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City of Yes: New NYC Zoning Amendments for Growth and Sustainability

On June 1, 2022, three citywide zoning amendments were announced that could remove limitations and encourage new building and alteration uses in neighborhoods which previously would have banned them.

According to New York City Mayor Eric Adams, “We are going to turn New York into a ‘City of Yes’ — yes in my backyard, yes on my block, yes in my neighborhood. These proposals focused on economic recovery, affordable housing, and sustainability will remove red tape for small businesses, expand housing opportunities in every neighborhood, and accelerate the transition to our energy future.”

The three amendments under the “City of Yes” plan are as follows.

Zoning for Economic Opportunity

Aiming to increase flexibility for local businesses to repurpose their space, this amendment promises to:

  • “Remove unnecessary geographic limitations on certain businesses, including life sciences, custom manufacturing, maker-retail, and nightlife;
  • “Eliminate obstacles to repurposing space, allowing the city’s businesses and economy to evolve over time; and
  • “Create flexibility for local businesses to expand without relocation and without triggering needs for additional parking.”

Zoning for Housing Opportunity

With an eye on increasing affordable housing in areas not previously zones for residential use, the Zoning for Housing Opportunity amendment will:

  • “Expand opportunities for affordable and supportive homes for New Yorkers by increasing the floor area ratio for all types of affordable housing, similar to the allowance already afforded to affordable housing for seniors;
  • “Broaden the acceptable variety of housing types and sizes, including studios, to accommodate a wider range of families and households;
  • “Ease conversions of underutilized commercial buildings into homes; and
  • “Reduce unnecessary parking requirements that add cost and take up space in buildings that could be used for additional homes.”

Interestingly, this and the previous amendment both make provisions for adaptive reuse in the NYC Zoning Resolution, something Decoder discussed in its April 2021 article on the possibilities of restructuring closed commercial properties.

Zoning for Zero Carbon

As part of the city’s greater push for decreasing carbon emissions through sustainable construction and green energy, Zoning for Zero Carbon will:

  • “Remove obstacles to deploying new clean energy storage and uses, including electric vehicle charging;
  • “Facilitate building retrofits for sustainability, including allowing more rooftop coverage for solar panels; and
  • “Eliminate barriers to the electrification of building systems such as heat pumps or efficient HVAC systems.”

As a side note, Decoder had discussed in its recent article on the new Special Gowanus Mixed Use District that the provision to expand solar panel rooftop usage might in fact be a pilot for a similar allowance across the city. This announcement seems to confirm that idea, though quite a bit sooner than expected.

These zoning amendments may provide great opportunities for the NYC construction industry in the near future, with relaxed restrictions and greater variety of projects in certain areas, especially in terms of affordable housing. However, relaxed rules does not mean no rules – there will likely still be provisions and conditions to these amendments that projects will need to navigate to get off the ground.

For more on this news, and for guidance on current zoning and code regulations for your next project, please reach out to Outsource Consultants



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