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Testimony: Intro 737

Accidential_Skyline_cover

Testimony of Municipal Art Society
New York City Council, Parks Committee
November 12, 2015
Intro 737

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. My name is Kate Slevin and I’m the Senior Director of Advocacy and Policy at the Municipal Art Society of New York, a 123-year-old organization that works for a more livable city.

We strongly support Intro 737, and applaud Council Member Levine for taking a lead on addressing the impacts of new buildings on our treasured public spaces.

MAS’s longstanding concern about protecting our parks has been heightened by the supertall towers rising south of Central Park. Most of them are being constructed as-of-right, without any public or environmental review even though they will be among the tallest structures in the Western Hemisphere and cast shadows deep into Central Park. Beyond Central Park, out-of-scale development can shadow entire playgrounds or pocket parks while providing limited benefits to the nearby residents.

We are not anti-development. New York City must grow and change, but we believe new development should positively contribute to surrounding communities.

Regarding the specifics of the bill, a proposal that somehow put the responsibility on the developer, rather than the Parks Department, to disclose shadow impacts of new buildings could also be explored. We also believe small pieces of land, like Greenstreets, should be exempt from provisions in the task force study.

As our city grows, this is an excellent first step towards addressing the impacts of large-scale development. But ultimately, the de Blasio Administration needs to take action and address this in a more holistic way. The Administration should:

  • Pursue regulatory changes requiring buildings that use development bonuses above a certain threshold (say 20% more than underlying zoning allows) be subject to some level of public review. In the meantime, the City could consider steps like issuing a temporary moratorium on new building permits for new supertall towers that aren’t already subject to public review.
     
  • Pursue procedural changes that would notify elected officials and community boards when new merged zoning lots are created.

MAS supports advancing policies that protect New York City neighborhoods, parks, and streets from adverse effects from irresponsible development practices. In light of these concerns, we have developed a series of online resources, including free, accessible maps that show the availability of development rights across the city. They can be found on our website at MAS.org/accidentalskyline

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Thank you for your time. We look forward to continuing to work with the Council on this issue.