Adams Administration Extols ‘City of Yes’ Plan as ‘Historic’ Economic Revolution

Adams Administration Extols ‘City of Yes’ Plan as ‘Historic’ Economic Revolution

By Michael V. Cusenza

Mayor Eric Adams, Department of City Planning Director and City Planning Commission Chairman Dan Garodnick on Thursday celebrated the City Council’s approval of “City of Yes for Economic Opportunity,” a set of citywide zoning changes the Adams administration has said will will further fuel Gotham’s economic recovery and pave the way for a more inclusive and prosperous future for New York businesses.

“With today’s passage of ‘City of Yes for Economic Opportunity,’ we have taken another historic step to bring our city’s zoning code into the 21st century and build a more inclusive and prosperous economy. Our proposal will replace outdated restrictions on businesses with new rules that support sustainable job growth, help businesses open and expand, and fill vacant storefronts,” Adams said. “After decades of inaction, it will move our city’s zoning code into the future, laying the foundation for long-term growth across all five boroughs. Quite simply, it will take us from a rotary phone mentality and bring us into the smart phone world.”

According to the administration, City of Yes for Economic Opportunity includes commonsense policy changes that would expand options for businesses to locate near their customers, support growing industries and sectors, foster vibrant neighborhoods and commercial corridors, and provide businesses with clear and modern zoning rules. Among these changes are policies to:

  • More than double the space available for clean manufacturing, allowing small producers, such as microbreweries, apparel makers, and ceramic shops, to open and grow in commercial corridors in all five boroughs for the first time.
  • Create new zoning tools to allow more than 17,000 businesses in industrial areas that are currently prevented from adding space to grow their businesses.
  • Expand the number of businesses able to open in ground- and upper-floor spaces.
  • Eliminate outdated rules that prohibit dancing, comedy, and open mic nights in restaurants and venues in commercial areas, and instead govern venues by size and volume.
  • Update 1960s-era rules that limit where amusements are allowed, so experiential retail, such as virtual reality arcades, and family-friendly activities can be located closer to where New Yorkers live.
  • Modernize how zoning regulates laboratories so life sciences research can flourish in offices and near universities and hospitals.
  • Remove outdated restrictions on indoor urban agriculture.
  • Fill empty storefronts by fixing decades-old rules that ban businesses from setting up in certain long-term vacant facilities.
  • Allow a wider range of businesses, including barbers and interior designers, to be based in homes.
  • Foster cleaner and safer streets and support local small businesses by helping them expand local delivery capacity.
  • Facilitate adaptive reuse of commercial buildings by modernizing loading dock rules.

“By removing outdated regulations, the ‘City of Yes for Economic Opportunity’ will allow small businesses to continue to grow and create jobs, building on the record job growth we’ve seen in recent months,” said Tom Grech, president and CEO, Queens Chamber of Commerce. “As the borough with nearly $40 billion of development in place; we applaud Mayor Adams and his team, particularly Planning Commissioner Garodnick for their hard work on this initiative, and thank Speaker Adams and the entire council for approving this plan that will help small businesses create opportunity in all five boroughs.”

City of Yes for Economic Opportunity is the second of Mayor Adams’s three “City of Yes” initiatives to foster a greener, more affordable, and more prosperous city by updating outdated zoning rules. The first — City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality — was adopted by the City Council in December. The third — City of Yes for Housing Opportunity — was referred for public review by community boards and borough presidents this spring and will be put to a vote by the City Council before the end of the year.

“The council made modifications to the City of Yes for Economic Opportunity to strike the right balance of promoting economic growth and opportunities for local businesses while protecting neighborhoods and safeguarding quality of life for all New Yorkers,” Council Speaker Adrienne Adams said. “Our efforts will preserve manufacturing districts and enhance the industrial sector, which provides good-paying jobs and can prepare our city for a clean energy future. I’m proud that the council has also secured crucial commitments for an aggressive plan to confront the serious environmental and health impacts of last-mile facilities and trucking, which disproportionately impact outer-borough communities of color. The additional investments for better enforcement of buildings, nightlife establishments, and unlicensed smoke shops also were pivotal commitments secured as part of the council’s efforts. This balanced approach is responsive to communities and ensures a plan that can propel the city’s economy to the benefit of all New Yorkers and neighborhoods.”

On Thursday, the administration also applauded City economic gains since Mayor Adams took office in 2022. Under Hizzoner, over $265 million in grant and loan funding has been facilitated or administered to small businesses through SBS. Last month, Adams announced the launch of the “NYC Future Fund,” a $10 million investment to seed the city’s next major small business loan fund. The fund will accelerate the growth of hundreds of new small businesses in New York City by addressing the gap in access to affordable capital faced by small business owners, particularly early-stage businesses, as well as Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) and women entrepreneurs that otherwise often cannot obtain traditional bank financing. The fund builds on the success of the landmark $85 million “NYC Small Business Opportunity Fund,” which provided loans of up to $250,000 to over 1,000 businesses, with 69 percent of loans going to BIPOC-owned businesses.

Opponents to the historic overhaul of the City zoning code are legion.

“Baffled by how The ‘City of Yes’ can move forward without input from the OEM and DEP. We’re in flood zones here, not fantasy land! Fix our sewers and power grids first before cramming more buildings into our neighborhoods. It’s a ‘City of No’ if common sense has any say!” Councilman Bob Holden (D-Maspeth) said in November.

In May, Holden and Councilwoman Joann Ariola (R-Ozone Park) blasted the proposal in remarks delivered during a Community Board 5 meeting.

“We do not need more density. Remember, if you vote yes with conditions, and they don’t use those conditions, you’re still a yes. And it takes your ability to vote on any other zoning after your vote here on this particular text amendment,” Ariola said, after dubbing Adams’ plan “The City of B.S.”

“I didn’t think I’d live to see this, but it’s kind of hilarious if it wasn’t so tragic that they are trying to destroy our neighborhood,” Holden added.

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