Height Limits on Buildings Approved

DSC_0268Tania Barnes The facade of St. Ann’s church still stands in front of NYU’s 26-story dorm on East 12th Street.

What began with an objection to what critics called outsized development on Third and Fourth Avenues in the East Village culminated today with a unanimous vote by City Council to approve new zoning legislation that will cap development in the area at 120 feet, or roughly 12 stories.

Neighborhood preservation groups, working with Community Board 3 and local elected officials, have been pushing for years to change the height restrictions in the area from practically unlimited to something they believe is more in keeping with the neighborhood’s character. Supporters say the new legislation will also give developers in the area more incentives to put up residential buildings (including affordable housing), rather than more dorms and hotels.

The effort to limit heights on buildings in the area gained momentum in recent years after a preservation group, St. Ann’s Committee, unsuccessfully sought to prevent the St. Ann church on East 12th Street from being demolished. A 26-story NYU dorm was completed on the church site in 2005. The facade of the church still stands alongside the new construction.

“I wish it had happened a few years earlier,” Elizabeth Langwith, one of the founders of St. Ann’s Committee, said of the new measure in a telephone interview. “But I am very pleased.”

Councilwoman Rosie Mendez said in an e-mail message, “I am thrilled that the City Council has approved this measure. We have eliminated the incentive to build out of scale dormitories and replaced it with an incentive to build height-restricted affordable housing.”

You can learn more about the law’s provisions, which go into effect immediately, here.