Our Current Initiatives

Welcome to our most recent documents, testimonies, and announcements. Additionally, our current initiatives can be found below as well.

Second Avenue Subway

Avalon Bay

  • In 2017, Avalon Bay Developers proposed an out of context 710-foot residential tower on the Marx Brothers Playground site.
  • CIVITAS, along with Carnegie Hill Neighbors, Municipal Arts Society, Friends of the Upper East Side Historic District, Mr. Diego Barberena and Mr. C. Edward Harrison, filed a lawsuit to protect parks that are also used by schools in the City of New York.
  • CIVITAS believes that parks do not have development rights and Marx Brothers Joint Operated Playground is a public park per state statute. CIVITAS has contacted the Governor and State Parks Commissioner regarding the legal status of Marx Brothers Playground.
  • The City of New York includes Joint Operated Playgrounds in their calculations of the total number of parks and acres of parks citywide.
  • CIVITAS believes that the developer misrepresented the park’s status during the public review process. This resulted in an illegal transfer of development rights from the park to the building.
  • This precedent will place more than 250 playgrounds at risk across NYC.
  • CIVITAS has a longstanding advocacy record of fighting over development, out of context development, access to public parks, and transparency to the public.

Overdevelopment on the Upper East Side

Recently, CIVITAS has seen new out-of-context buildings being developed in both C1-9 and C1-9A districts due to a variety of loopholes and interpretations that do not protect residents and their neighborhoods. Many of these loopholes are the result of judgement or interpretations of the code that may vary from the original intent. The only solution that will permanently control the maximum height of buildings is a height cap.

In 2016, CIVITAS retained Buckhurst Fish Jacquemart (BFJ) Planning to develop zoning recommendations that would modify current laws by limiting overall building heights while protecting developers rights to build C1-9 (R-10 equivalent) density. BFJ analyzed the existing zoning code and new buildings that are being developed out of context. They concluded that a new modified C1-9 zoning district (C1-9X) would be the best way to limit overall building heights and therefore protect the character of adjacent mid-block residential neighborhoods.

A C1-9X designation would restrict all new buildings to a maximum 400-foot height limit inclusive of all bonuses, mechanical equipment, and other features. This new zoning designation is being proposed to replace all C1-9 zoning districts in the Upper East Side north of 65th St. This new zoning designation would also be available to other communities across the city that desire to limit overall building heights.

CIVITAS continues to advocate for predictable contextual zoning that supports mixed uses along the avenues and protects the mid-block streets from over-development. This differentiation between zoning districts along the avenues vs streets protects the neighborhood’s historic residential characteristics while allowing neighborhood retail to be located nearby. The proposed C1-9X zoning designation would preserve the neighborhood’s building character and allow for new re-development. A 400-foot height cap in our C1-9X proposal will allow all current development rights to be utilized while placing a limit on the total height of new buildings

On June 6th, 2018 CIVITAS organized a Land Use Forum. Below is the presentation from and a recording of the event.


If you would like to learn more about CIVITAS’  C1-9X Proposal, the link is provided:

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


Council Member Kallos Overdevelopment Forum

On June 14th, CIVITAS presented at Council Member Kallos Overdevelopment Forum along with MAS, East River Fifties Alliance, Manhattan Community Board 8 and Friends of the UES Historic Districts.

East Harlem Rezoning

Read Our Comments to the Department of City Planning on 8/22/17

CIVITAS supports aspects of the Department of City Planning’s (DCP) proposed East Harlem rezoning, including amendments that facilitate affordable housing and transit oriented development. However, this plan does not take many of the suggestions from the earlier East Harlem Neighborhood plan into account. The heights and densities proposed along East Harlem’s major economic corridors are out of proportion from the historical norm, and under this plan much of East Harlem would remain without mandatory affordable housing requirements in new construction. Read our full thoughts below:

CIVITAS Testimony to City Planning Council

CIVITAS advocates for efficient and accessible subways and buses, and safe pedestrian conditions to access transit and neighborhood amenities.

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CIVITAS supports uncluttered sidewalks, healthy street trees, and vibrant retail activity at street level.

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CIVITAS makes recommendations for clean air initiatives, access to healthy food, and environmentally sound development.

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CIVITAS promotes urban planning, zoning and land use policies that are sensible and sensitive to residential life in our neighborhoods.

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CIVITAS advocates for the landmarking of sites with historical, cultural or aesthetic value.

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CIVITAS proudly advocates for a holistic redevelopment of the East River Esplanade. Our vision plan takes both community and environmental concerns into account at the highest levels.

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