded by a very complex transportation system through which all of this has taken place, so certainly in considering the pros and cons of the Unified Bulk proposal, I certainly am a supporter of it and supporter of this revisiting of this, would love to see a reinvestigation of a more visionary plan for New York, more visionary sense of how this open space is accompanied to this, because if we're not going to allow it to be built in the tower in the park or the tower in the parking lot which was a wonderfully termed phrase, then it has to be built under some other auspices and I think the goal of city planning should be that it provides the matrix within which those two functions take place.
Everybody I think well understands that the 1961 zoning came from series of decisions that were predominantly economic, predominantly to do away with a lot of things about buildings and buildings in cities which went like the ways of bathroom and kitchen windows, natural ventilation, a whole array of things that were better for inhabitants of buildings and the way buildings looked in cities to these kind of zoning incentives and bonuses which allowed the city to change.
It also produced the conversation I remember as a student in the 1960s about 20 year life cycles in buildings, buildings that were to be rebuilt every 20 years, which is a kind of daunting idea as we think of it now, a never cheapening process of making architecture which has been predominantly responsible for the character and quality of the architecture that we know to be built in New York City.
The idea that we would have a review of these kinds of philosophies and constructs, whether they occur through a design review panel or whether they be encompassed in the way of working in this city, is certainly a wonderful opportunity, a great moment in New York where we can join, we can join systems that have taken place in cities of other countries.
One thinks of work in the last ten or 15 years in Spain, certainly in some of the northern countries where the municipalities of cities and their government have sponsored the works of highly recognized architects within those cultures both young and old to be able to have a high quality of architectural work to be produced within a society. After all, the pursuit of quality is a function of talent, and I was very happy to hear Kent Barwick today talk about New York as having one of the most talented pools of architects in United States.
If you think about the issues of beauty and excellence and quality, they are a direct function of architectural element. If it were the performing arts, we would never want to sit in a concert hall and hear wrong notes, watch dancers fall down, yet we are willing to accept buildings which are of substantially inferior quality. They are simply not eloquent, simply not a design talent consummate with building in a city of the magnitude and wonder and splendor of New York City.
This can be supported very dramatically by city government. It can be supported and sponsored and facilitated in a way which maybe isn't so much a yes and no process, we like it, we don't like it, but there are ways of evaluating and creating a list of architects which come through a kind of vetted process of accomplishment.
The (inaudible) Company done this for more than two decades now where they call a list of the architects of high accomplishment. They are brought into the city of Columbus, public buildings and/or private buildings can be -- the fees are paid through the company. There is a very wonderful process where high quality buildings can be, in fact, supported and promoted.
It also must be noted that quality and design costs a little bit more money. If you want cheap buildings and you want to pay less money, I think you get an inferior product, so I think there also has to be some reinvigoration within the development community that some more money is put towards quality building, toward quality architecture.
The buildings we look to of the historic moments in New York were great buildings that were paid for, and they had budgets that allowed them to be made as quality objects, as truly wonderful works of architecture.
New York, as I mentioned, could follow suit with a lot of other communities and has started to do so. We for example -- and I wear the hat of both being a practicing architect as well as being the dean of the School of architecture in the middle with a number of other architects, David Berney [phonetic] who runs New York City Design Department of New York City Housing Authority who has embarked on a set of very wonderful set of community centers both in Manhattan and the boroughs, doing one in Brooklyn which is highly created list has embarked on really changing the way the Housing Authority builds architecture in New York City.
We have a list of the architects like Richard Meyer [phonetic], Charles Quatman [phonetic], Peter Iserman [phonetic] Abraham (inaudible), Todd Williams, some of the best architects that are practicing in the world. You think about it, none of them do buildings in New York City. It's a startling reality to all of us who practice here that it is so hard to build in a city in which you live and practice while being celebrated throughout the world, and I think we have to change that. I think there has to be some way that the people who are here, this startling pool of candidates, the most distinguished and best architects, should be given the opportunity to build in some of the prime sites and prime locations in New York not relegated to high end interiors, but really building the public space and the public buildings of the city of New York.
We have the opportunity to do this certainly in part through this proposal. We have the ability to reinvigorate and rethink the zoning of New York City, and I think as Paul Goldberger allowed it to be provide a layer of background to the city which has a long standing tradition in the way New York and most urban cities are made.
The issues of excellence and beauty are really not issues of zoning. They're issues of facility and talent, of money, of means, of clients and architects and the culture which demanded not to wait passively for it to happen, but to demands it of its architects and builders and its municipalities to provide it as a public right.
We have this opportunity to do it. The beautiful responsive environment has a profound impact on all of us on a day-to-day functioning, on the way we feel, on the way we operate in the culture, the impression it makes on our children, the way we're viewed in the word. It is simply the physical expression and symbol of our sense of ourselves, our values, our desires or dreams and the ability to achieve.
END OF TAPE.
MR. MOSES: Thank you very much, Henry. For those of us who earlier mentioned the fact that zoning seems somewhat technical or boring or dull, I think anyone who has spent the morning here would be very quickly dissuaded by the profound level and analysis and insight of many of the speakers here this morning who raised issues beyond just zoning, but to consideration of the search, the continued search for what makes a good city.
I've had occasion the last couple of weeks spending a lot of time over at the Avery Library at Columbia looking back on the earlier proposals and reports which led to 1916, some of us who were in that struggle and then 1961 some of us were also there and now it brings us to 2000. And some of us I hope will be here 2020, 30, 40, whatever as that process, the dialectic of that process continues in the search for a better framework, an improved framework but knowing all the while as it's been stated here, that that search continues to go on.
It has to go on regularly. It has to be subject to continued scrutiny. There's no perfect zoning code. There's no perfect plan in that sense, and it really was emphasized by the character of the presentations here this morning both by gentlemen Chairman Rose and his staff at city planning and also by others on the panel.
I must admit it was good to hear Chairman Rose speak earlier because I came here with some degree of trepidation after reading about his plan to place a stake through the heart of the '61 tower in the park. And when I read that, I was a little concerned about it since I was a child of the tenements and actually, my parents came from Transylvania to New York City, and the significance of that remark meant more to me than it might have to some of you and really in that sense of the chairman's statement of that stake and I also -- there's an additional factor that disturbed me.
I'm not an architect. I'm not a designer, but I grew up in a tenement, and I did experience the beginning of tower in the park in the 50s and 60s, and I remember feeling the great fresh burst of sunlight, the great dawning of a new world to get out of that tenement, a sense of windows on back alleys and tenements and growing up in a New York City tenement where you assume it's supposed to be dark. You never see sun; you never see light.
So to me the tower in the park of that period brought a great deal of emancipation with it and a great sense of freedom and I walked up the street on Park Avenue the other day and was looking at Seagram again and Lever and remembering how free that was to many of us who were there in that period.
That's not to say the tower of the park should be fixed, not saying it should be reserved, but also to pay tribute to the motivating factors behind the planners of that period and the previous periods who viewed it as a forward process and I think of McKenny and Barrett and Moses [phonetic] of Finklestein and Horton [phonetic] and felt -- and all the others who preceded your particular group at this time and who worked very hard to pursue the best vision they could pursue for that time and in doing so, as was mentioned by a number of previous speakers, they subjected us to all kind of collateral damages and all kind of potential disablements, but also they were driven by their view or moved by their view of what they thought was -- as I'm sure now that I see you in person you are too in that sense. And really when we think of the various speakers who have been for and against various pieces of this proposal, and really I hope -- and this is attributed to Mr. Wollman and Henry Wollman in bringing together this effort because it really lays the basis for continued discussion, maybe not so long doesn't have to be ten or 20 years as some of the earlier proposals took, but at least it lays the basis for moving ahead with a process of revision and adaptation and making the proposal better, and I hope meetings like this can contribute to it.
I just want to say a couple of other things quickly as I really am the last one before lunch; but nevertheless, Frank Braconi is here from Citizens Planning and Housing Council, and he was kind enough to send me a statement of Clarence Stein, the architect who was head of the council of 1940. At the time it was called Citizens Housing Council, and they then changed it from Citizens Housing Council to Citizens Housing and Planning Council, and the reasoning he elaborates in that statement why they did it was because they realized housing could not be considered separate and apart from planning, and it was very important to put housing in the context of some framework of planning and ideas and values and purposes about what is a good city; what is a city that we are striving for and not just to look at it as a housing, hygienic housing improvement section.
I would say that that is one of the major factors and I think Frank Braconi spoke to it at some degree but others mentioned it, that what is missing from the planning commission's presentation at the present time -- although I'm sure they've thought about it and gone through this process -- but what is the notion of the city, the goal of the city, the goal of the good city.
I'm not talking about a master plan like in '67, but at least some working out of a commitment to a certain degree of values about transportation and housing and automobile usage and environment, how these things we don't arrive at a resolution of these questions, but at least the notion of zoning is an enabler and facilitator of planning.
It always was meant to be that and the extent that we focus only on zoning I think we lose a sense of some of the broader issues of planning and transportation, economic growth, jobs, and the journey to work connections and the residence change and the income groups and disparities and the needs of the communities and the different neighborhoods and the variety.
Of course, it's easy for me to say that as a professor because a professor can always talk about the greater interest, the greater purpose is not have to come up with the immediate solution and make the decisions, but that's one of the differences of occupational positions that we inhabit because really and this is also related to something else that was left out and we hinted at because this was a very nice gathering of -- people are very nice to each other here today, and that is that central to this is really this is big bucks, big money, millions and hundreds of millions dollars involved in these decisions and any attempt to regulate will bring tremendous reaction especially through money politics and power and that's not necessarily bad.
People -- we assume people are in the development and economic organization will strive to seek greater power and maximization of self-interest. That's part of the nature of our economic and social system. And at the same time, we assume that architects also or at least some of them pursue some greater notion of beauty and some greater notion of an aesthetic improvement.
At the same time, we think that professors at least hopefully through interest and passion natural pursuit of disinterested intellect are not necessarily seeking money and power, but at least hope to present some vision of the more desirable and better city and I think this is a goal of meetings like this.
And I'm very pleased to have this opportunity to be here and also to pay tribute really to the present amount of effort and analysis and hard work that went into this and hope that we will have a better zoning plan for the city and an improved plan. I'm not sure whether the stake will be fully put into the tower of the park or whether contexualism is the new message for the future, because I think history is an evolving process of change.
And as I think you all agree and as the chairman said, we can't freeze a zoning plan. No one is attempting to freeze a zoning plan that will serve all needs at all times, and we do know that the changes that have come in the past make us somewhat humbled about what might come in the future, but with a good lunch, I think we'll be better able to face that. Thank you very much.
MR. WOLLMAN: There are no reserved seats at lunch except for the speakers and for members of council and for members of the department of city planning. There are a number of reserved tables for those people right there in the corner. Please through both sides join us.
Today would not have been possible without the on the one hand the contribution in both the monetary and spiritual sense of Bill Newman and the Newman family. The creation of the institute is only one of the examples of largess which the Newman family has bestowed upon the city university.
Bill and Anita, his wife, have given this building, both library which sits on the floor below us and the conference center that we just spent the morning on. But not only that, given the fact that he has spent his life in the business of real estate and feels real estate in sort of his every important, he decided in memorial to his son to create the Steven L. Newman Real Estate Institute with the goals of bringing together informs and seminars and symposiums like the one we had today and a variety of other kinds of activities which you can read about in the packet of the materials about the institute and this year's program which were placed on your seat bringing together the industry and bringing together government to further the issues of real estate planning and development in metropolitan New York.
It gives me, therefore, great pleasure to introduce to you at this first event of the 2000, 2001 academic year and while he is still in New York, Bill Newman.
MR. NEWMAN: What Henry didn't mention is that Baruch College CUNY has given me an opportunity to lift a tremendous obligation from my soul and by allowing us, my wife and myself, to repay the debt we owe the city, to Baruch and its predecessor's debt; my father who attended in 1926 and my mother who attended, so we have a long outstanding debt that we now have been enabled to repay to some small extent.
Today is a perfect example of the fulfillment of what we had in mind when we established the Steven L. Newman Real Estate Institute, and that is to provide a bridge between the public and private sectors of real estate. This is the perfect illustration of this fulfillment of that function, however, that's only part of our mission at the institute.
Our main purpose is the education of our younger generation. We at the institute, I believe, provide the only undergraduate granting of a degree in real estate in the east. When I attended school, we had no real estate courses per se, and I had to learn on the job. I was fortunate in having a father who had entered the industry and provided me with a leg up. Most of the kids who go to school today don't have that opportunity, and we're here to provide it for them.
Most of our students, as you know, come from the less privileged homes and families in New York. Many like myself are the children of immigrants and the first ones in their family to attend an institute of higher education.
Baruch provides that education at the lowest cost available as it did for my father and myself. We're trying to smooth the way to level the playing field for these students, all of which leads me to a plea on our part to lend a sympathetic ear if you get a phone call asking for support for the real estate institute, most of which is supported by private contributions.
We get money from the state, however, it does not go anywhere near to fulfilling our mission; so I want to just put in a request for support if you're contacted, even if you want to not wait for contacting, being contacted, we're here. We have an advisory board that I believe has some of the who's who in New York real estate, and we welcome other participants both for their encouragement and their wisdom and financial support if possible. Thank you.
MR. WOLLMAN: We spoke a little bit before about the creation of the urban consortium in CUNY which is in its fledgling state but already on the aspiration of bringing the resources of this great city university to bear upon the problems and issues of New York.
It gives me great pleasure to introduce to you today Herman Badillo, who was appointed chairman of the board of trustees of the City University of the New York by Governor Pataki after serving two years as vice chairman and nearly a decade as a CUNY trustee, appointment of Mr. Badillo's latest pro bono effort dedicated to strengthening public education in New York and really is the greatest symbol we have of the resurgence of the city university as a vibrant force in higher education nationally, locally and ultimately internationally.
In addition to his duties as CUNY chairman, Herman Badillo has been an education advisor to Mayor Guiliani since 1993. As mayor's special counsel for the fiscal oversight of education, Mr. Badillo prepared 1994 fiscal analysis of the New York City board of education that identifies troubling patterns in the growth of special education and bilingual programs and other areas.
Mr. Badillo was also a member of the mayor's task force on CUNY. In July 1999 the task force issued the Schmitt [phonetic] Report, critical analysis of CUNY which Mr. Badillo has adopted as a blueprint for change at the university.
These broad experiences and responsibilities in public education ranging from elementary to the post graduate level has given Herman Badillo an unique perspective in recognizing and solving pressing problems facing our schools. He has spent much of his life in public service. He was the first Hispanic commissioner in the history of New York City, the first Hispanic elected a borough president of the Bronx, the first person of Puerto Rican origin nominated to the United States Congress four times no less and later became the first Hispanic deputy mayor of New York City's district.
Please welcome and join in with me in welcoming Herman Badillo.
MR. BADILLO: Thank you very much. It's great that I couldn't come in until now and that I have to leave soon, but I have good news. The master plan for the university which was pending before the Board of Regents was just approved by ten to four, so that's a good, very significant development because as you know, last year we got an amendment to the master plan to eliminate the remedial education from the senior colleges, and if you read the newspapers day before yesterday, you saw that for the first time in five years enrollment has gone up at the city university.
We pick up the newspapers today you saw that we have been successful in assuring that students who are getting an education in teaching will be able to pass the test and of course -- that the master plan is approved which means that we will be able to ensure that our young people will be able to learn something about American history and something about English and subsequent courses, because a pole that was recently taken indicates that most of our students did not even know that the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776. So we are now a university on the move and I'm delighted to be here with you because what most people don't remember is that I really am not an educator.
I went into this recently, but I started out as a housing commissioner. I was -- I worked actually with James Pelt [phonetic] and Robert Moses or more accurately I worked against them. I opposed James Pelt in the west urban renewal and Moses in the Lower Manhattan Expressway, but the reason I have known all of these individuals is because I was the youngest commissioner of New York City history at that time.
I remember that when I was a commissioner for a while I went to the building where we worked, and the doorman said I see you coming in here all the time. What do you do here? I said I'm the commissioner. He said you're the commissioner? I said some commissioner, because in those days the commissioners were well advanced in age and in attitudes and that's what I wanted to talk about today, that my friend Joe Rose really has set up a totally different attitude.
It was not easy to oppose James Pelt. Those of us who know him or knew about him in this room remember that or Robert Moses and the plan that went through in 1961 did not have the kind of exposure to the public that this plan is having, so I'm glad to see that we at city university and here at Baruch, from which I graduated by the way, are able to provide an opportunity to all of you to review what is happening and to participate and to help the city to make a decision.
I congratulate all of you for this effort and Joe Rose in particular. Thank you very much.
MR. WOLLMAN: That's it. No more talks for a moment.
(Recess was taken.)
MR. HENRY WOLLMAN: The chairman of the planning commission, if he would come back. For those of you who listened attentively to his remarks earlier in the beginning of the morning, I think you heard a lot of major points that have been made, but for just a little bit come back and summarize some of the issues and just to say a last few words.
Please join me once again in greeting Commissioner Joe Rose.
MR. ROSE: Thank you, Henry. I will be brief, and I used to work for Pat Moynihan and I saw him for the -- one of the first times I had come to hear a speech where the evening had gone on very long and there had been very many introductory speeches and awards and presentations and everything else and he had in a folder before him a 25 page speech that I had worked on and helped him. He had it and he simply took the long speech and dropped it in my hands as he went up and he gave a few extemporaneous remarks. So I will spare you the keynote discourse on the future of the city and the infrastructure investments and the future of housing, and hopefully we can have some future or hopefully or not.
If you want that, we'll be happy to send that to you in the mail or we can discuss it at a future forum, but I want to say especially as this discussion went on, I found myself being increasingly moved, inspired and grateful for the amount of attention, of thoughtful comments, constructive criticism that the participants and the people attending today's conference have offered.
It really is something that makes those of us in the Department of City Planning who worked on this proposal appreciate the value of the effort and we dedicate our efforts to actually getting this done and making it work.
I want to assure Stanley Moses here it's with humility that we undertake this effort. We know it's not perfect. We know as Paul and others have said it can't be perfect. It is -- the zoning resolution is necessarily something that may work to various degrees for a point in time or for a period of time and then needs to be readdressed and the City of New York has a great deal to be grateful for both for what happened in 1916, for what was done in 1961, for what has been done many steps along the way to try and make the '61 document work and now hopefully we are doing our share to contribute to a context of the city that continues to function.
The essence of New York City is adaptability to change, its ability to welcome change. We are a city with the main theme I was going to speak about is how the public and private sectors have worked together in New York's history to accommodate, in fact nurture and welcome change and it hasn't always been a cooperative process. Sometimes it's been led by the private sector, sometimes it's been led by the public sector, but the regulation of our land which is a precious commodity through has been mentioned through the 1811 street grid, through the creation of Central Park and the infrastructure investments in the Erie Canal and the water system and the subway system, in our road networks, the '61 zoning.
There is an enlightened, moderate entrepreneurial private sector orientated, but none the less publicly and governed regulatory environment is welcome, has allowed the city to evolve from a port city to an industrial city to now the command center of the global economy in a way that's crucial that we allow ourselves to do, and we have to recognize that now that the year 2000 (inaudible) a document of 40 year old document with one set of conditions no longer really applies and is useful to what we're undertaking to do.
Yes, there are things the performance of the zoning resolution is an ongoing process. We think we have something that's moderate, that's balanced, that basically works. As Kent pointed out, there are some things that can use some improvement.
We are in this public process going to make some further reforms and there will no doubt be reforms need to be made subsequent to the actual adopting of the plan, so this has been a discussion that's been very useful and we continue to be open.
For someone who's spent 20 years in the public review process in one form or another, I take it very seriously and I hope that we have demonstrated not just today but in general that we try to take with an open mind the best comments and come up with the best possible product.
Frank Braconi's point about the expansion and need for housing opportunities to expand into places where the market has historically not gone, not the high-end market, is precisely the nature of one of the goals of this proposal, and I was just talking about this at my table is the need to preserve the opportunity for housing to be built at significant densities throughout the city of New York is essential. It's essential for the city to continue to play the role and to grow and expand its economic role and the biggest obstacle, the biggest obstacle to allowing the production of housing in reasonable densities in neighborhoods outside the traditional high density areas in Manhattan south of 96th Street has been the profound neighborhood objection to built forms that are out of scale with the character of the neighborhoods, and the result has been every time -- and it's only been a handful of situations. I mean 11 buildings total, 11 market rate buildings combined over the last 25 years in Brooklyn and Queens that do not conform absolutely to the parameters of the Unified Bulk zoning.
Those handful of buildings, nine in Queens, two in Brooklyn, have precipitated downzoning that have cost the city tens of thousands of potential housing units. You don't see them. It's the dog on -- the chart homes term it the dog that doesn't bark. Every time the regulation changes, it cuts down density. We lose the capacity to produce thousands of units, and one of the core goals of Unified Bulk is to create an envelope for density, to acknowledge the '61 envelope was not what was appropriate for many of these areas and by correcting this problem -- so why correct it, correcting this problem to assure communities that new development which can happen and does happen and in a matter, in a way that allows housing to happen isn't a threat to neighborhood character, isn't a threat to the viability of the quality of life in areas outside of the high density cores.
So Frank put his finger on a point and it's something that is crucial to understand as Mark Ginsberg so thoughtfully and clearly demonstrated. I think there are some issues and other points touched on in my speech of zoning given a year and a half ago that I referred earlier this morning is yes, we need to address parking regulations. We need to address other areas of the zoning resolution as well that have an adverse effect on the city's ability to grow and change, but it's not Unified Bulk and the bulk envelopes are not a constraint on the production of housing especially at the affordable level in the outer boroughs, and I would argue that the failure to address the real and legitimate problems of the '61 bulk envelopes, the tower in the parking lot, which I think many of us will take away as one of the great lines we heard in the '61 zoning, the failure to address that will -- A, it will continue and B, it has over the last several decades led to a drastic reduction in the amount of housing we have created in the city and that's the political reality.
Michael Sillerman raised some points about the need for attention to the needs of the institutions, universities, hospitals, especially as their envelopes are tethered and they may necessarily need to be given (inaudible) in their program. We are looking at that issue, and I suspect we will have to within reason and only within the context of a campus make some adjustments.
There are also some few, I don't think there are many, but there are perhaps a few places where our envelopes on wide streets and certain districts have been drawn too tightly but we're going to study that issue. But by and large especially when you go into the higher density areas we don't think there's any problem accommodating the floor area.
A point that Bruce Vale [phonetic] and I have been discussing -- and I'm not sure if it was clear from the presentation -- is most of the architectural flexibility and the thing points that he was decrying are things that are precluded by the current zoning regulations. You can no longer build the Twin Tower Central Park West buildings under the 1961 -- you can't build them under the 1961 zoning.
Under the 1916 you can build that kind of building at appropriate densities and appropriate densities under this package. There is greater architectural flexibility under the Unified Bulk Program than there is under the '61 zoning. '61 zoning works great if you want to do the tower in the park. It doesn't work that well if you want to build something that doesn't fit into that aesthetic orthodox.
There are issues that were raised in terms of lot coverage and light. Those are ones as you know we are in the process of addressing. Paul Goldberg and Alex Krieger I think captured the spirit and the intent of what we're trying to do with the zoning resolution better certainly better than I have ever have and I think in a way that many of us in the department found inspiring.
We know there are limitations. We know zoning can't produce great architecture, but my friend and mentor Bobby Wagler's [phonetic] great insight, a lot of time the best, most constructive thing that planning and zoning can do is get out of the way and that is how to do that and how to do that in a way that articulates the aspiration that it's not just get out of the way because it's convenient from an economic perspective, that it's convenient from a political perspective but also convenient from an aesthetic architectural perspective. It's a vehicle we're trying to create.
We know there the inherent limitations and pitfalls and weaknesses in trying to have any kind of introduction, considerations and design excellence through a discretionary process that involves government. I was explicit about that at the city hall speech and we continue to be explicit about it. It's not because we had some illusions about the pitfalls, but create the opportunity to create that flexibility is something that's crucially important.
That's another point I was making just as we were talking at lunch is that if you read some of the less enlightened criticism or architectural criticism that has been written about this proposal, it's described as a celebration of contexualism.
The first thing is, this is not a celebration of contexualism. I think what Paul defined it as which is a recognition, as a background buildings that there is a context and that not every building is a signature building as is much more on target. It's precisely not to have every neighborhood of the city of New York zoned with a very restrictive contextual envelope that we feel is a rationale for reforming zoning.
The alternative to not addressing some of the fundamental problems in the '61 zoning is the political reality that the current pace of contextual rezoning will accelerate and instead of the flexibility that is so necessary for change, we'll instead have a very tight not unified but uniform bulk regulations which would be a shame because there's much more creativity activity there and I think we can learn from the experiences of other cities in terms of how we introduce discretion into the process.
The other thing is that this would be some vehicle for the tamity taumhawks [phonetic] or others to allow or impose some (inaudible) preservation aesthetic or (inaudible) ideologies is amusing. It was all the notion that this vehicle is something that would be restrictive is the opposite of what even in practice now as we await what hopefully will be the soon passage of this zoning text for this potential applicants for this special permit process are world renowned architects coming in when the city's economy now engaged through very special sites who hired their local architect partners, some people familiar with the codes and they found to their great distress that there is no way for them under the current regulations for them to build the exciting buildings they want to build.
So now all of a sudden we're getting inquiries from architects about well, when will this special permit be available because we'd like to get into the process, so I am hopeful that this will actually be something that over time comes to be viewed as a great opportunity.
In terms of what George Ranalli said about drawing on the talent of local design expertise and architectural creativity is exactly the essence of what this aspiration of the design special permit is about.
In closing, Stanley Moses' comments about the real problems that were being addressed and undertaken and confronted in the '61 zoning, we know that, we appreciate that and it's as I said with a great deal of humility that we throw ourselves or we through ourselves and now pursue this effort of zoning reform because we know just how important it is to do that.
There are values, there are goals, neighborhood character, neighborhood context that need to be confronted. At the same time as the '61 case demonstrates, as the '61 case illustrated before, that you're not going to get everything right. In fact, you may well make some mistakes and that's what Alex pointed out about not being afraid to revisit these regulations adjustment basis in the short term but recognizing perhaps having one set of zoning, underlying zoning regulations for 50 years is too long a time for a city as dynamic and as prone to change as New York City is and certainly given the pace of technological and economic change that's the reality of the world these days.
We need to recognize we will be making mistakes or at least overlook somethings and the world will change and perhaps we do need to as a city including the real estate industry, including the bureaucrats and the best -- of the world, communities and the like being more open to both to the notion of change, both regulatory and economically, but we are deeply grateful for the time and attention and the insight that has been offered today and it is our hope and frankly our confidence that the moderate zoning agenda that is embodied in Unified Bulk and I have to say it's why we're doing this again. One thing I would definitely do is change the name, and any suggestions we're welcome to hear, but this very modern agenda is something we hope will at least for the foreseeable future stand us in good status to have the city grow as it needs to grow.
Thank you for your time again.
MR. WOLLMAN : I'd like to thank all of you for being here today but most especially to Joe Rose and to his colleagues at the Department of City Planning for the work that they have put in attempting to bring to greater light the essence of the Unified Bulk Proposal.
In closing, I just want to police ask you again to take the packets about the Steven L. Newman Real Estate Institute Program for this year. There are a wide variety of the things, but there are four conferences left in this academic year which may interest you. The next one on midtown west, after that on Spraul [phonetic] which we're going to do with Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey and we're going to focus the city round table on Queens and then finally with a finance conference on the creation of middle income housing in New York and what needs to be done there.
We had 432 applicants for this morning. We were only able to accept a little over a hundred, so we ask you to pay attention to the mailings as you get them and get the reservation cards in. In fact, if some of you would like the original book, please call the institute office on Monday and we'll make arrangements for that. Thank you all. Bye.