New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Land Use

Upper East Side Patch Developer Claims No Clear Plan For Replacing Demolished UES Block by Brendan Krisel

Developer Claims No Clear Plan For Replacing Demolished UES Block

UPPER EAST SIDE, NY — Extell Development's Gary Barnett revealed few details Tuesday night during a Community Board meeting to discuss his firm's planned full-block developments on First Avenue between East 79th and 80th streets and East 85th and 86th streets.

Curbed City will study how ‘gerrymandered’ zoning lots affect NYC neighborhoods by Caroline Spivack

City will study how ‘gerrymandered’ zoning lots affect NYC neighborhoods

“The point of city planning is to have predictability and we have a zoning text that has been under attack by people looking for loopholes, and the newest is these gerrymandered lots,” says Upper East Side City Council member Ben Kallos, who requested the study and has staunchly advocated for the city to crack down on the practice. “The point is to restore the predictability.”

In a May 13 letter to Marisa Lago, the director of the DCP, Kallos suggested applying lot restrictions already in place for residential properties to all zoning districts, with a certification process for instances where carving out a tiny lot is legitimate. In low-density neighborhoods zoned for single-family, detached homes, for instance, the minimum lot area is 9,500 square feet and the minimum lot width is 100 feet. Another solution could be creating a “Minimum Distance Between Lot Lines” restriction, Kallos suggested.

Upper East Side Patch Development Brings 28 Below-Market Units, Preschool To UES by Brendan Krisel

Development Brings 28 Below-Market Units, Preschool To UES

City Councilman Ben Kallos praised the project as a win for the neighborhood because it proves that below-market housing can be built on the Upper East Side despite the expensive cost of real estate. Extell bought the site for $14 million in 2014, according to city Department of Finance records.

Extell Development is using 421A and Mandatory Inclusionary Hosing subsidies at the building, developers said.

Curbed Amendment to close zoning loophole ‘misses the point wildly,’ says city council committee by Caroline Spivack

Amendment to close zoning loophole ‘misses the point wildly,’ says city council committee

In a notable exchange with Council member Ben Kallos, who represents a swath of Manhattan’s east side, Hsu-Chen acknowledged that although the city tweaked the revision to cap voids at 30 feet it would support the council if it amended the modification back to the 25 foot cap.

“We would support the City Council modification,” said Hsu-Chen. “The city planning commission did take into consideration input from expert practitioners and made the modification, but we believe 25 feet would be sufficient.”

DCP acknowledged that its research did not identify buildings where an additional five feet would have been crucial for the function of a void, but said it opted to include the extra space to “future proof” buildings in case of innovations in equipment that require additional space. Though the agency did concede that additional zoning changes could be made later to accommodate such innovations.

The Tuesday review of the zoning change was the first leg in the final obstacle—the City Council—the revision must face before it can be enacted. Kallos told Curbed he anticipates a successfully push for the amendment to be scaled back to its original 25 foot cap.

“I believe we should have widespread support,” said Kallos. “I anticipate that amendment will be the case.”

CBS New York NYC Council Looks To Close Loophole Allowing Buildings To Be Extra Tall For Little Reason by Andrea Grymes

NYC Council Looks To Close Loophole Allowing Buildings To Be Extra Tall For Little Reason

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – It’s the tallest residential building in the western hemisphere – the luxurious 432 Park rises more than 1,300 feet into the Manhattan skyline.

City councilman Ben Kallos says architect Rafael Vinoly got a quarter of this super-tall height by exploiting what’s known as the “mechanical voids loophole” and it was totally legal.

The overly tall residential building at 432 Park. (Credit: CBS2)

“They’re building these mechanical voids to prop up real estate so these billionaires can have multi-million dollar helicopter views, and that’s not why we should be building buildings,” Kallos said.

The councilman added the firm is trying to do the same thing with an empty lot on East 62nd Street – to offer better and more expensive views – and they’re not alone.

The Jewish Voice NY Developers Under Scrutiny for Using Empty Space To Bump Tower Heights by Greta Levy

NY Developers Under Scrutiny for Using Empty Space To Bump Tower Heights

Towering structures have been a feature of many New York neighborhoods for quite some time now, but some of these buildings have big gaps in them that are supposed to be for mechanical purposes, hence why they’re known as “mechanical voids.” As skeptics grow more concerned about the increase in the use of these empty spaces, the city is looking to step in. The mayor and city council are ready to start looking into the matter that skeptics suggest could create dangerous situations and unnecessary and wasteful uses of space and resources.

The Business Times The Business Times News Staff by New York looks into voids used by builders to bend height rules

The Business Times News Staff

AT the heart of many of New York's tallest residential skyscrapers lie "mechanical voids". They are growing in size and number and the city council and Mayor Bill de Blasio have had enough.

Crain's New York New York looks into voids used by builders to bend height rules by Editorial Board

New York looks into voids used by builders to bend height rules

Loophole closing

An amendment filed by the planning department at de Blasio’s request would limit mechanical spaces to a height of 25 feet, and require multiple mechanical floors to be at least 75 feet apart. Otherwise, they would count toward the building’s floor area as set by zoning rules, which determine how tall a building can be.

Kallos worries that without intervention, the mechanical voids will just keep growing—to 300 or 400 or 500 vertical feet of dead space. The practice is especially noticeable on Billionaire’s Row—a strip of super-luxury condo buildings just south of Central Park. Mechanical voids make up about a quarter of 432 Park Ave., Manhattan’s tallest completed condominium tower, according to Kallos. The building’s minimalist boxy design can be seen from every borough.

Our Town "Condo on stilts” paused by Michael Garofalo

"Condo on stilts” paused

“In the event of an emergency, first responders are going to be called upon to run up hundreds of feet of empty building to rescue people in these apartments.”

Council Member Ben Kallos

 

As the city prepares to tighten restrictions on developers' use of mechanical voids — large, empty spaces within buildings that primarily serve to inflate the height, views and market value of the floors above — a planned Upper East Side tower frequently cited by critics as among the most egregious examples of the practice is in limbo as the Department of Buildings evaluates void-related objections concerning the project.

 

AM New York New rules proposed to curb abuse of 'mechanical voids' in high-rises by Sarina Trangle

New rules proposed to curb abuse of 'mechanical voids' in high-rises

West Side, Upper East Side, Queens and the Bronx.

The limits seemed lax to several elected officials and neighborhood groups in Manhattan, who claimed at a hearing Wednesday that the regimen would still allow the proliferation of places like 432 Park Ave., where mechanical voids account for about 25 percent of — and illuminate patches at night of — the 1,396-foot tall condo, according to City Councilman Ben Kallos. 

"We need to pass it immediately due to the sheer number of buildings that are coming down the pipeline that want to use voids to get additional height," Kallos said. "There is always room for improvement, and I am concerned it doesn't go far enough."

Trade groups representing engineers and developers, however, said the framework proposed was not flexible enough for the breadth of buildings it could regulate and raised concerns about it impeding energy efficiency and other construction advancements.

"By restraining innovation at a time when the means of achieving operational and energy efficiencies are rapidly evolving, the legislation could cost the city opportunities for future use of the most advanced and appropriate mechanical health and safety systems," said Paul Selver, a member of the Real Estate Board of New York trade group representing landlords and developers.

Kallos, reading testimony on behalf of 10 other Manhattan politicians, suggested mechanical spaces that stretch beyond 14-feet in height be calculated into buildings' permitted square footage; and grace spaces only be allowed every 200, rather than 75, feet.