Mastering the Metropolis

New York and Zoning, 1916-2016

November 9, 2016 - April 23, 2017

Panoramic view from the Brooklyn Bridge tower circa 1916

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How tall can New York buildings be? How wide? Where can developers build homes, factories, offices, or stores? Where do New Yorkers live, work, and play?

The character of New York’s varied neighborhoods is governed by a novel set of rules first envisioned by New York reformers 100 years ago – the groundbreaking Zoning Resolution of 1916. Zoning, which was designed to tame the unruly process of free-market real estate development, has continued to shape the city we know today in countless, often unseen, ways.

This landmark law gave birth to the iconic “setback” skyscraper and the modern skyline; to special neighborhoods like the Theater District; to public amenities like pedestrian plazas, and to residential neighborhoods of all shapes and sizes. On the 100th anniversary of America’s first comprehensive zoning resolution, Mastering the Metropolis: New York and Zoning, 1916-2016 will examine the effects of the evolving law and chart the history of the city’s zoning rules and debates to the current day, illuminating how the tools of zoning have reflected a century of evolving ideas about what constitutes an “ideal” city.


Kramer Levin, Lindenbaum Family Charitable Trust, New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, Con Edison, Vornado Realty Trust. 

Additional support is provided by: Greenberg Traurig, Tishman Speyer, Bryan Cave LLP, Douglaston Development, Ehrenkranz & Ehrenkranz LLP, General Contractors Association of New York, Goldstein, Hill & West Architects, GoldmanHarris LLC, Harry Maclowe, Jack Resnick & Sons, Inc., Witkoff, Anbau Enterprises, Atlas Capital Group, Ben Kallos, New York City Council, The Durst Organization, Geto & de Milly, Inc., Higgins & Quesebarth, MdeAS Architects, Quinlan Development Group LLC, SJC 33 Owner 2015, LLC, VHB, Acheson Doyle Partners Architects, P.C., Beyer, Blinder, Belle Architects and Planners LLP, Brandon Haw Architecture LLP, Capalino + Company, Carnegie Hill Neighbors, COOKFOX Architects, Cooper Robertson,  David G. Greenfield, New York City Council, Development Consulting Services/Michael Parley, Hines,  Brenda Levin, Mary Ann and Martin J. McLaughlin, Meister Seelig & Fein LLP, Robert A.M. Stern Architects, Robert I. Shapiro, Vidaris/Robert Limandri, Dattner Architects, Ferguson & Shamamian Architects, FXFOWLE Architects, Laurence Gillman/Gillman Consulting Inc., Robert F. Herrmann, Stephen B. Jacobs Group P.C., PAR Plumbing Co. Inc.


Honorary Chair
Carl Weisbrod, Chairman and Commissioner
The City of New York Department of City Planning

Exhibition Co-chairs

Jill N. Lerner, FAIA

Linda Lindenbaum

Michael T. Sillerman


Special thanks to KPF.

The exhibition is presented in memory of Samuel H. Lindenbaum and is co-sponsored by the City of New York Department of City Planning.

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