400 Height Limit Proposal (C1-9X)

In recent years, the Upper East Side has seen the development of several high-rise buildings that are not in scale or architecturally sympathetic to our neighborhood’s existing built character. In the early 1980’s the Upper East Side was rezoned, allowing higher density development on the avenues within a contextual building envelope that had specific street-wall requirements and height limits. However, advances in high-rise building construction, higher floor-to-floor heights, the use of as-of-right zoning lot mergers to transfer unused development rights to generate more floor area on development sites, and BSA zoning variances have produced unforeseen consequences and challenges to our community’s underlying zoning regulations.

The question now about the development of our neighborhood avenues is: How tall is too tall?

In 2016, CIVITAS retained Buckhurst Fish Jacquemart Planning (BFJ) to develop a comprehensive zoning framework for our avenues that would support future building envelopes that complement the Upper East Side’s built fabric and scale. BFJ analyzed the existing zoning regulations, and studied high-rise buildings that are being developed out-of-context with the surrounding neighborhood; their findings were discussed at a CIVITAS- sponsored town hall meeting this year. BFJ concluded that a new C1-9X zoning district would be the best way to limit overall building height on the avenues.  The proposed C1-9X district is a new high-density district that would allow residential, retail, and community facility uses.  The C1-9X district would allow development up to 10.0 FAR (as currently allowed), and restrict all new avenue buildings to a maximum 400-foot height, inclusive of all bonuses, mechanical equipment, and other features. This would create predictable building heights on the avenues, and preserve the existing viewshed and sunlight for the mid-block brownstones.  This new zoning designation is proposed to replace all C1-9 zoning districts on the Upper East Side, north of 65th Street. This proposal supports new development, including mixed-income housing, retail use and community facilities that support and address our community’s immediate and long-term needs.  We look forward to your input and support of our proposal.

FULL REPORT: C1-9X Zoning Analysis: Recommendations for a new C1-9X Contextual Zone for the Upper East Side

Proposed C1-9X Recommendations

The goal of the report is to offer an alternative to the C1-9 designation that could be applied to avenues in the Upper East Side. This alternative would preserve the prevailing street wall while limiting out of context building heights. These goals could be achieved through creation of a C1-9X contextual zone with two simple, straightforward constraints that are reflective of the particular context on the Upper East Side:

1. Height Limit: 400;
2. If Quality Housing is chose, set back at 60′-85′, not 125′-150′.

These recommendations would preserve each of the development alternatives under existing zoning, with two additional provisions. The C1-9X development alternatives, with these two recommended changes are displayed below:


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