Council’s land use committee unanimously approves closing favored loophole of skyscraper developers

Committee voted to count voids 25 feet or taller toward the maximum size of a project

May.May 16, 2019 03:10 PM
Rafael Salamanca

New York City Council member Rafael Salamanca

The City Council’s Land Use Committee voted unanimously on Tuesday to tighten New York’s infamous “mechanical voids” loophole, which developers have traditionally used to increase the heights of their buildings.

The committee voted to have mechanical spaces taller than 25 feet count toward the height limits of buildings, and the measure should go for a vote before the full City Council sometime next week, according to Land Use Committee Chair and City Council member Rafael Salamanca.

The change that committee members voted on came from the Department of City Planning. In January, the agency had proposed counting spaces taller than 25 feet toward the maximum building size but then increased this limit to 30 feet following testimony from engineers.

The city’s measure has faced criticism on the left from Assembymember Linda Rosenthal and state Sen. Robert Jackson, who are co-sponsoring a bill in Albany that they claim would tackle the loophole more comprehensively. Their bill would limit void space to no higher than 12 feet per floor after an initial 20 feet and have space for mechanical equipment count toward a building’s height unless it made up less than 5 percent of the property’s total area.

Rosenthal said in a statement that the city’s proposal “would do little more than codify the existing loophole that threatens our entire cityscape. The fight to reclaim our skies and comprehensively close the mechanical void loophole now must move to the state.”

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