The New York City Council has passed an amendment to the zoning resolution that eliminates a developer's ability to utilize so-called mechanical voids to increase the height of residential buildings; specifically, voids taller than 25 feet now count toward a building's allowable floor area. The amendment pertains to residential or mixed-use towers in non-contextual R9 and R10 residential districts and their equivalent commercial districts. For example, under the new regulations, a contiguous mechanical floor or floors totaling 132 feet in height would count as five floors of floor area (132ft/25ft = 5.28, rounded to the closest whole number, equals 5). The amendment applies only to mechanical voids located below residential floor area and does not impact mechanical penthouses found at the top of buildings.
This change to the zoning resolution was approved after months of debate and is anticipated as only the beginning of continued legislation focused on mechanical voids. The New York State Legislature has its own proposal to address mechanical voids. New York State Assembly Bill A05026 and New York State Senate Bill S3820A propose to limit mechanical void space further via an amendment to the Multiple Dwelling Law. While these bills are still in committee, the issue of mechanical voids continues to be debated at both the city and state levels.