Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Eggheads endorse overdevelopment
Each of the panelists endorsed a move toward what moderator Vicki Been, a professor at the NYU Law School, called the “Vegas principle” of zoning: “What happens in the building, stays in the building.” Zoning, they argued, should be more concerned with how buildings meet the public realm or impact public infrastructure than what people choose to do inside their property. “There’s nothing unsafe about having a business on the same floor as an apartment, if the people in the building agree to it,” said Michael Kwartler, a national expert on planning who helped write the zoning laws for midtown Manhattan.
When asked what she would change in the city’s zoning code, Jerilyn Perine, the head of the Citizens Housing and Planning Council and a former city housing commissioner, said “the word ‘family’ should be eradicated from the zoning resolution.” The definition of ‘family’ currently used in the zoning code limits the number of unrelated individuals who can legally share a single unit. The code “dictates not only how many people but who lives in places,” said Perine.
Kwartler and Perine, too, warned against over-regulating urban form, and especially against the current planning vogue for “contextual zoning,” which has been a hallmark of the Department of City Planning under Amanda Burden. “I hate this idea of contextual, this idea that what’s there should dictate what could be there in the future,” said Perine. Kwartler added that the Empire State Building is out of context with its surroundings, to the benefit of the entire city.
A renowned urban planner not on the above mentioned panel had this to say:
"So let's see: if I'm not mistaken, the thrust of the argument is deregulate (because that's worked so well in the past, particularly in the building industry); remove limits on the number of families or persons that can live in a particular space, so we can create more opportunities for greedy landlords to create hazardous conditions; create mixed uses anywhere to ensure a deterioration of our quality of life; and for God's sake, don't ever try to protect the character of a community through contextual zoning, because that's over-regulating the developers...errrr, over-regulating 'urban form.'
What a crock of shit."
For a different perspective on these issues, see this video of an Urban Planning panel at the New School which was taped earlier this month. (It's long but worth it if you're interested in urban planning):