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Planning Commission seen 'packing the bulk' again.

Industry sources say proposals by the New York City Planning Commission to limit the height of future buildings in an Upper West Side district is a reflection of the agency's desire to provide for shorter, stockier buildings.

"Packing the bulk" is the term that has been used to describe zoning amendmenu that would require the majority of a structure's space to be accomplished before a certain height.

In a city that is best known for its skyscrapers and its views, this is troubling to many.

Limitations on the use of height are among the Planning Commission's ideas for revising the Special Lincoln Square District, which covers the area around Lincoln Center from West 60th Street and West 68th. Sixty percent of a building's floor area would have to be located in the first 150 feet and be built on an 85-foot base and set back from the streetline by 15 to 20 feet. The proposals would create buildings that are between 25 and 30 stories.

Other recommendations include: Reducing the amount of commercial floor area from 10 to 3.4 FAR in as-of-right projects located in the northern and most residential portion of the special district; limiting entertainment uses in the southern and northern part of the district; and requiring developers to improve subway access in the development sites adjacent to the West 66th Street and 59th Street/Columbus Circle.

The proposals were prompted, in part, by the Lincoln Square project, an as-of-right development being built on Broadway between 67th and 68th Streets.

According to the Planning Commission, the building, a development of Millenium Partners and Lincoln Metro Center Partners, will rise 525 feet and have an "oversized" commercial component in an area where buildings built after 1969 are mostly residential and average 350 square feet in height. Created in 1969 to shape development around Lincoln Center, the Special Lincoln Square District did not have a height limit. If the project had' been subject to the approval process, the community and Planning Commission would have presumably opposed the building's height and its impact on traffic.

Richard Schaeffer, chairman of the Planning Commission, in a statement, called Lincoln Square West "an unanticipated and unfortunate building" that pointed out the need for revisions in the zoning code.

In addition to Lincoln Square, the Upper West Side will also have to welcome the creations of the ABC, Trump, Brodsky projects when they are completed.

The effort to cram the majority of a building's allowable space into shorter structures is also evident, sources say, in a number of other studies before the Planning Commission, including tower regulations on the East Side, the comprehensive waterfront plan, future development on Sixth Avenue and the Quality Housing program.

Some believe the push toward more bottom-heavy buildings is simply "anti-New York" and that by not providing for views the city is not realizing the worth of its own real estate.

It is certainly contrary, said Sandy Lindenbaum, Esq., a land use attorney with Rosenman & Colin and an officer of the Real Estate Board of New York, to the "tower in the park concept' that emerged 'from the 1961 zoning resolution using the 38-floor Seagram Building as a model. A creation of architect Mies van der Rohe, the bronze and bronze-glassed building on Park Avenue between 52nd and 53d Streets, he said, was "spectacular urban design."

"For the last 32 years, since 1961, we've been working with that as a concept," said Lindenbaum who is also one of the attorneys who worked on Lincoln Square.

Lindenbaum said the REBNY realizes that some buildings on the East Side were built to a height that caused problems for neighboring smaller structures and that the use and safety of plazas has been criticized. REBNY believes, however, he said, that those issues can be death with in the future without packing the bulk and without eliminating the plaza bonuses.

John D. Van Der Tuin, the attorney with Stults Balber Horton & Slotnik who has represented citizen coalitions in development-related suits, including one against the city over the Coliseum development, said the Planning Commission is obviously hearing the community's cries on height. This may be, however, he said, the proverbial shutting the barn door after the horse has escaped. If you look at a map of the area, he said, you will find that the six potential development sites identified by the Planning Commission comprise a small portion of the district.

The proposals to the Lincoln Square district will have to be considered at public hearings and voted on by the City Council.
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Title Annotation:New York, New York Planning Commission proposes limit on height of future buildings in Upper West Side district
Author:Fitzgerald, Therese
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Jun 9, 1993
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