Remote Sense

Jack Dangermond is the founder and president of Esri, a geographic information system software company approaching $6 billion in assets since its formation in 1969.

The technology to watch systems deteriorate and thrive at the local, regional and global level of observation is available. Jack illustrates the power of geospatial data in a mere six minutes. Still, the solution offered is frustration personified, but only if the tragedy of the commons moves from the pasture to the planet. or the alternative (here) “let’s all work together” is realistic.

Without a doubt, he expresses a powerful sense of urgency. It is worrisome, but Jack sees how geography has a way of combining the self-interest found at every doorstep with the regional thresholds of common interest and, after that, the hope of a global capacity to manage change.

The technological capacity to combine orbiting remote sensing tools and the somewhat ominous ability to predict land/ocean uses as they change is astounding. In addition, Esri’s interest in supporting open source business and pubic agency planning and development data is comforting.

With regular programming and artificial intelligence mapping and analysis, Jack calls upon all people and organizations to the geospatial platform. He sees it as a central tool for understanding local, regional, and global conditions as one with the power to improve planning, policy- and decision-making on the ground in every “layer” imaginable.

Do you or your organization use a GIS system for making decisions in an area of public interest? Examples are housing, public safety, air, and water quality, tenant organizing, public markets, food deserts — you get the idea.

If you are unfamiliar with this resource, consider opening a public account where information is made freely available by ESRI with the help of local, regional, and national organizations. Have a look (here)

An example from a member of The Report is available for review (here).

    Please Respond

    New York Colleges and Universities

    There are nearly one-half-million students of higher education and over 1.1 million students in the NYC public education system. A resource of enormous power given 1) affordability and 2) focus on priorities of the city through scholarships and education incentives. These institutions have an enormous stake in the health, housing, and general welfare of New York City people.

    2,5732014Barnard College
    18,0902014Baruch College
    3,7722010Berkeley College Midtown NYC Campus
    11,1572010Bronx Community College
    17,4102015Brooklyn College
    1,2702016Columbia Business School
    1,2442020Columbia Law School
    31,4552020Columbia University
    8,8462017Fashion Institute of Technology
    15,2862015Fordham University
    7,0782011Hostos Community College
    23,0182013Hunter College
    15,0002014John Jay College of Criminal Justice
    15,9682016Kingsborough Community College
    17,5692010LaGuardia Community College
    12,0002019Lehman College (CUNY)
    3,8832013Manhattan College
    12,0632019Manhattan Community College
    5,5192020Medgar Evers College
    17,2822016New York City College of Technology
    51,1232018New York University
    6792010NYU Grossman School of Medicine
    1,3952015NYU School of Law
    12,8432015Pace University
    5,8542015Parsons School of Design | The New School
    4,5562014Pratt Institute
    19,5202016Queens College, City University of New York
    15,4932015Queensborough Community College
    4,2012017School of Visual Arts
    20,4482014St John’s University Queens Campus
    5,8372011St. Joseph’s College New York
    1,8912010SUNY Maritime College
    16,1612012The City College of New York
    8762015The Cooper Union
    9392016The Juilliard School
    10,2542014The New School
    6,3482014Yeshiva University
    8,5112015York College

    Help in finding the faculty that combine housing, climate and social justice would be helpful here.

    Thanks for the contributions to date: OCCUPY

    Earth’s Fifty!

    No doubt that urbanization has been a messy business. The rapid pace of development over the last couple of centuries has led directly to life-threatening conditions in a rush to mechanize every aspect of life. People were packed into camps to harvest forests of wood, mountains of granite, and every available mineral with trade value. For thousands of years, absolute command over the environment has been the central organizing force, from tribes roaming the prairies for fruits, grains, and meat to the construction of massive urban towers to sustain these endeavors across the globe. I am therefore comforted with the knowledge that it has only been fifty years since we noticed the mess and began efforts to make improvements.

    Whenever infection has taken a life, it did it wherever people gather. In strict epidemiological terms, the more significant the diversity of people in a natural gathering area, the more likely the subtle protections of the human immune system will protect all. Concerning human medical history, this is relatively new data. Today, more people know the biology of DNA finds all humans to be identical. They are learning that physical differences are unique, beautiful, even exciting but fundamentally meaningless.  In just the last few decades, this knowledge is filtering an entirely new value system into American culture and mostly in urban areas.

    There is no stable connection between urban areas and coronavirus impacts. What is significant is how cities manage an infection with compact actions and resource preparedness. Dense cities such as Hong Kong, Seoul, Singapore, and Berlin have contained COVID-19 very well. Where greater preparedness is needed, suburban cities such as Detroit, Michigan, Macon, Georgia, and New Orleans, Louisiana, suffer right alongside dense areas like New York City with a similar impact. 

    In past attempts to solve urban social problems, the focus has been on eliminating inhumane physical conditions, it also had a tendency to place blame on people trapped in them. The effort to uproot the causes of their plight and poverty was intellectually criminal because good people did little on the larger issue. The failure to criticize the social and economic order as a principle reason continues to this day. It was fully expressed by the inhumanity of two world wars. The enormous successes of the nonviolent anti-war revolution for civil rights through the end of the 20th century reveal the courage of ordinary people. It also exposed an increasingly reactionary American culture due to the mere tinkerings from the top down on the edges of greatly needed reform.

    Only recently, has relief from the view of urban life as unhealthy begun to fade. Hundreds of new and exhilarating urban places found expression in cities like New York throughout the country. For decades the history of urban success builds on the city’s capacity to identify and resolve the causes of potential disorder. These causes can be intense or subtle actions, but all are well-studied and tightly defined by deeply funded social science institutions and economists. Leadership and the flow of information in urban areas through interagency communication efforts allow course corrections and rapid policy changes in response to community demand. While many of the city’s top leaders have been taught hard lessons over the years, they remain well served by the deep structure of nonprofit city-wide and community-based institutions throughout the city. Without this structure, the distribution of essential resources during a city-wide emergency of any kind would be impossible to deploy.

    The deep structure of urban governance produces trust in its diagnostic capacity for defining problems and then acting to get solutions. The city has taken its lessons in neighborhood economic disinvestment to create new kinds of banking institutions. Other social innovations help purge deterioration in rental housing before it spreads or in the case of the city’s public housing stock expose the failure of city and federal commitments in exquisite detail. Most recently, the city has focused on the depth of its communications resources to slow the spread of a pandemic with efficiency. Holes in its safety net are recognized with laser-like first responder precision and with this exposure repaired with the substantial institutional depth the city can muster.

    Public institutions produce solutions to attacks on the quality of life by helping us to understand in highly sophisticated ways how and why we attack one another. The lessons through decades of urban crisis at various levels of impact continue to reveal the need to prevent and respond dramatically to the “tragedy of the commons” problems. The shared commons of the city are easily recognized by residents as our public health, education, open space, and transportation systems.  On this point, there are futures all dense urban areas must carefully evaluate in the aftermath of every crisis.

    Public Health and Education

    There is no doubt, improvements in human health and education systems occur by fully defining the health concerns produced by commonly used environments. With this responsibility, a deepening in our common understanding of the issues depends enormously on the quality of public education. Today the practice of investment in health and education is grounded in policies to eliminate inequality and build better pathways to equity. We know as an undisputed fact this eliminates a long list of the health and economic disparities in life for all people. We have benefited from previous generations who also demanded reform with a noble cause. Nevertheless, we also know that many of the actions for transformation failed by forcing displacement and rehousing few. In the last fifty years of the 20th century, attempts to demolish homes, cultures, and the economies of entire neighborhoods produced a valuable urban institutional resistance defined by two words, “never again,” but as political leaders (as all of us) admitted to errors and vulnerability, the entire city learned to accept a new kind of strength.

    Public Infrastructure

    Parks, open spaces, and transportation networks of the urban public realm are assets of the reform movements and business interests of previous generations. The so-called ‘lungs of the city,’ expressed by an extensive park system, and tree-lined streets are also like the city transportation infrastructure. Neither is a static or unchanging system, and both desperately need to improve as a safe, seamless, and unfragmented component of urban life. The well-tended park reminds us of the self-cleaning capacity of nature, the same role for mass transit can occur with the same principles of self-protection.

    The Way Forward

    The COVID-19 crisis offers many opportunities for reflection on the importance of national moral leadership and responsiveness, but there are more pressing issues. First, this recent crisis brings to the world a second major challenge to the quality of life on earth. Second, the vast landscape of human knowledge is at our fingertips. Third, this should make us all reasonably pleased, and this is why.

    The science of geology states with confidence that the earth is about halfway through its 18 to 20 billion-year life cycle. For all the analysis of all the other “x-ologies,” we value; this alone should give people good reasons to take a deep breath and reflect.

    New pathways for the growth of humanity in cities we are building all over the earth for the next few thousand years are here today, waiting for continuous improvements. Long waterfront parks will expand urban resilience as each reaches to extend its pleasures in an unfragmented, linked urban park system from the hills of the wilderness into the valleys of every neighborhood. All the massive structures constructed by our forebearers for public education and health await reinvestment and re-invention as centers for learning. We can make them all cleaner, brighter, and more beautiful than ever before. We will move with confidence onto the swift, super-clean, and revitalized mass-transit system for access to these exciting new resources. Every crisis tells us just one thing. We have more work to do.

    Know the following things:

    It Is too late for sustainable development because the public discourse has difficulty with subtle, conditional messages so realize that.

    1. Growth advocates change the justification for their paradigm rather than changing the paradigm itself.
    2. The global system is now far above its carrying capacity.
    3. We act as if technological change can substitute for social change.
    4. The time horizon of our current system is too short.

    This is why the term resilience is now used more often than not.  The main changes are upon us and Dennis Meadows who say the above is right.  It is time to invest in resilience.

    The estimates for a stabilized and sustainable world called for about 3% of the world’s GDP.  Resilience will cost more than that, but now there is no choice.

    Special Districts

    Table Of Prompts
    1. Special Atlantic Avenue District (Brooklyn)
    2. Special Battery Park City District (Manhattan)
    3. Special Bay Ridge District (Brooklyn)
    4. Special City Island District (the Bronx)
    5. Special Clinton District (Manhattan)
    6. Special Coney Island Mixed-Use District (Brooklyn)
    7. Special Franklin Street Mixed Use District (Brooklyn)
    8. Special Fulton Mall District (Brooklyn)
    9. Special Garment Center District (Manhattan)
    10. Special Grand Concourse District (the Bronx)
    11. Special Greenwich Street Development District (Manhattan)
    12. Special Hillsides Preservation District (Staten Island)
    13. Special Hunters Point Mixed-Use District (Queens)
    14. The Special Court Square Subdistrict
    15. The Special Jacob K. Javits Convention Center District
    16. Special Limited Commercial District (Manhattan)
    17. Special Little Italy District (Manhattan)
    18. Special Madison Avenue Preservation District (Manhattan)
    19. Special Manhattan Bridge District
    20. Special Manhattan Landing Development District
    21. Special Midtown District (Manhattan)
    22. Special Natural Area District (the Bronx, Queens, Staten Island)
    23. Special Northside Mixed Use District (Brooklyn)
    24. Special Ocean Parkway District (Brooklyn)
    25. Special Park Improvement District (Manhattan)
    26. Special Planned Community Preservation District (the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens)
    27. Special Scenic View District (Brooklyn)
    28. Special Sheepshead Bay District (Brooklyn)
    29. Special South Richmond Development District (Staten Island)
    30. Special South Street Seaport District (Manhattan)
    31. Special Transit Land Use District (Manhattan)
    32. Special Union Square District (Manhattan)
    33. Special United Nations Development District (Manhattan)

    Following is a review of the Special District language. The view is expressed in the Department of City Planning’s Zoning Handbook. The advent (the hope) of contextual zoning has reduced the demand for special district formation (e.g. Clinton type protection is between the lines of this policy) and thereby raises the bar for the status of “special” in the zoning text.

    The closest special district player in Washington Heights is made special by the alleged need to build a 7-story deep bathtub in Manhattanville and then go up 10 to 15 stories to serve Columbia’s interest in a 21st c. campus. It is not likely that CD 12 will need to protect itself (as in Clinton) or promote this form of specialness, as in the “blue zone” approach. To give it a try the following is offered as a method for discovering the language or precedents that may prove helpful in determining a course of action on this theme.

    Prior to the passage of contextual zoning, the most widely used affirmative zoning technique was special district zoning. This technique permits areas with unique characteristics to flourish rather than be overwhelmed by standard development. Over the years, the City Planning Commission has codified a large number of special zoning districts to achieve specific planning and urban design objectives for limited, well-defined areas. Each district stipulates requirements and/or provides zoning incentives for developers who provide the specific urban qualities the Commission looks to promote in that area. It has proven itself to be a lawful way of using private capital to carry out public policy, but not without its challenges.

    Special Atlantic Avenue District (Brooklyn)

    The Special Atlantic Avenue District was created to preserve the scale and character of Atlantic Avenue, including certain architectural features of the buildings. The special district provides flexibility in arranging building bulk, mandates street-level commercial uses and establishes design guidelines for renovation and new construction. Demolition of buildings is prohibited in the district except in the case of unsafe buildings, or to make way for a new development for which a building permit and financial commitments have been secured. To improve the visual character of the avenue, special sign regulations are imposed for commercial establishments.

    Special Battery Park City District (Manhattan)

    The Special Battery Park City District was created to govern extensive residential and commercial development in an area close to the business core of Lower Manhattan in accordance with a master plan for Battery Park City.

    The centerpiece of the master plan is the office complex. To the north and south of this complex are two large residential neighborhoods with street-level retail uses. One major element of the plan is a continuous esplanade providing public access to the Hudson River waterfront. The district contains special design controls with respect to floor area ratio, required building walls and permissible building height.

    Special Bay Ridge District (Brooklyn)

    The Special Bay Ridge District was established to protect the existing scale and character of the Bay Ridge community. The special district distinguishes the scale of development in the midblock from that on the avenue frontage. The midblock street zone encourages two- and three-family homes with a maximum height of three stories. The Avenue Zone encourages the rehabilitation of existing structures and limits new development to a six- to eight-story maximum. Special setbacks, curb cuts, open space, tree planting, and ground floor commercial requirements have been included to preserve the character of the existing street wall both along the avenues and side streets.

    Special City Island District (the Bronx)

    The Special City Island District was adopted to preserve the nautical uses and low-rise residential character of City Island. The special district regulations restrict the size and illumination of business signs, limit building heights to three- to five stories, and ensure adequate parking. The only commercial and manufacturing use permitted are those which reflect the nautical flavor of the island or serve the retail needs of the residents.

    Special Clinton District (Manhattan)

    The Special Clinton District in Manhattan was created to preserve and strengthen the residential character of the community, maintain the mixture of income groups present in the area and ensure that Clinton is not adversely affected by new development.

    Special Coney Island Mixed-Use District (Brooklyn)

    The Special Coney Island Mixed-Use District was established to stabilize residential development while protecting the area’s industrial base. The district allows limited new residential infill and requires special permits for large new industrial developments. Existing residential buildings are allowed enlargements, alterations, and repairs, and construction of new residential buildings is allowed if the buildings are next to an existing residential or community facility use. New manufacturing is limited to certain light industries compatible with residential uses.

    Special Franklin Street Mixed Use District (Brooklyn)

    The Special Franklin Street Mixed-Use District was established to achieve a balance between residential and industrial uses by remapping the area from an M1-1 district to an R6 (M1-1) district. The district allows residential and community facility uses according to R6 district regulations. All existing industrial uses may expand by 3,000 square feet, or 50 percent, whichever is less. A larger expansion may be granted by a special permit from the City Planning Commission.

    A new user group, Use Group M, has been established which allows light industries and commercial uses in Use Groups 6, 7, 9, and 11 to occupy vacant storefronts.

    Special Fulton Mall District (Brooklyn)

    The Special Fulton Mall District in Downtown Brooklyn was established to create an attractive shopping environment as part of a city street mall plan. Special retail use, sign, facade and circulation improvement regulations are provided. A special assessment district has been created, through state legislation, to maintain the mall.

    Vehicular traffic (except buses) is prohibited within the mall. Major public amenities required within the district include improved transit access, street furniture, street lighting, tree planting, and special treatment of the sidewalks and roadbeds.

    Special Garment Center District (Manhattan)

    The Special Garment Center District was created to maintain the viability of apparel production in selected mid blocks in the city’s Garment Center by creating a Preservation Area within which the conversion of manufacturing space to office use is restricted. Conversion to office use in the Preservation Area is permitted only by certification of the City Planning Commission that an equal amount of comparable floor area has been preserved for specified manufacturing uses. The legality of this special district is currently being litigated.

    Special Grand Concourse District (the Bronx)

    The Special Grand Concourse District was created to protect the distinctive art deco composition and scale of the Grand Concourse by establishing bulk and design regulations and limiting commercial uses to designated locations that will not conflict with the boulevard’s traditional residential character. The district consists of a Residential Preservation Area and three commercial sub-areas. New construction must conform to R8X (Alternate 1) guidelines.

    Special Greenwich Street Development District (Manhattan)

    The Special Greenwich Street Development District was established to foster and promote the orderly expansion of commercial development in an area of Lower Manhattan adjacent to Battery Park City and the World Trade Center.

    This district attempts to implement an integrated plan for improved pedestrian and vehicular circulation and to encourage the development of a variety of retail and service establishments to meet the needs of the area’s working population. This is accomplished through a series of pedestrian circulation improvements and certain lot improvements in the district for which floor area bonuses are offered.

    Some unique features of this district are its provisions for involving both the developer and appropriate public agencies in the construction of certain pedestrian circulation improvements.

    Special Hillsides Preservation District (Staten Island)

    The purpose of the Special Hillsides Preservation District is to preserve the hilly terrain and unique natural features of Staten Island by reducing hillside erosion, landslides, and excessive stormwater runoff. The primary concept for regulating development under this special district is the slope coverage approach: as the development site becomes steeper, the permitted building coverage decreases, but the permissible floor area on the site remains the same.

    Special Hunters Point Mixed-Use District (Queens)

    The Special Hunters Point Mixed Use District was created to permit limited as-of-right status for the enlargement/alteration of existing residential buildings and for new infill residential construction. All residential and community facility uses are subject to R5 district regulations. In some cases, a special permit is required for certain residential and community facility uses. New manufacturing and commercial uses, or enlargement of existing buildings containing such uses, are allowed as-of-right as long as these developments or enlargements contain no residential uses and do not cause significant adverse environmental impacts. Such new developments or enlargements must meet M1 district performance standards.

    The Special Court Square Subdistrict

    The Special Court Square Subdistrict has been created within this special district to encourage high-density commercial development in an area well-served by the subway system.
    Special Jacob K. Javits Convention Center District (Manhattan)

    The Special Jacob K. Javits Convention Center District

    The Special Jacob K. Javits Convention Center District was established to enhance the pedestrian configuration and appearance of the area surrounding the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. It is intended to promote new development compatible with the Convention Center by mandating street walls, and streetscape improvements that supplement the underlying zoning district regulations.

    Pedestrian circulation improvements consist of landscaped sidewalk widenings and through-block walkways, street trees, and retail frontage along Eleventh Avenue. Height and setback regulations govern all new buildings along Eleventh Avenue, the streets surrounding the Convention Center Plaza, and the through block walkways. Mandated street wall setbacks and sky exposure planes regulate the distribution of building bulk to define the public spaces on which they front and frame the edges of the Plaza.

    Special Limited Commercial District (Manhattan)

    The Special Limited Commercial District attempts to preserve the character of commercial areas within historic districts by restricting commercial uses to those uses compatible with the historic district, and by mandating that all commercial uses be in completely enclosed buildings. In addition, limitations are also set for the size and illumination of signs within the special district. One such special district has been mapped in Greenwich Village.

    Special Little Italy District (Manhattan)

    The Special Little Italy District was established to preserve and enhance the historic and commercial character of this community. Special use regulations protect the retail area along Mulberry Street. Other regulations encourage residential rehabilitation and new development on a scale consistent with existing buildings, discourage the demolition of noteworthy buildings, and increase the number of street trees in the area.

    Special Madison Avenue Preservation District (Manhattan)

    The Special Madison Avenue Preservation District is intended to preserve and reinforce the unique character of Madison Avenue and the surrounding area (from 61st to 96th streets). Bulk and street wall height provisions limit the height of new development to the scale of existing buildings, require a continuous building facade along Madison Avenue, mandate continuous ground floor development of a selected list of appropriate shops, and require the provision of usable recreation space at rooftop levels. Within this district the maximum permissible floor area ratio is 10.0. Since building height is limited, greater building coverage is allowed.

    Special Manhattan Bridge District

    The Special Manhattan Bridge District was established to preserve the residential character of this Lower Manhattan community, to minimize residential relocation on development sites, and to provide for selective demolition and rehabilitation of existing buildings. A special floor area bonus is allowed for the provision of new community facility space and/or dwelling units for low- and moderate-income families. Within this district it is possible to transfer development rights from a site containing existing buildings to a new development. The district mandates that street trees be planted in connection with a new development. Unless renewed, this district was designed to “lapse” on September 1, 1991. Have to update this, any of you all have a line on this…

    Special Manhattan Landing Development District

    The Special Manhattan Landing Development District guides off-shore development from Battery Park to the Manhattan Bridge along the East River. This district is under review.

    Special Midtown District (Manhattan)

    The Special Midtown District was established to guide all development within the midtown central business district. The special district includes three areas of special concern that are subject to additional regulations. These sub-districts are: the TheatreSubdistrict, the PreservationSubdistrict and the Fifth AvenueSubdistrict.

    The Special Midtown District has a base FAR of 15.0 along avenue frontages and an FAR of 12.0 in the mid-blocks. The base FAR in the Preservation Subdistrict is 8.0 in order to restrict development on the side streets surrounding the Museum of Modern Art. The base FAR of the Theatre Subdistrict core (on Broadway and Seventh Avenue frontages around Times Square) is set at 14.0 FAR, the FAR in the mid-blocks between Sixth and Seventh Avenues is set at 12.0 and the FAR in the mid-blocks between Broadway and Eighth Avenue is 10.0.

    The core of the Theatre Subdistrict has the highest concentration of legitimate theaters and entertainment-related uses. The Theatre Subdistrict requires a City Planning Commission special permit for demolition of any of the 44 legitimate theaters that are not designated landmarks.

    The Theatre Subdistrict has a special use and signage requirements (in keeping with the character of the area). A flexible development rights transfer provision has been established for the preservation of landmark theaters. In the Theatre Subdistrict, a new building above a certain size must reserve at least five percent of its floor space (not FAR) for entertainment and theater-related uses. Areas located outside the Preservation Subdistrict and the Theatre Subdistrict are eligible for an as-of-right FAR bonus for urban plazas, through-block galleries, and theater retention. The only bonus available in the Theatre Subdistrict core is the City Planning Commission special permit bonus for rehabilitation of listed theaters. The Preservation Subdistrict is not eligible for any floor area bonus. Other remaining areas can receive a floor area bonus for subway station improvements and for rehabilitation of theaters.

    Certain urban design features, such as continuity of street wall and retail uses, off-street relocation of existing subway stairs, and provision of on-site pedestrian circulation spaces are mandated. The special district also includes certain use and signage controls for the Fifth Avenue and Theatre Sub-districts. Special daylight evaluation criteria are included to ensure the availability of light and air on midtown streets. The Special Midtown District represents a shift away from discretionary zoning to more predictable, as-of-right development.

    Special Natural Area District (the Bronx, Queens, Staten Island)

    The purpose of the Special Natural Area District is to preserve unique natural characteristics, such as aquatic, biologic, geologic, and topographic features having ecological and conservation values, by reviewing all new developments and site alterations on primarily vacant land. Natural features are protected by limiting modifications in topography, by preserving tree, plant, and marine life, and natural watercourses, and by requiring clustered development to maximize the preservation of natural features.

    Under the regulations of the special district, the City Planning Commission must certify that all new development in mapped natural area districts meets applicable preservation standards.
    Special natural area districts have been mapped in the Greenbelt and Von Briesen Park areas of Staten Island, in Riverdale, and in Fort Totten. These areas are endowed with steep slopes, rock outcrops, creeks, and a variety of botanic environments.

    Special Northside Mixed Use District (Brooklyn)

    This mixed-use district is designed to meet the needs of a neighborhood where housing and industry co-exist. The City Planning Commission selectively mapped mixed-use areas — R(M) when the area is primarily residential and M(R) when it is industrial — to allow controlled residential or light manufacturing expansion where such uses can grow and function without conflict. This and the Coney Island district were the forerunners of MX (I know I worked on them).

    R(M) and M(R) districts combine the regulations for R6 and M1 areas. In an M(R) district, manufacturing uses are permitted to develop in the same manner as in any other M1 district. Existing residences may be enlarged and new residential construction is permitted as-of-right on blocks that are already primarily residential. New residential construction is permitted on certain other sites after approval of a special permit by the City Planning Commission.

    In an R(M) district, residential uses are permitted to develop in the same manner as in any other R6 district. Limited expansion of selected light industries that do not conflict with residential uses is permitted. Other industries become non-conforming and are allowed to remain but not to expand. New industrial development requires a special permit from the Commission.

    Special Ocean Parkway District (Brooklyn)

    The purpose of the Special Ocean Parkway District is to strengthen the existing character and quality of the community and to enhance the scenic landmark designation of Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn. All new community facility developments or enlargements are limited, except by special permission, to the residential bulk regulations of the underlying districts. All developments with frontage on Ocean Parkway are required to provide a 30-foot unobstructed front yard, subject to limitations on paving and landscaping, thereby preserving the character envisioned by the original designer of the parkway. Accessory off-street parking for all new developments must be completely enclosed and all new developments along Ocean Parkway are required to provide street trees. Isn’t that special…

    Special Park Improvement District (Manhattan)

    The Special Park Improvement District was created to preserve the character and architectural quality of Fifth and Park Avenues. It limits the height of new buildings to 210 feet or 19 stories, whichever is less, and mandates street wall continuity.

    Special Planned Community Preservation District (the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens)

    The Special Planned Community Preservation District designation protects the unique character of well-planned communities that have been developed as a unit. Those communities characteristically have large landscaped open spaces and a superior relationship of buildings, open spaces, commercial uses, and pedestrian and vehicular circulation. In many cases, they have been threatened by development pressures. No demolition, new development, enlargement, or alteration of landscaping or topography is permitted within the district except by special permit of the City Planning Commission. Preservation districts have been mapped in Sunnyside Gardens, Fresh Meadows, Parkchester, and Harlem River Houses.

    Special Scenic View District (Brooklyn)

    The Special Scenic View District is intended to prevent obstruction of outstanding scenic views as seen from a public park, esplanade or mapped public place. No buildings or structures are allowed to penetrate a scenic view plane except by a special permit of the City Planning Commission. To protect the waterfront view of the Lower Manhattan skyline, Governors Island, the Statue of Liberty, and the Brooklyn Bridge, a special scenic view district has been mapped for the area west of the Brooklyn Heights Esplanade.

    Special Sheepshead Bay District (Brooklyn)

    The Special Sheepshead Bay District was devised to encourage development that will strengthen and protect the neighborhood’s unique waterfront recreation and commercial character. In the area immediately north of the fishing fleet wharves, commercial uses are restricted to uses that support waterfront and tourist-related activities.

    All new development along Emmons Avenue must provide widened sidewalks, street trees, and plazas which may contain sitting areas, landscaping, kiosks, and cafes. Floor area bonuses are provided for plazas, arcades, usable residential open space, and additional accessory commercial parking. Special density and height limits have been established. This district is under review.

    Special South Richmond Development District (Staten Island)

    The Special South Richmond Development District was established to guide the development of predominantly vacant land in the southern half of Staten Island. The special district maintains the densities established by the underlying zones and ensures that new development is compatible with existing communities.

    To maintain the existing community character, the district mandates tree preservation, planting requirements, controls on changes to the topography, height limits, and setback and curb cut restrictions along railroads and certain roads. It restricts construction within designated open space (a defined network of open space set aside for preservation in its natural state). To preserve designated open space without penalizing the owners of such space, owners are permitted to transfer development rights from the designated open space to the balance of their property. A topographic survey and a report on the availability of public services must be submitted by the developer as a prerequisite to any application for development. A performance bond must also be provided to assure continued maintenance and improvement of public open space.

    Special South Street Seaport District (Manhattan)

    The purpose of the Special South Street Seaport District is to facilitate the preservation and restoration of the seaport’s historic buildings in accordance with an approved development plan. The low scale of the seaport is retained by transferring development rights above the low buildings to specified neighboring locations for commercial development.

    Special Transit Land Use District (Manhattan)

    The Special Transit Land Use District relates development along Second Avenue to a future subway line. The special district requires builders of developments adjoining subway stations to reserve space in their projects, by providing an easement, for public access to the subway or other subway-related use. The resulting new subway entrances and mezzanines would be airy, attractive, and functional instead of sidewalk obstructions that impede pedestrian circulation. The district is mapped at locations between Chatham Square and East 126th Street

    Special Union Square District (Manhattan)

    The Special Union Square District was established to revitalize the area around Union Square by encouraging mixed-use development. Its urban design provisions are designed to provide compatibility between new development, existing buildings, and Union Square Park. The district mandates ground floor retail uses, off-street relocation of subway stairs, and the continuity of street walls. Special streetscape and signage controls enhance the physical appearance of the district Within this district a floor area ratio bonus for subway improvements are available by special permit of the City Planning Commission.

    Special United Nations Development District (Manhattan)

    The Special United Nations Development District attempts to guide the development of the midtown area adjacent to the United Nations. A major feature of the district regulations is a unified design concept. The basic floor area ratio for the district was increased from 10.0 to 15.0 to promote special public amenities needed in the area and to implement the development plan.

    Catastrophic Resolution

    Good for the City in Small Pieces

    “Some years ago, and a year or so after the 9/11 disaster, I was standing near a conversation at a town hall session, when a constituent decried failing systems in service to the simple act of voting – long lines, ill-trained, confused poll workers, broken machines, deplorable participation rates, falling registrations, and so on.  The Senator, politely nodding, said, “Little will happen on any of these issues until voting breaks down completely. Only if that happens can action with money be taken, in the meantime…” when the constituent interrupted and said, “But Senator, all the dots are in a row here,” it was like being slapped.”

    Rex L. Curry

    The policy of catastrophic resolution is supported as a congressional decision-making model. It trickles as policy all the way to cities. In New York City, as an example, the policy is to wait until the water main breaks. “It is the only way to find them to fix them.” claimed the officials with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) at the time.

    While reasonable in one sense, it has become a disease of denial regarding the value of prevention. Today, a variety of life-denying systems within the western economies are held by self-styled anthropophagus-like altruists whose logic would destroy the village to save it and govern at an “arm’s length” with the help of psychopaths they put into public offices. They are not the oligarchs of old that hold the spoils of war. In their worlds, surrounded by the obsequious kindness of others, I believe many of them do not know what they do or have done to damage the future. The clutch of sycophants in their spheres quietly whisper in a gaggle of insistence, saying there is no need for decisive action on the unprovable loss of a single species or global breakdowns in seasonal patterns that bring fire, drought, and thunderous waves from a rising global ocean or the searing heat across ever-widening dry plains. The policy of “no need without undeniable insistence” must not occur.  There is a need for revolution, and I think I know where it might begin.

    The synergy of dense urban living appears to create or at least support the rise of conditions that prevent damage to future generations as it defines and solves problems squarely ahead. It can be sloppy. However, most of the cycles of sloppiness are short, cover small geographic areas because only parts of the systems that glue the city together fail at any one time. A city in constates of repair is a city with powerful expertise. When an ancient, wood water main breaks, a sewer fails, a gas line leaks and an electric power loss occurs, only a few people are affected and only for short periods because of compacity. A word that describes many people nearby that know exactly what to do or how to get it done.

    ConEdisons Outage Map shows the number of customers affected by location.
    New York City’s “Outage Map” by Consolidated Edison
    illustrates outages for 3.5 million customers by location.

    If you are in a dense area you can experience compacity (the feeling of density) by taking a walk for fifteen to twenty minutes in a reasonably straight line, make four right turns to get back where you started, and you have probably walked a square mile. On average, you have enclosed 30,000 to 80,000 people, miles of road, and thousands of homes. If you are in New York City, you may have come across multiple subway stations, several hundred commercial retail, institutional service, and public facilities such as schools, police, and fire stations. All in a little over a one-hour walk. Amazing.

    The central and overriding responsibility of political leaders and public and private service agencies is to assist in the readiness of people to respond to problems of any kind or any sort. They should know and understand this capacity as it represents the beating heart of NYC’s future. In every one of these square mile enclosures in any one of hundreds of neighborhoods, the capacity for positive change is undeniable. Still, it needs to be taught as a practical matter of citizenship, of what to do or not when the need for help is immediate or anticipated like the tide.

    If or when a city’s potential for positive change or the need for occasionally rapid response is denied or obstructed, it is readily recognized as a conflict against humanity in the place where it occurs. The origins of the forces behind these life-defining conflicts may begin as “person-against -person,-nature, -self, -society, -technology or the raw unknown. These are not the elements of fictional narratives. They represent the day-to-day experiences of regular people. They produce these occurrences of conflict with relish in all things, from the simple exchange over the price of bread for currency to a course in high-school algebra for a grade. They are all things wrought by the compacity of urban life that are continuous and in many ways unrelenting.

    In many places throughout the city, your walk would have included observing a highly diverse population. You would have heard many voices speaking combinations of familiar and unfamiliar words. Your opportunity within this environment to purchase and consume your requirement for protein or clothing, a laugh, or a smile is easily acquired. Your business is appreciated. A twenty to thirty-minute train ride will take you to some of the world’s finest hospitals and universities or airports and trains to see far-off places. All of these little break-downs and celebrations renew the place and the person.