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100 Years Ago Today: The City of New York Adopts its First Zoning Code

On July 25, 1916, New York adopted its first Zoning Resolution, for the first time regulating the height, size and arrangement of buildings in the city.
July 25, 2016, 2pm PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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New York City Planning Commission

"Urban lore says that the massive Equitable Building at 120 Broadway in Lower Manhattan — a 40-story extrusion of a whole city block, unrelieved by setbacks and capable of housing 16,000 workers at once — was responsible for the enactment 100 years ago, on July 25, 1916, of New York City’s first Zoning Resolution," according to the introduction of a commemorative post by David W. Dunlap.

"But while the completion of the building in 1915 added fuel, the fire was already burning. New York, it had been agreed for some time, was spinning out of control."

The article goes into more details about the political climate that created the foundation on which George McAeny and Edward M. Bassett would build the 1916 Zoning Resolution.

The article also includes details of exactly what regulations the resolution imposed: "Under its rules, buildings in strictly residential zones were permitted to rise only as high as the streets in front of them were wide; a ratio of one to one, put another way. (Side streets in Manhattan are typically 60 feet wide.)"

"Also visible on the maps are “1¼” zones, “1½” zones, “2” zones and, in Lower Manhattan, a “2½” zone, where buildings could rise without setback for two and a half times the width of the street that they fronted," adds Dunlap.

The article includes quotes from Carl Weisbrod, the current director of the City Planning Department and the chairman of the City Planning Commission, who talks about the many revolutionary acts of the 1916 Resolution.

The American Institute of Architects' New York chapter is also commemorating the city's zoning code with a website called [email protected], featuring essays and news about events connected to the 100th anniversary of the zoning code.

[Postcard depicting the Equitable Building in Manhattan, designed by Ernest R. Graham. Image via Shutterstock]

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Published on Monday, July 25, 2016 in The New York Times
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