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.
Crain’s reports that these voids are supposed to house equipment that is necessary for the operation of the tower, such as elevator equipment and HVAC systems. The problem that the city wants to look at in particular is how these mechanical floors aren’t included in the total floor count for the building, which can help developers potentially get around zoning regulations in order to build taller buildings. These developers can then use the higher floors as a selling point.
One of the big problems that skeptics point to is how an emergency situation, like a fire, could be made more dangerous by the mechanical floors. These empty spaces add a lot of time and energy to a firefighter’s task in trying to rescue people if something were to ever happen. Firefighters would also have a tougher time because the way the floors are numbered is misleading. The empty space floors aren’t counted, potentially leaving firefighters improperly prepared to cover a much greater distance than expected.
“It is a symptom of everything that is becoming wrong with our society that developers would rather build empty spaces in buildings for billionaires than affordable housing,” New York City Council member Ben Kallos. “We’re not saying that you can’t do this. What we’re saying is that if you have a limited amount of floor area that you can use to put up a building, then you have to use that floor area.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s wants a new amendment which would limit mechanical spaces to only 25 feet, instead of over 100 feet as in some cases. The amendment would also ensure that the mechanical floors would be spaced out, having to be separated by 75 feet so that emergency responders wouldn’t get stuck dealing with a bunch of empty floors in a row. The floors will also be included in the total count so that developers couldn’t get around zoning regulations.
The city’s Department of Buildings isn’t even waiting for action before making its own moves. It’s told a couple of developers that they would need to revisit their plans for towers that are planned to make use of these big mechanical voids. The department worries about safety issues and that space could have been used better.