For the first time in forty years, New York has set in motion a broad-scale initiative to reform its zoning ordinance. The centerpiece – and the dominant topic of discussion in real estate and community board circles alike – is the Unified Bulk Program.

Through the passage of this reform, the city hopes to regain control of its physical destiny. The 1961 zoning reform established a modernistic vision of New York City with hightowers surrounded by park-like open spaces. This vision came to be known as Tower-in-the Park zoning. Soon after its passage, however, planners realized that the sharp contrast between this vision and the city’s predominant built form threatened the character of many of its most desirable neighborhoods. In response, Contextual Zoning requirements established a secondary system of land use regulation. In the years since, the development industry has struggled to meet the demands of a contradictory zoning ordinance, just as planners have struggled to implement it. This goal became increasingly difficult as more amendments were added to correct the design philosophy underlying the ordinance. The Unified Bulk Program represents the final triumph of Contextual Zoning in its long battle with Tower-in-the-Park Zoning.