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Cargo Cult Urbanism


The NYC city council is going to reject a proposed housing project in Manhattan that would replace a parking lot and contain a substantial amount of permanently affordable housing:

A massive redevelopment plan for Harlem’s fabled Lenox Terrace housing complex was unanimously rejected by a City Council subcommittee—signaling doom for the developer’s rezoning proposal in next month’s full City Council vote.

The Olnick Organization, which owns the six, 17-story buildings between 132nd and 135th streets, has proposed an infill project that would add five glassy, 28-story buildings with 1,600 mixed-income apartments—400 of which would be below-market-rate—along with new retail space. In a vote during the Council’s subcommittee hearing on zoning, Harlem Councilmember Bill Perkins said that “basic quality of life concerns have not been addressed” throughout the seven-month long public review process, including construction impacts, shadows cast by the towers, and concerns about open space.

“The proposed plan is not appropriate for this community,” said Perkins. “The 28-story towers are simply too tall.”

The “shadows cast” argument against dense construction is one of the most ridiculous generic excuses used by NIMBYs — it’s a tautology, not an argument. And of course its even more ridiculous in the context of opposing a real estate project in Manhattan.

Michael Sweeney has an excellent thread about the web of utterly irrational assumptions (or pretexts) inherent to this kind of NIMBYism:

There are many problems with the “all the new housing will go to TECH BROS/FINANCE BROS” arguments against new construction, but the most obvious is that you can’t stop people from moving to desirable urban areas for good jobs; you can just ensure that they outbid less affluent people for housing if you don’t expand the supply. This is both theoretically and empirically obvious, and yet nominally left NIMBYism is fundamentally predicated on ignoring it (or pretending to.)


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