The Daily Dirt: Taking a closer look at the sliver law

Analysis of New York’s top real estate news

211 Madison Avenue (Google Maps)
211 Madison Avenue (Google Maps)

This slim building, and others like it, were the product of zoning lot mergers.

For some, towers like the 32-story Morgan Court at 211 Madison Avenue were a thing of nightmares. In fact, the building was featured prominently in the 1993 thriller “Sliver.” 

I can’t vouch for the movie (it is not rated well on Rotten Tomatoes) nor the book on which the film is based. But I can talk about the obviously more exciting zoning resolution that sought to stop such “sliver buildings” from being constructed. 

Since 1983, the city has restricted the height of buildings in certain districts if the lot’s width is less than 45 feet. The change to the zoning resolution at that time was in response to a 1977 amendment that allowed air rights to be transferred to adjacent development sites, which led to the creation of tall and skinny towers on narrow sites. 

Rosenberg & Estis’ Frank Chaney explains the history and impact of the so-called sliver law in this Linkedin essay, “The Sliver Law Must Die.”  

The law firm conducted a study citywide to see how many sites would potentially benefit from the repeal of the sliver law and found that it would pave the way up to 65 million square feet of development and 95,000 housing units.

City Hall is listening: The Adams administration is considering changing the rule, including its repeal, as part of a broader zoning text amendment that also includes changes to encourage office-to-residential conversions, according to sources familiar with the matter. 

What we’re thinking about: Will the new Airbnb rules drive up hotel costs in NYC? Send a note to

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A thing we’ve learned: China has its own Orange County. In the early aughts, Chinese developer Zhang Bo teamed up with architects and designers from Newport Beach architect and Orange County designers for a development modeled after American-style townhomes and estates, as found in Orange County, Calif. Thank you to Alexis Manrodt for passing this along!  

Elsewhere in New York…

Saugerties is testing the limits of the Freedom of Information Law. The town board is considering a proposal to reject any public records requests and appeals pertaining to resignations in the town or village of Saugerties, the Times Union reports. The move comes after the retirement of Police Chief Joseph Sinagra, who left amid an investigation into sexual assault and harassment allegations against an officer and into how the department handled the situation.

— Mayor Eric Adams has drawn the ire of progressives for his comments on Wednesday night about the influx of asylum seekers, Gothamist reports. “I’m gonna tell you something, New Yorkers, never in my life have I had a problem that I didn’t see an ending to. I don’t see an ending to this,” Adams said during a town hall. “This issue will destroy New York City. Destroy New York City.” Republican lawmakers have praised the mayor for his comments. 

— The city’s Administration for Children’s Services agreed to settle a discrimination lawsuit brought by a mother whose newborn child was taken away from her after she tested positive for cannabis even though it was legal, the New York Daily News. The city agreed to pay $75,000 to Chanetto Rivers. 

Closing Time

Residential: The priciest residential closing Thursday was $23.5 million for a townhouse at 58 Bank Street in the West Village.

Commercial: The most expensive commercial closing of the day was $6.6 million for a four-unit, five-story building at 11 West 74th Street on the Upper West Side.

New to the Market: The priciest residence to hit the market Thursday was a 16-room house in Lenox Hill asking $43 million. Brown Harris Stevens has the listing.