May 20, 2016

"40 Percent of the Buildings in Manhattan Could Not Be Built Today..."

"Because They Are Too Tall... Or They Have Too Many Apartments... Or Too Many Businesses... But They Made New York Great. (Sometimes.)"
Nearly three-quarters of the existing square footage in Manhattan was built between the 1900s and 1930s, according to an analysis done by KPF, an architecture firm based in New York. In a way, the zoning code helps to preserve such architectural diversity. The laws have gotten more restrictive over time, giving an edge to properties built in earlier eras.
Ironic.

27 comments:

Birkel said...

Regulations support current interests and reduce potential competition: hardly ironic.

Birkel said...

The Law of Diminishing Marginal Returns cannot be overcome.

Franklin said...

My wife works for KPF. As far as I know she didn't work on that analysis, but interesting (to me!) to see it mentioned here.

AlbertAnonymous said...

3/4s of it was built between the 1900s and 1930s and the article claims that the zoning code "preserves such architectural diversity"? WTF? That would seem pretty un-diverse to me. Unless it implies that the 1900s to 1930s was really diverse architecture in and of itself, and so its all being preserved.

Franklin said...

And I'm sure the KPF analysis was done to bolster the Midtown East rezoning which would enable One Vanderbilt to be built.

IMO, the zoning laws, as they are, actually create some interesting workarounds that enhance the city. For example, 425 Park which is currently an outdated office building that simply cannot be updated to class A standard has a number of floors zoning restriction, but not a height restriction. L&L, which owns the property, is going to demolish the existing structure and create a supertall building with the same number of floors as per the zoning regs, but each of the floors will be extra tall - doesn't increase density, but increases the luxury.

khesanh0802 said...

@Birkel Says all there is to say.

DougWeber said...

This also has the effect of causing building to be re-purposed instead of replaced. Whether this is good or bad is open the question. Most of downtown NYC is being converted to apartments or condos. The classic late 30's Art Deco building, which used to house famous firms, are now becoming apartments. You can now live in a building that was once the fourth tallest in New York.

David said...

And they wonder why there is not enough low-middle income housing in NY. Or why it's so hard to start a successful small business.

In my little town in SC we have enough voices who want to restrict this and that in the name of preservation that hardly anything gets done. That may be the actual objective, but the result is that all the new younger population, and even much of the old retired population, that is coming to the area locates outside the town. This has been going on for 20 years but the voices of preservation refuse to make the connection. It really puzzles them that people choose such "lesser" areas than ours.

Dan Hossley said...

Not really surprising. The Interstate Highway System couldn't even be built today thanks to the new enlightenment.

eric said...

Ownership of land is one thing that made great. You can't own the land in many countries like you can here. Or at least, you could. Used to be able to own not just the land but the mineral rights as well. Owning your own land, having your own castle, as it were, is great for freedom.

It's not great for graft though. It's not great for political interests or for corporate interests.

New York City was built great many years go.

You couldn't build a new York City today.

jr565 said...

The left wants us to go to large cities and away from the suburbs (where we have to drive around in dirty cars)> yet, they don't want to actually develop in those big cities.
They get to live on the work done by their betters, and then pretend like the are above such things. While taking full advantage of all the benefits accrued.
But they don't want you to build any more either.

Chuck said...

Next up please; a post on NYC rent control.

Wasn't Ed Koch paying something like $450/month for his rent-controlled apartment when he was hizzoner the mayor?

amielalune said...


Eric:

Try not paying your property taxes for a few years. You'll see who "owns" the land.

Eric said...

"Some of the buildings have too much residential area, too much commercial space, too many dwelling units or too few parking spaces; some are simply too tall. These are buildings that could not be built today"

Methinks they may be overlooking the transformative power of bribes.

Achilles said...

amielalune said...

"Eric:

Try not paying your property taxes for a few years. You'll see who "owns" the land."

Someone beat me to it on this thread anyhow.

The government is more like the mob then it is like a civil service.

Achilles said...

The government and the little fascists that spend their time telling everyone what they can and can't do at every level is the problem in this country.

Nichevo said...
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Nichevo said...
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bagoh20 said...

Think of the things that our society produces today that you could call our preeminent accomplishments. The things our best and brightest and most successful produce. In the past century they would be things like architecture, law, medicine, transportation, exploration, communications, etc. We still do those things, but with only a fraction of the speed, size of the steps, degree of life-changing, or the capacity to seem like magic or to suggest an unstoppable power of destiny.

Our preeminent accomplishments of today are to our ancestors works like Jaws 4 was to the original. We are however, unprecedented in our ability to produce laws, regulations, and words. As with our other recent accomplishments they posses a predictable watering down of real value that you would expect from mere sequels.

bagoh20 said...

Maybe it's climate change or a loss of the the mother of invention.

Big Mike said...

Nearly 100% of the buildings in Manhattan could not be built today because you'd run out of money by the time you pass through all the reviews, get signatures from everybody who has to sign off on the project, pay all the bribes to politicians and gangsters.

Eric said...

"bribes to politicians and gangsters"

Yes, there are gangsters who are not politicians.

Beldar said...

Not ironic. Stupid and statist. More bad New York values.

buwaya puti said...

Weird.
San Francisco is building very big and tall these days, quite as much as the last skyscraper boom, and that was forty years ago. Money has trumped politics, at least partly.
Who would have thought.
The nicest big buildings are still those of the 1910s-1930s, as in NY, not because they are bigger and taller, the old ones are beautiful because of their craftsmanship, in and out. The new ones depend on their shape to escape the impression that they are purely utilitarian, which they are of course. There is no detail to them. They are blank things attempting to escape banality by assuming an unexpected form.
As for the attitudes of the inhabitants and owners, it's clear that they love living in a city that is an outdoor exhibition of tremendously valuable hundred-year old craftsmanship, an open air antique shop, but they give no thought to the craftsmen.

coupe said...

A funny saying I learned in Engineering school: "When you run out of latitude and longitude, the only thing left is altitude."

Krumhorn said...


Next up please; a post on NYC rent control.


Once a few years ago when I was running a large tv and film company in NYC, I was invited to have dinner at the large 5th Ave penthouse apartment of a well-known Oscar winning writer. It was lovely with magnificent 360 degree views. I was astounded to learn that he and his wife paid $1,200/mo in rent due to rent control that had been set many years earlier. How it was subject to rent control, I'll never figure out, but they were chortling about it nonstop.

My grandmother, who passed away leaving a sizable estate, was paying less in rent when she died than when she moved in 50 years earlier. While I was happy for her, it was a terrible crime against property rights.

- Krumhorn

damikesc said...

In my little town in SC we have enough voices who want to restrict this and that in the name of preservation that hardly anything gets done.

I have family in the nice part of Charleston and getting permission to make repairs on your property is a red tape nightmare.

Not really surprising. The Interstate Highway System couldn't even be built today thanks to the new enlightenment.

And as Stossel pointed out years ago, aspirin would NEVER pass FDA testing today.

San Francisco is building very big and tall these days, quite as much as the last skyscraper boom, and that was forty years ago. Money has trumped politics, at least partly.

Only problem is that SF has a more profound housing problem than NYC has. Their lack of housing is a decades long problem that shows no sign of abating.