ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW PROCESS
Certain land use actions are subject to City Environmental Quality Review (CEQR). Pursuant to state and local law, CEQR identifies any potential adverse environmental effects of proposed actions, assesses their significance, and proposes measures to eliminate or mitigate significant impacts. Only certain minor actions identified by the state, known as Type II actions, are exempt from environmental review.
A determination will be made at the Interdivisional Meeting on whether a project will require an environmental review and
how to proceed if it does. The RWCDS meeting will provide the applicant with guidance on the assumptions supporting the Reasonable Worst Case Development Scenario.
The applicants themselves, whether public or private entities, are responsible for preparing the environmental analyses in accordance with methodologies set forth in the CEQR Technical Manual.
The City Planning Commission, with the Department of City Planning (DCP) as staff, is the lead agency for most discretionary land use actions, including those subject to the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). A "lead agency", responsible for undertaking, funding or approving an action, determines whether the action requires environmental review. If so, the lead agency is responsible for notifying and coordinating with other involved or interested agencies, distributing documents for public comment, conducting required public hearings, determining the significance of potential environmental impacts and, before making a decision on the proposed action, issuing its findings with respect to measures that would avoid or mitigate any significant impacts.
The New York City Mayor’s Office of Environmental Coordination (MOEC) provides expertise and assistance to lead agencies and is the repository of all CEQR documents.
The environmental review process involves a number of steps, which allow for public review and comment, and are synchronized with the ULURP timetable.
ENVIRONMENTAL PROCESS STEPS
Environmental Assessment Statement (EAS)
If EARD determines that environmental review is necessary for the application, an Environmental Assessment Statement must be prepared.
Forms and instructions can be found on MOEC’s website.
The EAS describes the proposed project and provides an initial analysis of its potential effects on the environment. Its purpose is to assist the lead agency in assessing whether identified adverse effects on the environment may be significant enough to warrant further analysis in an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). For some large-scale projects with clear likelihood of significant impacts, an EAS need not be completed in detail to determine the necessity for an EIS. When City Planning is the lead, the EAS is filed along with related ULURP applications.
Determination of Significance
Based on information in the EAS and criteria listed in the CEQR Technical Manual, the lead agency decides whether or not any identified adverse environmental impacts may be significant.
If no significant adverse impacts are anticipated, a Negative Declaration is issued by the lead agency, signaling completion of the CEQR process and allowing for certification of the ULURP application once it is complete. A Conditional Negative Declaration (CND) may be issued when a private applicant agrees to mitigate impacts as part of the project.
If significant adverse impacts are identified, a Positive Declaration is issued by the lead agency, requiring completion of a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) before the ULURP application can be certified as complete.
The lead agency sends notices of these determinations of significance to all involved or interested agencies, affected community boards and elected officials, and files copies with the Mayor’s Office of Environmental Coordination. Negative declarations for Type I actions and all conditional negative declarations are published in the City Record and State Environmental Notice Bulletin. The public may comment on the conditions described in a conditional negative declaration for 30 days.
Within 15 days of the issuance of a positive declaration, the lead agency must issue a Draft Scope of Work which details the topics to be addressed in the EIS, the methods of analysis to be used, and possible alternatives to mitigate or eliminate potential significant impacts of the proposed action.
Technical areas that may be addressed include:
- Land use, zoning and public policy
- Socioeconomic conditions
- Community facilities and services
- Open space
- Historic and cultural resources
- Urban design and visual resources
- Natural resources
- Hazardous materials
- Water and Sewer Infrastructure
- Solid waste and sanitation services
- Air quality
- Greenhouse Gas Emissions
- Public health
- Neighborhood character
- Construction impacts
A public scoping meeting is held to solicit comments on the draft scope from all affected and interested parties. The purpose of the scoping meeting is to encourage public participation in the environmental review process at the earliest stage possible. The meeting must be scheduled 30 to 45 days after notice is given and the draft scope and EAS are circulated to all affected and interested agencies, community boards, groups and officials. Written comments may be submitted within ten days after the public meeting.
After incorporating public comments as appropriate, the lead agency issues a final scope of work and preparation of the DEIS begins.
Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS)
The purpose of an EIS is to enable the public and decision-makers to understand the nature and consequences of specific environmental impacts that can be reasonably anticipated as a result of the proposed action. It is issued first as a draft to allow for public comment on its analysis and findings. Although the precise content and format of a DEIS depend on the type of action for which approval is sought and the magnitude of anticipated impacts, certain elements are mandated including:
- A cover page with project name, location, lead agency and date;
- An executive summary;
- Project description, including background, purpose, public need and benefits, social and economic considerations, and approvals required;
- Technical analyses of relevant subject areas (see Scoping topics and Chapter 3 of the CEQR Technical Manual) which assess and compare existing conditions, future conditions absent the proposed action (sometimes called the “no-action" or “no-build" condition), and the future if the proposed action is implemented
- Mitigation measures to minimize or avoid any significant adverse impacts identified in the technical analyses; and
- Alternatives that would be feasible, satisfy project objectives, and eliminate or minimize identified significant impacts.
When the DEIS is deemed complete, the lead agency issues a Notice of Completionthat describes the action and specifies the period for public review and comment. It must be distributed to MOEC, the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the applicant, all involved agencies, applicable borough presidents and community boards, and all persons who request such notice.
Publication of the DEIS and issuance of the Notice of Completion signal the start of the formal public review process. Assuming complete ULURP applications, actions subject to ULURP may now be certified and referred to the affected community board(s) and borough president(s) for their review and recommendations.
Generally, the lead agency must conduct a public hearing on the DEIS within 15 to 60 days of its completion. However, for actions subject to ULURP and for which the CPC is lead agency, the Commission’s public hearing on the ULURP application may also serve as the public hearing on the DEIS. The public hearing notice may be contained in the Notice of Completion or it may be issued separately. Written comments are accepted both before the public hearing and up to ten days after. All substantive comments become part of the record and are usually summarized and responded to in the Final EIS.
Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS)
The Final EIS consists of the DEIS, a summary of public comments and lead agency responses, and any revisions, including further studies, in response to comments. It must also identify the specific mitigation measures to be used, together with written agreement to their implementation from applicable agencies.
Once the FEIS is complete, the lead agency issues a Notice of Completiondescribing the action and the FEIS. The notice and a copy of the FEIS are sent to all those who received the Notice of Completion for the DEIS.
Before making a decision on the proposed action, the lead agency must adopt a formal set of findings, called a Statement of Findings, demonstrating that it has taken a “hard look" at the impacts, mitigations and alternatives. The lead agency must allow the public and agencies at least ten days to consider the FEIS before adopting its findings. The findings conclude the CEQR process.