Mayor Adams and City Planning Reveal “City of Yes for Economic Opportunity” Zoning Text Amendment to Support Business Development

By , Principal
 
Mayor Adams and City Planning Reveals “City of Yes for Economic Opportunity” Zoning Text Amendment to Support Business Development

On June 14, 2023, Mayor Eric Adams and Department of City Planning Director and City Planning Commission Chair Dan Garodnick announced the “City of Yes for Economic Opportunity” zoning text amendment which includes details on their proposal to foster Economic Development through a variety of zoning tools. The text amendment would create greater flexibility for businesses in commercial and manufacturing zoning districts as well as allow limited commercial expansion in traditionally residential zoning districts.

These zoning rules are intended to provide flexibility for properties and small business owners who are seeking to expand, modernize and adapt to the changing world, while enhancing the local and central business districts’ design guidelines.

“The plan would allow for the largest expansion of space available for small-scale producers like clean manufacturers and microbreweries in 60 years, foster growth for more than 17,000 businesses in industrial areas currently prevented from adding square footage, and eliminate outdated rules that ban dancing in restaurants and venues in commercial zones,” according to the City.

This proposal is expected to enter public review later this fall and will be the second in a series of citywide text amendments being prepared as part of the Mayor’s City of Yes agenda. Zoning for Carbon Neutrality started its public review on April 24th, 2023, and Zoning for Housing Opportunity is slated to move forward in 2024. 

The Economic Opportunity amendment has 18 policy changes that broadly fall into 4 categories: Expand Options for Business to Locate; Support Growing Industries; Foster Vibrant Neighborhoods, and Provide Clarity and Predictability.      

Expand Options for Businesses to Locate

A fundamental principle behind zoning is that the rules are intended to allow compatible uses to flourish together, while separating out uses that would result in conflicts that would impede the vibrance of the areas.  But, the world often evolves at a pace faster than the city can regulate and many restrictions are no longer necessary in today’s climate. The proposed changes in this category will liberalize the zoning to expand where in a building and in which districts a business can locate. Additionally, the city is proposing to create a new flexible job-intensive zoning district. For more specific information see the detailed summary below.

Support Growing Industries

Zoning regulations have been crafted over the last 60 years and often can have unintended consequences on new or growing industries. These businesses, like life sciences and film studios, need modern zoning to match their current and future needs. After examining the rules and regulations around these industries, the city is seeking to encourage their expansion by removing regulatory red-tape and uncertainty generated by outdated rules and ambiguous terms. For more specific information see the detailed summary below.

Foster Vibrant Neighborhoods

The New York City Zoning has numerous rules that are designed to restrict where uses can be located and how they should be designed.  Many of these rules are inconsistent in commercial districts, assume all last-mile deliveries will occur through large vehicles and restrict uses in Residential Districts. Further, these rules do not consider a modern-digital city where the lines between residential and commercial neighborhoods are increasingly blended. The city is proposing several rules, which are designed to activate our residential neighborhoods and commercial corridors.  These proposals include removing restrictions on activating ground floor spaces, creating consistent zoning rules on ground floor design and allowing smaller scale warehouses/wholesale stores. For more specific information see the detailed summary below.

Provide Clarity and Predictability

Finally, the city’s zoning has regulations, which can create confusion for businesses seeking to find a location or expand.  The city proposes to specifically clarify and modernize the city’s Use regulations. Additionally, existing loading berth rules can prevent new uses from being able to occupy vacant space. To make it easier for spaces to be occupied, the city proposes that new uses in existing buildings should not need to provide additional loading berths when there is a change of occupancy. For more specific information see the detailed summary below.

Next Steps

These zoning rules are intended to provide flexibility for properties and small business owners who are seeking to expand, modernize and adapt to the changing world, while enhancing the local and central business districts’ design guidelines.

At Capalino, we will continue to follow the progress of this text amendment as it is drafted and moves to public review in the fall and through the process, which requires both City Planning Commission and City Council approvals. We are also tracking the future Carbon Neutrality and Housing Opportunity text amendments. All three amendments will affect property and building owners.  Let us know how we can be helpful if you would like further information.

Detailed summary of proposed changes

Expand Options for Business to Locate

Support Growing Industries

Foster Vibrant Neighborhoods

Provide Clarity and Predictability

Brian Cook

About the Author

Brian Cook

Brian Cook is a Principal at Capalino and a policy expert with over 18 years’ experience in affordable housing financing, New York City zoning process and policies, and economic development inducements and policies.

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