Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

July 3, 2014

Accidental Skyline

By David Reiss

This is the second great web resource for land use geeks that I have seen within the last week. The Municipal Arts Society has launched Accidental Skyline. MAS describes it as follows:  “Too often, New Yorkers are caught off guard by new development in their neighborhoods. The Accidental Skyline offers tools to help demystify the city planning process and bring the public into the conversation.”

Accidental Skyline shows “where new development could occur across New York City – allowing New Yorkers to assess how their neighborhoods could be impacted. These maps add to a body of work available on this site, including The Accidental Skyline, presentations and media coverage. Additional reports will highlight how other cities are responding to these challenges.”

MAS created Accidental Skyline

in response to the super-tall towers rising along the southern border of Central Park. For the most part, these buildings are being built as-of-right, without public or environmental review. When completed, they will cast new shadows on the park and change views of the city. While MAS’s work started in response to the buildings near Central Park, the issue is one that increasingly concerns neighborhoods across the city. Many New Yorkers feel left out of the planning process and are unaware of development proposals until shovels hit the ground.

MAS has four main goals for Accidental Skyline:

  1. Ensure robust civic engagement as the city develops and grows
  2. Bring greater transparency to the city’s planning process
  3. Highlight the impacts of development on NYC neighborhoods, including parks, open space, infrastructure and the skyline
  4. Secure policy and regulatory changes that protect the city’s vital open spaces and create a better balance between benefits received by private developers and impact on the public realm

This is a great resource for all New Yorkers, both those who favor preservation and those who favor development. It is also a useful tool to rely upon as New York embarks on its ambitious affordable housing plan. The housing plan will certainly require increased density in certain parts of the city and Accidental Skyline can help us develop that skyline with some intentionality.

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