New York City is taking steps to modernize and update its zoning regulations to support small businesses, create affordable housing, and promote sustainability. This is part of Mayor Eric Adams' vision for the city to become a more inclusive and equitable “City of Yes”. Parks are an essential part of our neighborhoods and a major factor in quality of life. NYC Parks works to make sure that accessible, quality open space is included in long-term plans for neighborhoods undergoing rezoning and other city-driven developments.
This is one of the reasons why New York produces less housing per capita than most other large cities, even those with more stringent planning and public review processes. This report examines why the decision-making process on land use in New York prevents action to address the city's needs and recommends improvements. The Citizens Budget Commission (CBC) is a nonpartisan, non-profit organization that seeks constructive change in the finances and services of the city and state of New York. Making a significant change to New York City's decision-making process would require amendments to the City Statutes that should be carefully crafted taking into account possible unintended political and structural consequences.
Whether independently or in collaboration with the State, New York City must also implement changes to implement the following recommendations. A more resilient energy system means fewer blackouts and a more equitable and vibrant city for New Yorkers today and future generations. New York City implements this requirement through the City's Environmental Quality Review (CEQR) process. The goal of the Hazard Mitigation Plan (HMP) is to make New York City a safer and more resilient city by presenting a plan to mitigate the risks to human life, public health and safety, infrastructure, and property posed by natural disasters and man-made hazards.
New York City must streamline environmental review within the limits of state law; however, many recent reform proposals would subject an even greater part of new developments to this discretionary process, while many other states and cities are moving in the opposite direction. The rezonings initiated by the City create new development capacities or modernize zoning regulations in a larger area and are not linked to specific projects. New York State should modify environmental review laws to reduce barriers to beneficial growth and development. Without these changes, the city risks further deteriorating its competitive advantage and diminishing its attractiveness to current and future New Yorkers.
State and city leaders must take important steps to improve land use decision-making processes in New York.