By Forum Staff
Mayor Eric Adams and New York City Department of City Planning (DCP) Director Dan Garodnick on Monday kicked off the public review process for the “City of Yes for Economic Opportunity” proposal, a set of citywide zoning changes that will further fuel the city’s ongoing economic success and pave the way for a more inclusive future. Together, the 18 proposed changes will bolster the city’s industrial sectors, revitalize commercial corridors, foster vibrant neighborhoods, and support growing industries, such as life sciences, nightlife, amusements, and urban agriculture.
The proposal was officially referred by DCP today to local community boards, borough boards, and borough presidents, kicking off the public review process as Adams continues his “Working People’s Tour,” celebrating New York City’s all-time job record, with 4.7 million total jobs, and the recovery of the nearly 1 million private-sector jobs lost during the COVID-19 pandemic. The second of Adams’ “City of Yes” proposals, the “City of Yes for Economic Opportunity” proposal will now go to all 59 community boards, as well as all five borough presidents and boroughs boards for review, followed by the City Planning Commission and the City Council.
“Just this month, we celebrated a major victory for New York City’s comeback, hitting an all-time total jobs record. But we were clear then that our work was not done, and the ‘City of Yes for Economic Opportunity’ plan will be the next major victory for our city,” said Adams. “These 18 changes will unlock family-sustaining jobs for our neighbors, sustained and inclusive growth in our communities, and a vibrant future for our city. New York City is back — now, we’re ready for the next step forward.”
“Small businesses are driving our economic recovery in Queens and throughout New York City, contributing to the record number of jobs announced earlier this month,” said Thomas Grech, president and CEO, Queens Chamber of Commerce. “The City of Yes for Economic Opportunity initiative will continue this progress by removing outdated regulations, allowing small businesses to grow and create opportunity in all five boroughs.”
Boosting Industrial Businesses
“City of Yes for Economic Opportunity” will be the largest support for industrial jobs in the history of New York City’s zoning code. By allowing small-scale clean manufacturing to locate in commercial areas for the first time, it will more than double the space available for businesses like pottery studios, microbreweries, and apparel makers — expanding that area by more than 14,000 acres. It would also create new zoning tools for traditional industrial areas, establishing new “core,” “transition,” and “growth” manufacturing zones — addressing longstanding complaints that overly restrictive manufacturing zoning rules have held back the city’s industrial sector.
Revitalizing Commercial Corridors and Building Vibrant Neighborhoods
“City of Yes for Economic Opportunity” will add much-needed flexibility for local shops looking to open and expand and help reduce storefront vacancies in commercial corridors. It will do so by lifting time limits on reactivating existing, vacant storefronts in historic districts and residential areas; simplifying rules about which business types can locate on commercial streets; modernizing loading dock rules so buildings can adapt over time; enabling commercial activity on upper floors, provided there is separation from any residential uses; and updating business classifications in zoning to match the modern economy.
This initiative will also foster vibrant neighborhoods by encouraging safe and sustainable micro-distribution deliveries, reducing conflicts between auto repair shops and pedestrians, and introducing urban design rules to ensure new buildings are contributing to the interactivity of their neighborhoods. In addition, “City of Yes for Economic Opportunity” will create new processes to consider commercial space on large residential campuses, corner stores in residential areas, and waivers for business adaptation and growth.
Support Growing Industries and Nightlife
The proposal will also support key industries that help drive the city’s economic growth but face unique zoning challenges, including urban agriculture, life sciences, nightlife and entertainment, amusements, and home-based businesses. As part of the proposal’s changes to modernize nightlife and entertainment regulations, it would shift restrictions on dancing to be tied to a venue’s capacity, rather than arbitrary zoning districts — removing the last vestige of the often-discriminatory Cabaret Law from New York City’s zoning code.
An annotated version of the full text of the initiative, shared with community boards as a part of DCP’s work to be transparent and collaborative with New York communities earlier this month, is available online. The text amendment will now be referred to all 59 community boards, all five borough presidents, and all five borough boards for review within 60 days. After those 60 days, the City Planning Commission will hold a public hearing and vote. If the commission approves the proposal, it will go to the City Council for a hearing and vote.
“City of Yes for Economic Opportunity” is the second component of Mayor Adams’ three-part “City of Yes” plan, comprised of three bold, citywide zoning text amendments that will modernize the city’s zoning to foster a greener, more affordable, more prosperous city — instead of allowing outdated zoning rules to hinder the city’s goals and growth. The first, “City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality,” was approved by the City Planning Commission in September and will be voted upon by the City Council later this fall. The third, “City of Yes for Housing Opportunity,” is undergoing environmental review and will be referred for public review in spring 2024.
“There is no time to waste in addressing the generational, intersectional crises facing our families. By creating jobs, enhancing our manufacturing capabilities and supporting our small businesses — the lifeblood of our communities — we can further uplift our city and fuel an even stronger economic recovery coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. “As the public review process begins, I look forward to working jointly with our city partners and Queens residents to ensure this proposal is as community-focused, community-centric and community-informed as possible.”
“Mayor Adams has navigated us through COVID to an economic recovery: there are now more jobs in New York City than ever in history,” said Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar (D-Woodhaven). “The City of Yes for Economic Opportunity initiative will take us to even greater unprecedented heights. The mayor has proposed 18 zoning changes that will allow new businesses to grow and thrive in our city. This will open up a wealth of opportunities for growing business sectors—including biotech, cultural institutions, and urban agriculture—by eliminating obsolete zoning restrictions on where they can operate. It will revitalize our streets by allowing vacant storefronts to be filled, and creating pedestrian friendly ground floor requirements for new buildings. Today’s plan will create jobs, economic growth, and vibrancy on our city blocks. Today we begin the public review process, setting us on the path to implementing this bold, innovative plan.”