Using Design Technology to Explore the Implications of the New York City Zoning Amendment for Quality and Affordability

In collaboration with The Center for Urban Real Estate (CURE.) at Columbia University.

Jesse M. Keenan, Luc Wilson, & Mondrian Hsieh


This paper represents a critical methodological and technological advancement in engaging the broader public discourse as to the precise impacts of urban development and associated zoning calibrations. The “Zoning for Quality andAffordability” amendment to the New York City (NYC) zoning code is the first city- wide zoning effort since 1961 (ZQA). The legislative intent of the ZQA is to provide greater flexibility for accommodating economically viable housing production within the context of promoting a wider range of design alternatives that advances both housing and contextual urban quality. The research design is centered on evaluating the spatial distribution and geometric characteristics of lots subject to the ZQA rules across NYC (Macro Analysis), as well to evaluate the daylight access and visibility impacts associated with lots within each of the applicable zoning districts (MicroAnalysis). The Macro Analysis evaluates the extent to which the ZQA is addressing larger development constraints within existing rules relative to underbuilt lots. The Micro Analysis tests the hypothesis that environmental impacts from the ZQA are marginal and are not consistent with a broader public critique of the overwhelming negative impacts of the ZQA. The results of the Macro Analysis support the legislative intent of the ZQA and the results of the Micro Analysis support an affirmation of the hypothesis. To the contrary, a majority of districts are projected to experience positive measured impacts.