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‘A major victory’: Legislature nixes Hochul’s hope to scrap building size cap

BY THE VILLAGE SUN | Developers’ and YIMBYs’ sky-high hopes for unlimited F.A.R. were dealt a blow after the Assembly and state Senate rejected the governor’s proposal to scrap New York’s cap on residential building size.

Governor Hochul had included the proposal in the state budget. However, neither of the state Legislature’s houses included the measure in its own version of the budget.

Hochul’s proposal would have allowed New York City to lift the current limit of 12 F.A.R. (floor area ratio) on the size of new residential developments. For comparison, the 1,000-plus-foot-tall “supertall” towers of Billionaire’s Row on 57th Street in Midtown were built with a residential zoning F.A.R. of just 10.

Village Preservation, which had raised the alarm about Hochul’s stealthy supersizing move, hailed the news.

“This is a major victory in our efforts to prevent adoption of this measure, which would have allowed New York City to upzone areas to well above currently allowable levels, overwhelming infrastructure and creating vastly oversized development,” the organization said.

However, the preservationists warned, “The battle is not over.”

While the Assembly and Senate’s refusal to include the measure in their budget proposals makes the chances of its adoption through the budget process much less likely, it is still possible, the group noted. The governor, Assembly and Senate must still work out a final budget deal by April 1, which involves each side compromising to reconcile their current proposals.

“Eleventh-hour horse trades and backroom deals will be made, and real estate interests have been pushing for this change for years,” Village Preservation cautioned.

“Proponents have falsely claimed this measure is necessary to allow conversions of underutilized office buildings or hotels to residences and to create affordable housing. It is not: Such conversions can take place regardless, and this measure does not require or guarantee a single unit of affordable housing being created.”

The advocacy group predicted that, if the F.A.R. cap is eliminated, “We will likely see upzonings to above 12 F.A.R. for residential neighborhoods that developers have long eyed,” adding, “The recent developer giveaway Soho/Noho/Chinatown rezoning included allowances for up to 12 F.A.R. in all three neighborhoods. If the cap were lifted, no doubt the allowance would have gone even higher.”


  1. Mary Reinholz Mary Reinholz March 17, 2022

    Hochul is an upstate native who needs to get more down to earth about the city of skyscrapers.

    • LES3025 LES3025 March 17, 2022

      If you’re saying the city should be able to set its rules without the state telling it what can’t build, then I agree. But the FAR cap isn’t even about skyscrapers. Buildings with near full-lot coverage (e.g. The Forward building, just to mention one) would hit 12 FAR at like 14-15 floors.

      • Shane C Keena Shane C Keena March 27, 2022

        Those kinds of buildings currently do hit 12 FAR at a relatively equivalent amount of floors. What it’s saying is making more buildings with the same lot coverage, at much higher FAR levels, say 25-35 stories at 100% lot coverage.

        • LES3025 LES3025 March 27, 2022

          Not really sure what point you’re making here, but my point was that a residential building over 12 FAR isn’t necessarily a skyscraper. Lots of buildings would exceed 12 FAR by adding just a few floors, and I don’t think any reasonable person would object to that. It would be irrational for someone to think that The Forward building, again, as an example, is a landmarked treasure at 10 floors but would be an illegal monstrosity if it were just 4 floors taller.

  2. LES3025 LES3025 March 17, 2022

    Something like 35% of landmarked buildings in the city are overbuilt relative to FAR zoning, and many exceed 12 FAR in residential areas. Kind of weird that “preservationists” think so many of our beautiful historic buildings are bad and should be illegal.

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