New York City supertalls Photo: Giulian Frisoni/Flickr

The New York City Council is considering a bill that would analyze the impact of shadows caused by new construction, specifically with regard to in-progress supertall buildings.

Intro. 737, proposed by Councilman Mark Levine, would require the Parks Department to create a task force to study the effect of shadows cast on public parks by construction of nearby buildings, and to make recommendations to the City on how to “mitigate the negative consequences of park shadows.”

In his opening remarks, Levine spoke of the “staggering” heights of the new construction in the 57th Street corridor. Six buildings will be over 1,000 feet tall, including Nordstrom Tower, which will be 1,775 feet. Levine said that models of the shadows these supertalls will cast show that “vast stretches of the park will be covered in shade during much of the day and through much of the year.” The new shadows will be so long they may reach all the way to the Great Lawn and Central Park Zoo, among other popular locales.

“Parks need sunlight to thrive. And people need sunlight in parks,” said Levine. He says that the city’s grid means that many New Yorkers get very little sunlight and need the park’s sunlight for their physical well-being. He also notes that in winter, “air temperatures inside of building shadows can drop by as much as 20 degrees.”

The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) previously addressed the criticism of supertalls based on the shadows they will cast. In October they held a roundtable discussion with an architect, zoning consultant, architectural historian, environmental scientist and an urban planner to discuss the issue.

Its report noted that height and setback requirements in current zoning rules already prevent the possibility of a “wall of towers.” REBNY also says that the latest towers will not have a significant impact on light at Central Park. Because the buildings have slim profiles, their shadows will move quickly across the park “similar to a sun dial…In contrast, shorter, squatter buildings cast shadows in a particular location for a longer period of time along the east, west and south perimeter of the park.”

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