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Friday, March 24, 2006

The Beginning of Zoning Laws

The first New York City Zoning Resolution was created in 1916 in response to overwhelming development in Lower Manhattan.

Technical restraints that had traditionally limited building height vanished with the introduction of steel beam construction techniques and improved elevators. The Manhattan skyline was beginning to assume its distinctive form. Multifamily residences, particularly in Manhattan, were growing in popularity and new retail districts were springing up to meet new demands. Office space was expanding; by 1900, New York City had become the financial center of the country.

Although the concept of enacting a set of laws to govern land use was revolutionary, the time had come for the city to regulate its physical growth. The huge shadow cast by the 42-story Equitable Building, built in 1915 on lower Broadway, deprived neighboring properties of light and air. Warehouses and factories were intruding into fashionable retail areas on lower Fifth Avenue.

The pioneering 1916 Zoning Resolution, though a relatively simple document, established height and setback controls and separated what were seen as functionally incompatible uses -- such as factories -- from residential neighborhoods. The ordinance became a model for urban communities throughout the United States as other growing cities found that New York's problems were not unique.

But while other cities were adopting the New York model, the model itself refused to stand still. New transportation systems changed land use patterns and created traffic and parking problems never dreamed of in 1916. The Resolution was constantly amended in response to the changing needs of the changing city -- new technology, changes in land use, population shifts and a continuing influx of immigrants who needed housing. The amended Resolution also had to meet the New York State requirement that it be in accordance with a "well-considered plan."

In 1926, the U.S. Supreme Court validated the zoning ordinance of Euclid, Ohio, in the landmark case of Village of Euclid v. Ambler, finding that it rested on a comprehensive plan for maintaining, protecting and upgrading the community. The Court recognized that zoning is an appropriate extension of the community's authority to pass laws related to protecting the public health, safety, morals and general welfare. The historic opinion also contained a far-seeing passage suggesting that zoning must evolve to meet the changing needs of changing times: ". . . the meaning of constitutional guarantees never varies, the scope of their application must expand or contract to meet the new and different conditions which are constantly coming within the field of their operation."

The scope of the 1916 Zoning Resolution did expand greatly to meet the new and different conditions but, after 45 years of rapid changes in the country and the City, it was clear that there was a need for a total reconsideration of zoning in New York City.

The current Zoning Resolution was enacted after lengthy discussion and public debate and took effect in 1961. It coordinated use and bulk regulations and incorporated parking requirements. It introduced the concept of incentive zoning by offering a bonus of extra floor area to encourage developers of office buildings and apartment towers to provide public spaces.

The new Resolution was a flexible document but it also had some shortcomings which surfaced with the experience of time. New approaches have been developed since passage of the 1961 ordinance to deal with some of the problems that have emerged. Many planning tools, including incentive zoning, contextual zoning, waterfront zoning, mixed use zoning, special districts, air-rights transfer and restrictive covenant techniques, have been used to make zoning more responsive and sensitive to the changing needs of New York City and the people who live and work here.

Cities never stand still, nor should zoning.

Taken from a NYC website.

For more information on the history of zoning and its constitutional challenges and practices click here:


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now-how about some realistic zoning laws for a rural environment not copied from big cites.

8:47 AM  
Anonymous Marc said...

Nice to understand how the zoning came about but I support the above comment.City zoning has no place here and hopefully a attempt to copy city zoning will not be considered in a little country town. Some would prefer a patch of wild raspberries and a elderberry tree to street lights and concrete sidewalks any day.

11:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How many junk cars do you see sitting around a home in NYC ?
When are you Sally going to do something about our local problem?

12:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I dont think New York city has acreage, yards, barns, farm tractors or domestic livestock either!Cant compare apples to oranges.

9:11 PM  
Anonymous Sallyann said...

At the last Town board meeting we formed a "Special Committee" consisting of all the board members plus Mary Lentzen and Dave Fuller to develop a "Junk Law Policy" for the Town of Lindley.

11:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Look at any off Broadway street in the city and you will see junk cars if you look, maybe you don't recognize them because they are covered by graffiti and you might think it's art.

9:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lindley has a junk law that was adopted just a few years ago. It has never been enforced except for selective enforcement. Why aren't you enforcing that law?

1:52 PM  
Anonymous Sallyann said...

Local Law #2 Regulating Abandoned, Junk, Inoperative Vehicles went into effect Oct 12, 1993. That is the law the Special Committee will follow to develop the junk "car" part of the Junk Law Policy.

The Special Committee will be following the "Property Maintenance Code of New York State" to develop the junk "property" part of the Junk Law Policy.

There is a difference between a Junk Law and a Junk Law Policy. The laws already exist. We do not need to pass anymore laws. The Special Committee will develop ways to best inform the public about these laws and to enforce them in an equatable manner town wide.

9:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why doesn't someone come up with an incentive award to encourage the offenders to remove their old cars instead of the constant harping on the issue. The want ads have a couple of telephone numbers of someone who will remove junk cars at no cost to the individuals. A reward system seems to make more sense than antagonizing the offenders.
Then again maybe these people have sentimental attachments to their junk cars just as people who have weird sculptures or antique farm machinery in their front yards do..

11:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Whom It May Concern:
If you look in the back of your Verizon telephone book, there are schedules on recycling for the various towns in Steuben and neighboring counties. I didn't see Lindley mentioned. Why don't we get on the ball and copy some of these ideas. The town of Tuscarora does. It might help clean up some of the debrie that people collect.

10:22 AM  
Anonymous Sallyann said...

Regarding the last two comments about recycling and incentives- this is the approach the Special Committee will be taking when they develop the Junk Law Policy. We will be looking at what other towns have done to improve the appearance of their towns. I have a few "models" to refer to from other towns that include incentives, recycling information, grace periods etc. We will also be listening to ideas on junk management from the townspeople. So keep leaving your comments that are helpful.

3:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

check out ads regarding county recycling of electronics
good way to get rid of that stuff

11:39 PM  

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