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Urban Juxtaposition: Balancing Heritage and Development through Transfer of Development Rights in New York City Special Districts

Ghoshal, Shreya M.

As a policy tool functioning at the nexus between planning and preservation, Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) was created to alleviate some of the pressure placed on historic structures by market forces. Though not uncontested, planners, preservationists, and developers all believe the use of TDR in Special Districts to be successful for its ability to direct new development across a neighborhood while also protecting architecturally and culturally significant resources. But does this determination hold up to contemporary standards for equitable and sustainable development principles? A critical analysis of the history of planning policy exposes inherent biases that stand counter to contemporary planning goals; a similar investigation of the history of preservation policy reveals a prioritization of aesthetic concerns over wider social goals. Despite the layers of protection built into each Special District policy, and clear intentions to continue their use throughout NYC, they have never undergone a deeper level of analysis beyond economic valuation studies. This thesis bridges multiple disciplines by investigating the intent versus outcomes of TDR in Special Districts through a set of new metrics, employing an evaluative framework based on current planning and preservation discourse. This research consequently suggests that TDR does indeed reconcile preservation and planning aims in a single mechanism but has resulted in lasting socio-spatial consequences that were not anticipated as part of the original policy rationale. Special Districts prioritize real estate and economic development as well as aesthetic considerations over social inclusion and environmental concerns. Ultimately, the evaluation of two New York City case studies, the Theater Subdistrict and the Special West Chelsea District, informs a series of key findings and policy recommendations.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Historic Preservation
Thesis Advisors
Avrami, Erica C.
Degree
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
August 10, 2020