NYC Mayor Adams Outlines Vision for ‘City of Yes’ Plan
Real Estate In-Depth | June 2, 2022
First Economic Hub to Be Established in the Bronx
NEW YORK – New York City Mayor Eric Adams laid out a plan to use the city’s zoning tools to support small businesses, create affordable housing and promote sustainability—part of his vision for New York to become a more inclusive, equitable “City of Yes.”
The plan, announced on June 1 at the Association for a Better New York’s breakfast, includes three major citywide amendments (Zoning for Economic Opportunity, Zoning for Housing Opportunity and Zoning for Zero Carbon); an effort to invest in and plan around emerging job hubs and commercial corridors in all five boroughs, starting in the Bronx; and initiatives to cut red tape and center equity in planning, administration officials stated.
“We are going to turn New York into a ‘City of Yes’—yes in my backyard, yes on my block, yes in my neighborhood,” said Mayor Adams. “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. New Yorkers are not going to wait around while other cities and other countries sprint towards a post-pandemic world, and now we won’t have to.”
“A citywide recovery requires a citywide approach, including how we create opportunities for New Yorkers using our tools of zoning and land use,” said Deputy Mayor for Economic and Workforce Development Maria Torres-Springer. “I am proud to be advancing three citywide zoning text amendments focused on some of our city’s most urgent challenges—supporting our businesses, increasing housing options, and reducing our carbon footprint—and jumpstarting neighborhood planning efforts around the Bronx Metro-North stations and across all five boroughs to bring opportunities closer to residents.”
Mayor Adams’ “City of Yes” plan follows his “Rebuild, Renew, Reinvent: A Blueprint for New York City’s Economic Recovery,” and comes ahead of the release of his housing plan.
The first citywide text amendment—Zoning for Economic Opportunity—will provide local businesses with the flexibility to repurpose their space for a post-pandemic city. This amendment will:
• 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.
The second citywide text amendment—Zoning for Housing Opportunity—will encourage the creation of more housing in neighborhoods across the entire city. This 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.
The final citywide text amendment—Zoning for Zero Carbon—represents a critical step towards New York City reaching its carbon reduction goals. This amendment 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.
The Adams administration stated that it will also continue delivering on its commitment to invest in growing business districts and emerging job hubs across all five boroughs with a planning effort around coming Metro-North train stations in the Bronx. DCP will jumpstart the process in collaboration with the local community and the City Council to create new jobs and affordable homes, identify infrastructure investments, enact land use changes, and strengthen workforce and economic development work to build on this once-in-a-generation opportunity.
The administration will also work with the community in communities across the city, as well as the City Council, to plan for neighborhood development, job creation, and mixed-income housing.
Delivering on another commitment in his economic recovery blueprint, Mayor Adams launched the New York City Strategy for Equity and Economic Development (NYC SEED) Fund, which will provide neighborhood-wide capital investments in areas where those funds will most effectively catalyze the creation of jobs, housing, and economic opportunity for New Yorkers—not just in areas where there is a rezoning. The NYC SEED Fund will create a new, equitable, cross-agency capital planning framework to make investments that address historic disinvestment, immediate public health and safety issues, and growing climate risks.
Mayor Adams also announced the Building and Land Use Approval Streamlining Task Force (BLAST)—a coordinated effort across a dozen agencies to cut red tape, streamline processes, and remove administrative burdens that are slowing down the city’s economic recovery. BLAST will speed up the city review process of private applications for new investments in neighborhoods across the city.
“Mayor Adams’ announcement today to modernize the city’s zoning code is long overdue,” said New York City Council Majority Leader Keith Powers. “I’m happy to join Mayor Adams in calling for an end to zoning that ends the harmful remnants of the Cabaret Law. After such difficult times, New Yorkers deserve the right to dance freely and celebrate our great city. This is a great dance, dance, resolution.”
A host of business and civic leaders have come out praising the Adams “City of Yes” plan.
“The Building Congress’ number-one priorities for construction growth, as announced in our ‘100 Years: Policy’ report last month, call for streamlined approvals, more flexible zoning rules, and elimination of obsolete zoning distinctions,” said Carlo A. Scissura, president and CEO, New York Building Congress. “Mayor Adams is hitting it out of the park with today’s announcements. We applaud his moving to eliminate burdensome red tape and look forward to working hand-in-hand with his administration to ensure smooth, safe transitions with the changed rules and regulations.”
“We are thrilled at the expansion of Metro-North to four additional communities in the Bronx. The East Bronx has historically been a transit desert; however, the addition of the Morris Park station will create accessible and affordable transportation, a catalyst for economic development,” said Lisa Sorin, president, New Bronx Chamber of Commerce. “The Morris Park station alone will foster thousands of new high-paying jobs, while also providing easy access to various large-scale employers such as the Hutch Metro Center and Montefiore Hospital. Overall, it is safe to say that the addition of convenient, safe transit will be transformative for the Morris Park area.”
“Solving New York’s housing crisis requires a new approach that incorporates all of the city, not just a few neighborhoods,” said Tom Wright, president and CEO, Regional Planning Association (RPA). “RPA is excited to work with Mayor Adams to ensure that these opportunities are more equitably distributed across the city. We also applaud the Adams administration’s leadership in proactively planning for the new Metro-North stations in the Bronx that will be part of Penn Station Access. This package of reforms is a unique opportunity to pair accessibility, affordability, and sustainability.”
“The Adams administration is proposing a necessary update of our 1960s-era zoning code that will support New York’s transition to a digital economy and to a more livable and affordable city,” said Kathryn Wylde, president and CEO, Partnership for New York City. “This is a critically important undertaking.”