There are a host of regulatory barriers to construction. The brawl in Brooklyn over shortening the Atlantic Yards tower shows how effective community groups can be in limiting height and the supply of homes. As these community groups have grown since the 1970s, the heights of new residential buildings in Manhattan have plummeted.
First, the main tower--Frank Gehry's 620-foot "Miss Brooklyn"--has not been shortened, though even Borough President Marty Markowitz, a project supporter, wants it reduced. Second, it's 16 towers, not just one. Third, and most importantly, the main reason community groups are arguing about height and density is because this project is not subject to city zoning, as it's proceeding under the auspices of the Empire State Development Corporation.
The Hudson Yards process
Here are the paragraphs from the Hudson Yards press release mentioned by the commenter below:
Under the agreement, the Hudson Yards Development Corporation (HYDC), a City-created local development corporation, will work with a variety of stakeholders – including community groups and the public – to prepare within six months a statement of planning and design guidelines for the Western Rail Yards, located between 11th and 12th Avenues and between 30th and 33rd Streets. The guidelines will include specifics on key elements of development such as permissible uses and densities. Guidelines already exist for the Eastern Rail Yards, located between 10th and 11th Avenues and between 30th and 33rd Streets, as a result of the Hudson Yards rezoning approved by the City Council in January of 2005.
The MTA will prepare and issue a request-for-proposals (RFP) reflecting these guidelines within two months after their completion. The MTA will complete the evaluation of responses within three months after the release of the RFP, for either or both of the Eastern Rail Yards and the Western Rail Yards. A selection committee, the majority of which will be representatives of the MTA and which will include two representatives chosen by the City, will then select winning responses within 45 days. Any disposition (sale or lease) will be subject to the approval of the MTA Board. In addition, the MTA has agreed that the development on the Western Rail Yards envisioned by the City-MTA agreement will be subject to the City’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) including appropriate environmental review.