New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Mechanical Voids Loophole Closed By Council Vote: Statement from Council Member Ben Kallos

Statement: "We're saying no to empty buildings filled with voids simply to give the 1% better views while leaving the rest of us in their shadow.

“Today, by strengthening and passing the proposal to limit the height of mechanical voids to 25 feet, we are taking a significant step forward toward stopping developers from getting around the zoning to give billionaires views instead of building affordable housing for New Yorkers.

 "This is only a start. We need to go much further by holding City Planning to its promise to expand this change to commercial districts this summer and to address unenclosed voids and ‘gerrymandered’ zoning lots that were first identified in my district.

 “There is something wrong when developers would rather build empty spaces to prop up the wealthy rather than building the affordable housing that 99% of New Yorkers need.  

 “Every New Yorker should have a right to light and air, to see the sky, and should not be condemned to live in the shadows of the wealthy.

 “Buildings on stilts looked cool on the Jetsons, but the reality is more like Blade Runner, where the poor must live in the shadows below the wealthy above.

 "Thank you to Borough President Brewer and Speaker Johnson for their leadership on this issue."


Background: Today the City Council voted to ban the use of excessively large empty spaces that are added to buildings to prop up the upper floors without adding to the building’s legal height. The use of excessive mechanical voids and other loopholes were first identified in 180 East 88th Street, which used both a mechanical void and an unbuildable zoning lot to get extra height, 200 Amsterdam which used a "gerrymandered" zoning lot and 50 West 66th Street, which has a proposed 161-foot void.

 This Zoning Text Amendment was originally proposed by the Department of City Planning (DCP) in response to advocacy from Council Member Ben Kallos and community advocates. After the DCP proposed limiting the height of allowable mechanical voids to 25 feet, the City Planning Commission voted to weaken the measure, increasing the allowable height to 30 feet. However, the Council amended the allowable height back to 25 feet. Earlier this month, the Department of City Planning also announced it would address “gerrymandered” and unbuildable zoning lots, another major loophole, in response to advocacy from Council Member Kallos.


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