The Real Deal New York

NYC is mulling a major air rights reform

Community groups criticize process as opaque

October 14, 2016 09:43AM



The administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio is considering a significant change in how property owners can trade air rights, but details remain unclear.

The Department of City Planning recently sent out a survey to community organizations and land use attorneys to get a sense of the changes they would like to see. On Sept. 30, city officials hosted a meeting to discuss some of the proposals and attendees told Crain’s that the de Blasio administration plans to release proposals soon.

A spokesperson for the planning department told Crain’s that the discussions build on a 2015 conference called “Trading High in the Sky.” At the time, planning chair Carl Weisbrod said the city wants to “begin a period of analysis and stakeholder engagement and start to reconsider our current policy and mechanisms for air rights.”

Exact plans remain unclear, but the city could seek changes to the way air rights are traded between private parties. The practice is popular among developers looking to build skyscrapers, but some local advocates have criticize it as being too opaque.

The city could also seek changes in the way landmarked buildings sell air rights. Currently these properties can only sell air rights to neighboring sites, limiting their options.

The Planning Department has also proposed reforms to how air rights could be sold in a rezoned Midtown East and are considering . The department is also looking to increase a levy the city assess on deals in which developers buy air rights from theaters in the Times Square area.

The are currently tens of millions of square feet of unused air rights in the city, according to Crain’s. A New York Post analysis found that the average price per square foot for commercial air rights rose 8 percent in 2015 to $278. Air rights for condos, however, fell from $368 a square foot in 2014 to $322 a square foot last year.  [Crain’s]Konrad Putzier