Central Park Sunshine Task Force Meets to Speak Out Against Supertall Shadows

Posted On Wed, April 29, 2015 By

Posted On Wed, April 29, 2015 By In Policy, real estate trends

Rendering showing the location, size and massing of projects currently being developed along Central Park South, via MAS “Accidental Skyline” report

There are a dozen supertalls (1,000 feet or higher) in the construction or planning stages in Manhattan, many of which are sprouting up along the billionaires’ row hotbed south of Central Park. The trend has incensed many New Yorkers because of the shadows these giant towers will cast on the park. Last month, Councilman Mark Levine introduced legislation to create a task force that will examine, as he put it, “the looming threat of shadows falling on our parks from the rising number of skyscrapers.” A similar group of concerned parties, the Central Park Sunshine Task Force of Community Board 5, met last night to discuss the issue.

As Curbed reports, in the standing-room-only town hall meeting at the New York Public Library the group covered issues including zoning laws, transparency in the building process, construction safety, matters of light and air, overdevelopment, and even the “‘phallic’ nature of the buildings themselves.”

nyc skyline future 2018
What the NYC skyline could look like in 2018, via CityRealty

As we previously explained:

New York City currently has no restrictions on the shadows a tower may cast. In fact, the city doesn’t limit height, it only regulates FAR (floor area ratio), but developers can buy air rights from adjacent buildings, allowing them to build even higher as of right. For example, the Nordstrom Tower paid $30 million for air rights from the neighboring Art Students League, and it will now reach a height of 1,775 feet.

It’s this type of loophole that has given advocates reason to call for an amendment to the current zoning laws. At last night’s meeting, a representative of City Councilman Daniel Garodnick said, “the tail is wagging the dog” when it comes to the huge influx of as-of-right development, and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer agreed that more transparency is needed when it comes to the transfer of air rights. Anand Amin, an architect and planner at the Municipal Art Society, referred to this widespread, sky-high development as the “accidental skyline.” She suggested that all buildings using a certain amount of development bonuses should have to go through a public review process that looks at how the structure will cast shadows on parks and public spaces, and that when lots are merged the Department of City Planning should be required to notify elected officials and local community boards. She also proposed “an incentive program for good design so new buildings enhance neighborhood character.”

Clayton Smith, Chair of CB5’s Parks and Public Spaces Committee referred to “20-degree temperature differences between light and shadow and how he has already seen reports of reduced use of some playgrounds. He said Central Park is a front yard, not a back yard,” reports Curbed. The Central Park Sunshine Task Force plans to present its recommendations at the full Community Board 5 meeting on May 14th; you can find out more details about the meeting here.

[Via Curbed]


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