Document Type

Thesis, Senior




Spring 2019


zoning resolutions, skyscrapers, 'Landmark Improvement Zone', New York City, air rights program






Today’s New York City skyline has been developed as a result of over a century of zoning resolutions and changes. Zoning code were first established in 1916 to regulate the building of skyscrapers. These resolutions act as “harm preventing” 1 measure to provide limits, meaning the zone prevents extremities in building dimensions to have some control. However, today’s skyscrapers are built higher and higher through exploits and loopholes. The transfer of development rights from adjacent lots or landmarks allows developers to break regulations. It also allows structures to reach unexpected heights to the most recent zoning resolution in 1961 . In a densely populated city a high number of taller and slimmer towers, zoning codes should balance developers’ benefits and community requests. Developers all over the city are taking advantage of this air rights program, but the landmarks nestled within the landscape of modern structures lie a large development resource untouched. An approach towards zoning resolutions not as “harm preventing” but as “benefit creating” 1 can begin with planned zoning code responses to landmarks. In a congested city, a community request for more open/green space falls short. Midtown East Rezoning addresses both the landmarks unused development rights and push for new office redevelopment. To allow for office development, transfer of development rights is as-of-right from a large pool of unused landmark square footage. Unused development right sales contribute not only to the building of larger skyscrapers but also transit and city improvements. The new proposal, “Landmark Improvement Zone,” aims to use the rezoning area and create a balance between the needs of developers and community requests. This project focuses on air right sales as a platform to contribute to improving the city landscape around landmarks. The city is tethered to the concept of air rights only for developers. By observing zoning modifications over the last century, the design of a new addition to the zoning code for a “Landmark Improvement Zone” learns from the community and developers to create new coding regulations. For a new open space typology, the improvement zone aims for a “benefit creating” 1 enterprise. This proposal aims to maintain landmark’s condition to continue providing a break for a congested city. Alterations to New York City’s zoning in an effort to create a new open space typology around landmarks aims to meet community desires not satisfied by the rezoning. This new direction will rely on adjusting the existing zoning framework to create a new open space typology that increases the quality of life and control building scales acknowledge the presence of landmarks.

Additional Information

Thesis Advisors:

Abingo Wu

Lori Brown

Matthew Celmer


Local Input

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.

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