Advocacy Alert: Say NO to Lifting the FAR Cap

Maps showing built residential FAR by block, by quintile. Fully 83% of Manhattan blocks with the most residential development can be found on the UES and UWS. Yet these are the areas that would be first impacted by lifting the 12 FAR cap. Image by George Janes. 

Lawmakers in Albany again appear to be considering Governor Hochul's plan to lift the longstanding cap on residential density in New York City. In their draft budget proposals released last week, the New York State Senate included the possibility of zoning changes subject to certain affordability requirements and with the understanding that historic districts would be exempt--the State Assembly draft budget did not mention the issue but that might change as budget talks continue until the April 1 deadline.

If approved, this new policy could have serious consequences. Without the state law that limits residential development to 12 FAR (Floor Area Ratio), New York City will likely pave the way for zoning changes to allow for even more larger and taller buildings on the Upper East and Upper West Sides, already the densest residential neighborhoods in the country. Proponents argue this will create affordable housing, but history suggests otherwise. The Upper East Side already has the most new residential developments in Manhattan, but the number of housing units has remained flat, actually declining near Central Park. New residential developments have been tall and expensive, luxury towers for the privileged few. They tend to displace existing affordable units and have devastated rent regulated housing. They are also bad for the vitality of our neighborhoods, with more seasonal residents and reduced foot traffic on weekends.

There's a better solution. Policies could focus on developing the vast underbuilt areas in NYC, perfect for new, affordable housing with no need for rezoning. The city and state could also make it easier to convert unused hotels and office buildings to residential use. Let's prioritize solutions that truly address affordability and the needs of residents rather than increasing density in already very dense areas.

Take action today! Complete the form below to send a message to lawmakers urging them to reject lifting the cap and protect affordability and our neighborhoods.

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Chairs of the Senate and Assembly Housing Committees
Assembly Member Linda B. Rosenthal
Senator Brian Kavanagh

Leadership of the Senate and Assembly
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins