New York City’s neighborhoods are its greatest treasures, from the maritime village streets of City Island
to the towers of Lower Manhattan; and from the hillside of St. George
to the shore communities of the Rockaways
and the Victorian homes of Flatbush
. Since my appointment as City Planning Commissioner by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in 2002, we have spearheaded the largest rezoning agenda since 1961 – now comprising 123 rezonings covering nearly 11,500 blocks -- to plan for the city’s long-term economic health while addressing our communities’ needs today.
These rezonings have addressed a range of goals as dynamic and diverse as New York City’s neighborhoods – to catalyze investment and economic opportunity, incentivize new housing for a range of incomes, preserve the character of our neighborhoods, green our city, reclaim our waterfront, and create new and improved open spaces and great places in all five boroughs. Zoning is important: it guides the size and shape of buildings, what they can be used for – housing, offices, retail, institutional or industrial purposes – and where they may be built. But in order to address the issues that are important to our communities, we have taken zoning beyond those fundamentals, using it in new and innovative ways tailored to the unique conditions of our city and our neighborhoods.
Where do we begin and how do we do this? First off, we start by listening to communities, spending time with them, and walking neighborhoods, to understand what makes them special, what challenges they face and what opportunities exist. Then, as planners, we develop detailed neighborhood plans. We strive to make these plans understandable with three-dimensional drawings illustrating exactly how proposed rules would work, so communities can understand and fully participate in the planning process. We created the new Zoning Handbook
which demystifies zoning regulations and empowers the public to better advocate for their neighborhoods.
Across the city, our plans are setting the conditions for sustainable, transit oriented growth, guided by comprehensive urban design master plans. As part of the Mayor’s Five Borough Economic Opportunity Plan
, these initiatives are designed to accommodate a population of nine million New Yorkers projected by 2030, and support the diversity and vitality of our many neighborhoods. These transit-oriented development policies will help us continue to shrink our per capita carbon footprint, which is already less than one-third the U.S. average. At the same time, we have taken action to protect the scale of low-density neighborhoods, directing growth instead to transit-rich areas. I have endeavored to meet those objectives while keeping the essence and character of individual neighborhoods.
In abandoned industrial areas along the north Brooklyn waterfront
, we've used zoning incentives to leverage nearly a thousand units of affordable housing
. We've also ensured that each of these new developments builds a portion of what will become a spectacular two-mile-long network of waterfront esplanade and parkland along the shore. Similar principles shaped our Lower Concourse
plan, where affordable housing and a waterfront esplanade will emerge along the Bronx shoreline of the Harlem River.
We created the city's first zoning bonus for the arts to produce new spaces for non-profit visual and performing arts organizations along Harlem's 125th Street
, as part of a special district conceived to enhance this fabled corridor’s prominence as an arts and entertainment capital. In our Theater District, old theaters are being preserved and new ones created in exchange for the right to develop new buildings nearby.
On Manhattan's west side, new projects are helping fund the new infrastructure for the expansion of the Midtown Central Business District, including the extension of the No. 7 train, which is under construction. The magnificent elevated High Line park that opened in the spring – as well as new and affordable housing – was made possible through innovative zoning in West Chelsea that preserves the light and air around the High Line and transfers development rights to designated sites. Architectural innovation abounds along the elevated park.
And just at the end of last year, we adopted new zoning – the first such program in the nation – to encourage the development of neighborhood grocery stores in underserved low-income communities, to provide healthy food choices and address the twin epidemics of diabetes and obesity.
We are also greening our city: As a result of new zoning regulations, new developments must plant street trees to green and beautify our city as Mayor Bloomberg envisioned in PlaNYC2030. This initiative will result in as many as 10,000 street trees a year. Along with our green zoning requirements for landscaping parking lots and planting front yards, it will reduce storm water runoff, tame the urban heat island effect, and create a more pedestrian-friendly environment. And thanks to new zoning regulations, new residential and commercial buildings must provide secure bike parking, helping people use their cars less in a healthier, more sustainable New York.
And throughout the five boroughs, we’ve encouraged great design, which adds value and creates pride of place, whether it be for a police precinct in Staten Island, a museum in the Bronx or a subsidized housing development in Manhattan. We overhauled standards for new public plazas and for waterfront public open spaces, to ensure that these spaces are inviting to the public and well-used.
As part of the Administration’s wide-ranging efforts to make New York City a greener, greater place to live, work, and visit, our innovative use of zoning is making a real difference in our neighborhoods, providing for new jobs and housing opportunities and ensuring the diversity and vibrancy that makes ours the most unique city in the world.