2005_10_zoning.jpgEditor's note: This is the first entry from Calvin Wong, an aspiring land use attorney, New York native, and Scrabble junkie.

Today’s NY Times examines the difficulty in balancing the City’s need for additional housing units to accommodate an ever-increasing population, and the preservation of low-density contextual neighborhoods that enhance New York City’s charm. Residents, civic groups and politicians in low-density neighborhoods (mostly in the outer boroughs) want to limit the development and redevelopment of their areas. They argue that the City’s existing zoning laws – originally drafted in 1916 and revised in 1961 – envisioned a larger population than presently exist and therefore permit construction of larger structures that are out of context from the surrounding area. The Times describes fears of influx of apartments, additional people, and McMansions. (Gothamist can’t help but picture a giant house shaped chicken McNugget right now.)

In response to the outcries for downzoning, the Department of City Planning has rezoned 42 areas since 2002, and is currently exploring several Lower Density Initiatives – “designed to protect the low-scale, residential character of neighborhoods throughout the City.” While no one doubts the need to preserve low-density areas (Gothamist would hate to see monstrous skyscrapers amidst the low-rise communities we love), you cannot escape one simple effect of additional housing units…Lower rent.