Volume 76, Number 26 | November 15 - 21, 2006

Letters to the editor

Lower the L.E.S. height cap

To The Editor:
Re “At forum, rezoning concerns still high” (news article, Nov. 8):

In your article on Lower East Side rezoning, you quote Arthur Huh of the Department of City Planning defending Planning’s proposed 80-foot height cap: “Our studies indicate this zoning is appropriate for the area,” Huh is quoted as stating.

Planning’s preliminary study employs a “midrise” category of four to seven stories, which comprises most Lower East Side buildings. But this midrise category fails to distinguish four-to-six-story neighborhoods, like the Lower East Side, from seven-story neighborhoods. The city’s category — for the Lower East Side, a systematically misleading category — led to a false justification of 80 feet.

Lower East Side Residents for Responsible Development conducted its own study, “Contextual Height in the Lower East Side North of Houston Street: An Address-by-Address, Lot-by-Lot Survey” (<http://savethelowereastside.blogspot.com/>). We counted the stories of each and every building on all of First Ave., Houston St. and 11th St. in the zoning area. We found that only 3 percent of buildings rise above six stories and 74 percent do not rise above five stories.

On First Ave., 89.6 percent of buildings are five stories or lower. These are mostly pre-old law tenements with relatively low ceilings; 26 percent are only four stories tall. This data cannot justify an 80-foot contextual height for the Lower East Side.

An 80-foot height cap is clearly inappropriate to the Lower East Side context. LESRRD has concluded that a 60-foot height cap (R6-B with a base F.A.R. of 2.0, increasable to 4.0 with a bonus for including affordable housing) better represents the current context of the Lower East Side. A 60-foot height cap will prevent out-of-scale development and the targeting of under-F.A.R. residences for eviction and redevelopment.

LESRRD is confident that as Planning studies the neighborhood more carefully, using finer-grained tools than the rough categories of preliminary study, this conclusion will become clearly evident to them as well.

Rob Hollander
Hollander is director, Lower East Side Residents for Responsible Development

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