Accidental Skyline

Proposed new development in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens in 2025, from the south

New York does not have to settle for an accidental skyline. What follows is our blueprint for a more intentional city.

Since the release of its Accidental Skyline report in 2013, The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) has been raising the alarm about the need for new rules and regulations to protect public assets like light, air, open space, and the character of the City’s neighborhoods from supertall towers and out-of-scale development.

New York is experiencing an unprecedented boom in as-of-right, out-of-scale development that flaunt the intention of our zoning code. We urge the City to address the following interrelated issues that have given rise to supertalls and out-of-scale development:

  • Loopholes and outdated rules, including provisions for air rights transfers, zoning lot mergers, height factor buildings, structural voids, and floor area bonuses, along with deficient environmental review evaluations and questionable mitigation enforcement;
  • Inadequate public input, including significant actions with no public review, resistance to community-based planning initiatives; and
  • Lack of accountability, including an opaque process rife with inaccessible and incomplete information and insufficient building applications.

Please visit our ten-point plan for reform: How Do We Fix It? 

Why Now?

If the problems these developments pose aren’t addressed, what’s at risk is a city that is darker, drearier, and more austere than its people deserve; a place where ordinary New Yorkers can’t find an affordable apartment while faceless corporations stockpile vacant investment properties. Much of this responsibility lies with the City itself, but developers also need to come to the table—and communities, too, must recognize the inevitable change in neighborhoods and be willing to consider compromises that provide a fair balance between public and private interest.

We need to act together to make sure the city that gets built is the city we want: a vibrant, bustling metropolis that creates healthy, fair housing opportunities for all of us, with plenty of light and air on our sidewalks, streets, and parks. We must close the loopholes that allow buildings to change the paradigm of the city willy-nilly. We must demand honest and realistic evaluations of the pros and cons of any particular project and respectful engagement with communities about their wants and needs.