Reports & Studies

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.

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In furtherance of CIVITAS’s Reimagining the Waterfront initiative, we are pleased to announce a new community-based vision for the John Finley Walk section of the East River Esplanade (81st-84th Streets). During May and June, CIVITAS, with support from Council Member Ben Kallos, facilitated two visioning sessions for community residents to solicit priorities for possible improvements to this section of the Esplanade. Residents of buildings facing John Finley Walk filled out an extensive survey that enabled CIVITAS to collect data and statistically measure how the neighborhood would like to see improvements implemented.

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In May 2014, Mayor de Blasio released his plan ‘Housing New York,’ a five-borough ten-year plan to preserve and expand affordable housing. Key components of this plan include protecting current housing stock, preserving 120,000 units of existing housing, investing in strong neighborhoods by planning with communities, and creating 80,000 new affordable housing units. To achieve these goals, the Department of City Planning (DCP) proposed three initiatives: Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA), Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and Neighborhood Studies.

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The East and Harlem River Esplanade Waterfront Park is an under-appreciated asset for passive and active recreation. While CIVITAS is pursuing work to improve the Esplanade both south of Gracie Mansion and north of 125th Street, its focus has been on a stretch of the Esplanade from 90th to 125th Streets that has been severely under-maintained. At the same time, with the completion of the first phase of the Second Avenue subway and the prospect for the second phase extending to 125th Street, the growing population east of Lexington Avenue could benefit from an improved waterfront.

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In Winter 2011 CIVITAS, with the assistance of the Capstone consulting program at the NYU Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, administered a Community Engagement Survey of the Upper East Side and East Harlem neighborhoods.  The purpose of the survey was to evaluate community needs within the areas that CIVITAS addresses through its work:  land use planning and zoning, transportation, environmental quality and streetscapes.

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Access to the river esplanade for the residents of East Harlem is sparse, difficult, and even dangerous. Randall’s Island, which for land use purposes is deemed part of East Harlem, is being developed as a first-class sports and recreation facility. Yet there is no access to Randall’s Island from East Harlem north of 102nd Street. (That narrow pedestrian bridge actually lands in Ward’s Island).

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CIVITAS participated actively in the work of the multi-agency task force, led by the Department of City Planning and the New York City Economic Development Corporation, which is planning the revitalization of 125th Street,

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