Theses Master's

Neighborhood Rezonings and Historic Preservation In New York City

Bayers, Whitney N.

This thesis critically examines how historic preservation and heritage resources are considered in the process of large-scale neighborhood rezonings in New York City. In particular, this research addresses the ongoing city-led effort to identify and rezone fifteen neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs as part of Housing New York, an initiative that began in 2014 with the stated goal to create or preserve 300,000 units affordable housing within 10 years.

Each of the rezonings began with an extensive neighborhood planning process that aimed to engage the community to achieve more equitable outcomes. While this approach is more constructive than the planning initiatives of the mid-twentieth century (such as urban renewal), the process is not fully accounting for the positive impacts historic preservation can have within the communities it seeks to improve.

In neighborhoods that expressed concerns over the loss of important cultural resources, few formal measures were put in place to protect them. In East New York, Brooklyn, where a zoning amendment was approved in 2016, only one property was designated as a landmark as a result of the rezoning process, despite community assertions that the area contained dozens of potentially-eligible historic resources. The Manhattan neighborhoods of East Harlem and Inwood fared similarly when they were rezoned in 2017 and 2018.

This thesis examines the first five neighborhoods rezoned under Housing New York to both document and better understand the process by which these rezonings are undertaken. Interviews with key stakeholders, including city officials and local preservationists provided insight regarding preservation concerns that existed in the neighborhood prior to the rezoning, whether and how those concerns were addressed, and what outcomes were for the community. The purpose of this thesis is to draw attention to a gap in the process and make recommendations for change that are more inclusive of heritage resources.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Historic Preservation
Thesis Advisors
Clark, Carol A.
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
June 24, 2019