People v. Regulations

There was another good piece in the Times today by Michael Kimmelman: this one about the conflict between the embedded priorities of New York City’s building, zoning, and occupancy regulations and the people who require the city’s living space. The crux of the story focuses on the mismatch between housing that is oriented toward nuclear families, and the much more diverse array of households that make up the city. The piece starts with an architectural profile of a new S.R.O. on Bronx Park East, in Pelham Parkway, and describes how permits for such buildings are now relegated to special uses; it then spins off into a discussion about the potential to create smaller, cheaper, and more individualized living spaces on modest canvases of urban land: all good points.

I lived in an old S.R.O., briefly, when I was 18-19, and going to school in the Village. Based on that experience, and the deprivation of light, space, and privacy that it entailed, I’m not sure that the return of the old S.R.O. model to the urban marketplace would be ideal. But the basic concept certainly provides a starting point for land-use efficient housing, and illustrates the creative building traditions that have been stifled by the homogeneous dictates of post-Euclid regulations, even in America’s large east-coast cities.