“For years, this has been an issue that the City of New York has failed to address,” said State Senator Tony Avella.
The state senator is referring to people who buy a semi-attached rowhouse, tear it down and build something out of context with the neighboring homes.
“It’s the same semi-attached house on one side, and then you have this monstrosity next to it,” said Avella. “The only thing the owner can do is sell it to someone who wants to do the same thing.”
The issue is that the zoning classification for row houses – R3-2 - generally allows for much greater density than what currently exists. Avella said as neighborhoods across the borough and city get downzoned, developers are looking for ways to maximize density.
“As we’ve changed the zoning, developers are looking for any loophole they can find,” he said.
Avella wants to the city to give adjoining homeowners some rights over what is attached to their home. It could be through a new zoning classification, or it could work through legislation Avella has proposed in Albany to create architectural districts, which is stricter than zoning but not quite as strict as landmarking.
Under the legislation, any new construction in neighborhoods that are part of an architectural district would have to conform to the existing architecture, which could include row houses.
“If you're building a row house, it should be built with the other row houses going straight down the street,” said Frank Toner, president of the Rocky Hill Civic Association. “These new homes are completely out of character.”