Proposed legislation to remove NY’s Floor Area Ratio zoning cap

April 12, 2024

The Honorable Brian Kavanagh
New York State Senate
1250 Broadway, Room 2011
New York, NY 10007

Via mail and email:

Re: Opposition to proposed legislation to remove New York’s Floor Area Ratio cap

Dear Senator Kavanagh:

I’m writing on behalf of the Lower East Side Preservation Initiative – LESPI – to strongly oppose the current proposal to remove the existing state-wide residential Floor Area Ratio cap that is now before the state legislature. 

As I outlined in my testimony on this subject last year (attached for your reference), this legislation, if enacted, would encourage the construction of super tall or taller buildings, resulting in a developer frenzy that will seriously degrade the quality of life for current New Yorkers, by depriving us of light and air, creating massive wind tunnels, and destroying or overwhelming our historic buildings and streetscapes. 

A December 30, 2023 opinion piece in the New York Times by Vishaan Chakrabarti, “How to Make Room for One Million New Yorkers,” outlines how the city could greatly increase its housing stock without building sky-high towers on every block. He shows that there is so much unbuilt area within the five boroughs that if developers utilized these lots and built to the existing FAR, enough new homes would be built “to house more than 1.3 million New Yorkers — without radically changing the character of the city’s neighborhoods or altering its historic districts.” 

The proposed legislation would encourage a crush of super-tall luxury buildings that would in many cases supplant existing rent stabilized tenants and mom-and-pop retail, who would be forced out at a much higher rate than what we see today. “Trickle down” affordable housing development has never made a dent in our city’s affordable housing crisis, and should not be expected to in the future. The last thing we need is yet more pied-a-terres and empty-apartment LLC investments.

LESPI supports building smart affordable housing that respects the surrounding neighborhood and  its current residents and shops, respects our historic buildings and streetscapes, and adheres to a sensible and sensitive approach to urban planning. This is the common-sense way to tackle our affordable housing crisis that benefits existing residents, newcomers, and visitors alike. Thank you for your consideration.


Richard D. Moses

[Similar letters were sent to New York State Assemblymembers Harvey Epstein, Deborah Glick and Grace Lee].