The New-New York: Upzoning Neighborhoods in the Era of Bloomberg

Urban Planning Thesis

Max Podemski

Robert Beauregard, advisor

In lieu of comprehensive planning, New York City uses zoning as its primary planning tool. Under the leadership of Mayor Michael Bloomberg zoning has been utilized on a massive scale to fundamentally alter the physical makeup of the city. Since his tenure began in 2002, 18% of the city has been rezoned. The rezoning has coincided with a large amount of private real estate development transforming former industrial areas and working class neighborhoods into mixed-use centers.  However, zoning is limited in that it constrains the height and bulk of a structure but does not determine how it should further contribute to a community. This study analyzed the physical ramifications of the upzoning policy in order to determine whether new types of residential building typologies have emerged. Through GIS analysis and fieldwork the neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Greenpoint in Brooklyn, where over 100 new residential buildings have been constructed since 2005, were selected as the study area. The new buildings built on upzoned lots in this area were grouped into seven distinct typologies. The majority of these structures fail basic design standards showing that another level of planning is needed to help produce successful new urban neighborhoods.