Manhattan Borough President Levine, Officials Target FAR Cap Blocking Housing

Coalition of Manhattan officials and housing lawyers headed by Manhattan Chairman of the municipal district Mark Levineheld a press conference today on the steps of the town hall.

We urge Governor Hochul and the state legislature to remove the outdated 12 Floor Area Ratio (FAR) cap in the FY25 state budget agreement.

Tea 12 FAR closure limits the amount of buildable space within residential developments that require buildings to be no larger than 12 times the size of their lots.

“This law is a holdover from another era,” he said Manhattan Chairman of the municipal district Mark Levine. “It was created in 1961 when, surprisingly, the city was concerned about too many apartments under construction and a lack of offices. Today we have the opposite situation. It’s time to lift the cap.”

Proponents point out that more than 1,000 buildings in Manhattan itself, built before the introduction of the cap, would not be possible today. These buildings include iconic landmarks such as the Eldorado and 825 5th Avenue, highlighting the ceiling’s limiting impact on the city’s development potential.

The ceiling also creates challenges for both new construction and office-to-residential conversions, such as the K site near the Javits Center. While a new building on the site could be up to 60 stories, only half could be used for housing because of the FAR ceiling.

Lifting the 12 FAR cap is a critical step in the attachment NYC housing affordability crisis. The move follows a letter from BP Levine, Manhattan City Council members and housing and jobs advocates Governor Hochul, Majority Leader Stewart Cousins, Speaker Heastie, calling for lifting 12 FAR Cap.

The push to eliminate the 12 FAR limit has garnered broad support from the Manhattan City Council delegation — including Councilmembers Shaun Abreu, Erik Bottcher, Carlina Rivera, Keith Powers, Julia Menin, Diana Ayala and others. Yusef Salaam–– as well as housing and work support groups.

“The FAR ceiling, which only applies to residential buildings, is a holdover from when they thought too many apartments were being built,” said Councilman Erik Bottcher. “The future of our city depends on adapting to modern needs and lifting this restriction will open up opportunities for much-needed housing. I stand with Borough President Mark Levin and my colleagues in calling for his removal.”

“Want to know why your rent is so high and home ownership is a distant fantasy? Because New York City it doesn’t have enough housing for everyone who lives here. Where there’s a shortage, prices rise, and New Yorkers are all scrambling to buy the last gallon of water during the dry season. We need the state to raise the FAR cap so we can build enough housing for all New Yorkers to live in dignity. Thank you Borough President Levine for continuing his fight for affordable housing and making our voices heard in Albany,” said Councilman Shaun Abreu.

“…affordable housing should be required…”

“The Regional Plan Association has been in favor of allowing more mixed-use housing to be built in the urban core by lifting the floor area ratio cap, an outdated state law that limits residential buildings to FAR 12. Lifting the FAR cap would be a significant step toward providing more types of housing that New Yorkers desperately need they need We estimate that if the cap is removed and high-rise neighborhoods are mapped with inclusionary zoning, New York City could unlock more than 30,000 units of income-restricted housing,” said Marcel Negret, senior planner for the Regional Plan Association. “Repealing this law would finally allow the city to decide for itself how much living space buildings could have and how much new affordable housing should be required on future development sites. This is particularly important as we consider the implications of vacant office space and the opportunity for us to convert offices into residences. Albany needs to act accordingly.”

“Lifting the FAR cap is an important step towards making it more affordable Manhattanparticularly in the borough’s most connected and affluent neighbourhoods,” said Annemarie Gray, chief executive of Open New York. “Every neighborhood has a role to play in solving our housing affordability crisis, but many parts of Manhattan with the best access to jobs and transportation in the country have added little or no housing options over the past decade. Reforming these outdated rules will pave the way for the city to create more affordable opportunities for working-class New Yorkers to live in Manhattan’s most central neighborhoods.”

New York stateFitted cap 12 FAR New York City is a powerful reminder that local control over land use is not sacrosanct,” said Alex Armlovich, senior housing policy analyst at the Niskanen Center. “Zoning is a constitutional power of the state delegated to localities as a revocable privilege, subject to state railings. When Albany imposed FAR 12 preemption on NYC in 1961, it reflected Albany’s judgment that the general welfare of the state as a whole would be served by suppressing growth in the city to encourage suburbanization.

Today’s circumstances are clearly different from 1961: We now face a housing shortage in the city center and need to restore both subway ridership and economic dynamism Manhattan– yet the old state cap on city growth remains. It’s time to update Albany’s long tradition of preemption zoning for the 21st century to encourage economic growth, not stifle it.”

“… new housing in New York is the solution, not the problem.”

“Albany’s hands are tied New York City elected officials to allow higher density housing. Housing only. Only in New York,” said Howard Slatkin, executive director of the Citizens Housing and Planning Council. “Removing archaic restrictions that prevent our elected leaders from responding to our urgent housing shortage should be a no-brainer. It is time for New York State law to recognize that new housing in New York is the solution, not the problem.”

“In the midst of a historic housing and affordability crisis, our government leaders must do everything in their power to increase housing creation throughout New York,” said Brendan Cheney, director of policy and operations at the New York Housing Conference. “The current limit of 12 Floor Area Ratio (FAR) for residences was put in place decades ago to slow the creation of new apartments. It is time for the Governor and the State Legislature to meet and end this obstacle by eliminating the 12 FAR cap on housing in the FY25 budget. Housing density should be determined by zoning, not restrictive and outdated state law.

NYC Housing Crisis: Why the 12 FAR Cap Must Go

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