422 East 72nd Street

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Pedestrians may be excused for walking past this residential plaza on the south side of East 72nd Street between York and First Avenues. Much of the street frontage is occupied by inaccessible visual residual space, with a granite wall and metal railing at the lot line and plentiful landscaping of ivy, shrubs, and small trees beyond. The only accessible space, the primary space, is located behind metal gates and brick columns and mainly serves as a glass-canopied entry corridor for the building. For members of the public, the salient functional amenity is the polished granite ledge seating that flanks the entry corridor on both sides. The adjacent western wall could benefit from landscaping cover or artwork to improve its appearance.

Photo: Kayden et al. (2000)
Photo: Kayden et al. (2000)

The Zoning Resolution generally discourages “northern plazas” – plazas that face north – because they inherently lack the sunlight received by plazas with southern, eastern, or western exposures. If a zoning lot has frontage with southern, eastern, or western exposure, then it must normally locate the primary space of its residential plaza on that frontage unless the City Planning Commission waives or modifies the requirement. How, then, did this residential plaza locate itself on the zoning lot’s northern exposure when the building sits on a through-block zoning lot with southern exposure frontage on East 71st Street? The answer is that this zoning lot is a split zoning lot, meaning that it is controlled by two zoning districts. Although the R10 zoning district controlling the northern half of the lot allows residential plazas, the R8 district governing the southern half does not. Thus, the owner was not able to place its residential plaza on its southern exposure. Ironically, once an owner is allowed to provide a northern plaza, then the Zoning Resolution is more lenient in terms of required seating and additional amenities than it is for regular residential plazas. After all, the reasoning goes, fewer people will want to sit in a plaza without sunlight.

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