Monday, May 15, 2006

How Big Is It Now?

Image from nytimes.com

On the Brian Lehrer Show this morning, Jim Stuckey claimed that the FAR of the project is “roughly” 8, and it didn’t sound right. The FAR, or Floor Area Ratio, is a measure of density, calculated by dividing the building area by the site area. The higher the FAR, the more dense the project. And this “roughly 8” is OK, he said, because it is built over 22 acres, a very significant amount of land, as opposed to a smaller site. Why is a higher FAR more acceptable on a larger site than it is on a smaller site? Because the designer has the opportunity to leave more open space? But on this larger site, the “open space”, still so far below city guidelines, includes the streets. So the area that would normally be open streets, providing light and air and views, is now counted as “project open space”, AND added to the denominator of the FAR calculation. Outside of the street area taken from the public, there is no significant open space.

And what about this FAR figure? Once again, lets do the math. The project now is 8.66 million sf, according to the recent
press releases. If you think that the streets are part of the site, and the site is 22 acres (958,320 sf), then the FAR is 8,660,000 divided by 958,320, or 9.0, not “roughly” 8. This is using the developer’s own figures. Why did Mr. Stuckey say 8? To be 8, a project on a real 22 acre site would have to be only 8 x 958,320 = 7,666,560 sf, which is one million sf smaller. Is that their intention? Moreover, as we’ve previously discussed, the site for the purposes of FAR, which is to compare similar sites across the city, should not include the areas that are existing streets. Because other sites across the city do not include existing streets. We’ve shown that the existing site, without the streets, is more like 825,320 sf.

8,700,000 divided by 825,000 is 10.5. So the real FAR, for comparing it to other sites, big or small, is not at all close to 8, it’s roughly 10.5. And this is not counting the fact that an arena occupies a good part of the site, so the FAR on the remaining site is significantly greater. (Note to developer: is our math correct? Are the site dimensions correct? Please provide a dimensioned site plan, and we’ll confirm.).

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