New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Closing Mechanical Voids Zoning Loopholes

Sky Exposure Plane Diagram Most of New York City is Already Protected from Mechanical Voids:


New York City has 10 different Residential Districts numbered 1 through 10. Any new construction on land zoned residential or commercial equivalent to Residential Districts 1 through 8 have height limits that prevent buildings from piercing the “sky exposure plane.” All “Historic Districts,” and some “Special Districts” include height protections often in the form of a strict height limit.



Abuse of Tower Regulations Using Loopholes:


249 East 62nd Street Vinoly 50 West 66th Street Snohetta Residential Districts 9 and 10 and their commercial equivalents allow a tower that covers a small portion of a lot and a tower-on-a-base where 55% of the floor area is below 150 feet which can limit height. However, 432 Park Avenue sought to become the tallest residential tower by using mechanical voids that account for 25% of its height. The same architect, Rafael Viñoly, proposed 249 East 62nd with a base of 12 stories and 150 feet of mechanical voids to support 11 stories above. 50 West 66th Street by Snøhetta proposed 161-feet of mechanical void to reach a height of 775 feet.


Voids Diagram

Proposed Solution to Discourage Mechanical Voids:

  • Discourage Tall Voids: Voids taller than 25 feet will count as zoning floor area.
  • Discourage Clustering to Pad Building Height: Voids within 75 feet of each other will count as zoning floor area.
  • Prevent Voids in Mixed-Use Residential Building: Non-residential mechanical space will be subject to the same 25-foot limit if non-residential uses occupy less than 25%.



Following his election in 2014, Council Member Ben Kallos held numerous public meetings on overdevelopment and invested more than $250,000 in member item funding into community-based non-profits like Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts (“Friends”). In June 2017, Kallos wrote to Department of City Planning (“DCP”) to close “loopholes” such as mechanical voids. In October 2017, Kallos and Friends met with DCP to share their research and proposal. In January 2018, Mayor de Blasio committed to closing the loopholes at a town hall hosted by Kallos in response to a question from Friends. In July 2018, Kallos joined Borough President Gale Brewer and LANDMARK WEST! to form a borough-wide coalition to call for the city to close the loopholes. On January 25, 2019, DCP wrote to Brewer and Kallos with a proposal to close mechanical voids in residential districts and a promise for a new proposal governing commercial districts in the summer certifying the residential application on January 28, 2019 to begin a public hearings process at Community Boards and Borough Boards concluding on March 8, 2019.


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