Sunday, July 17, 2016

A Beautiful Use Of Land-Use Law

Every once in a while, even a paper as conservative as the New York Post can appreciate the impact that public policy can have on the private sector.  Like real estate, for example.

This article, which discusses the impact of New York's "setback law" on skyscrapers built in the early part of the last century, illustrates how laws that have an aesthetic aim as well as a quality-of-life aim can also lead to the creation of landmarks that can serve more than one purpose over the course of their lifetimes.  The "setback law," which was designed to prevent New York from becoming a metropolis of monoliths that shut out light, also let to the creation of beautiful office buildings in Lower Manhattan.  Now, those same buildings are becoming luxury residences, with the setback upper floors becoming popular penthouse conversions.

This is just one of many illustrations of how overrated an unregulated economy can be.  Good regulations that thoughtfully respond to the real needs of citizens can often have multiple benefits. And landmarks that are created as a result, and then protected, create a unique sense of destination, something that matters to a city like New York that depends so heavily on tourism and foreign investment.

Sometimes, I think we all need to be reminded that the American Revolution was not a revolution against government, but a revolution against government that didn't serve the needs of the people. The latter is the kind of government we need.  Hopefully, soon, we can begin to work together so that we can have that kind of government again, at all levels.

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