TO REGULATE THE HEIGHT OF BUILDINGS

TO REGULATE THE HEIGHT OF BUILDINGS.

The bill empowering the Board of Estimate in New York City to limit the height of buildings and to district the city for that purpose, which has been signed by the Mayor, affords possibilities to accomplish much both from fire fighting and sanitary standpoints. Now that aerial trucks equipped with extension ladders up to 85 feet long are in all large departments it is evident that if the height of buildings were limited to only 80 feet it would easily bring fire extinguishment within the working radius of them. This height of building regulation project is one which other American cities have adopted while low buildings in European cities always existed. Milwaukee permits a height of 225 feet and Boston from 80 to 125 feet. There is scarcely a Western European city that does not hold structures below a maximum ranging from 43 feet in Zurich and 65.6 in Paris to 72 in Berlin and 80 in London. At present the sole direct limitation on the height of buildings in New York is one restricting that of apartment and tenement houses to one and one-half times the width of the widest abutting street. The average building height in Manhattan is five stories. One important factor to deal with is that the fire department has to depend on standpipes above 150 feet and is thus handicapped in its work. In Boston, Chicago and Washington regulation is liberal, but practically effective. The chief problems are as to methods of control. As outlined by a recent report to the New York Board of Estimate, restrictions of height may be uniform for all buildings; uniform for each of several classes of buildings; or uniform for a given class in a given district. All cities that have given serious attention to the subject have discovered the necessity for a division into districts, each with its own regulations. An arbitrary limit, uniform for the whole city, may be too inflexible. The objection to mere restriction of class of buildings is that intermingling of classes may defeat regulation. The tendency, as exemplified in cities like Minneapolis, Baltimore, Milwaukee and Los Angeles, is more and more to a classification of industrial, retail and residential districts, each with its own limitations and regulations. If the bill is signed by the Governor and becomes law it can by discreet application be made a valuable aid to the fire department of the city.

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