Press Releases

For Immediate Release
May 6, 2019

Rachaele Raynoff, Joe Marvilli – (212) 720-3471


Clear guidelines and a streamlined process will better protect beloved natural features and homeowner interests

Video shows need for updates

Establishing a standardized approach to natural resource protection and neighborhood development in certain environmentally sensitive areas of the Bronx and Staten Island

NEW YORK – Department of City Planning (DCP) Director Marisa Lago today announced the launch of public review for a new Special Natural Resource District that will strengthen and streamline decades-old rules to better protect New York City’s greenest neighborhoods, in the Bronx and Staten Island – while also offering clear rules for home construction projects.

"From Staten Island’s wetlands teeming with birds to stunning rock outcroppings along the Hudson River in The Bronx, New York City can boast of remarkable green neighborhoods. These strong, clear new rules will better safeguard the existing natural beauty, while also eliminating expensive and unnecessary red tape that homeowners, for 40 years now, have had to sift through to make even the most minor renovations,” said DCP Director Marisa Lago.

The new rules will apply to neighborhoods covering roughly half the land area of Staten Island, and sections of Riverdale, Fieldston and Spuyten Duyvil in The Bronx.

For more information, view a video describing the natural resource regulations that exist in the two boroughs today, DCP’s proposed changes and why they are needed.

First established in the 1970s and 1980s, the rules protecting these green areas are in dire need of modernization. As they stand, the rules take a one-size-fits-all approach – treating small alterations to a single-family home the same as a multi-acre campus development. After extensive community engagement, with homeowners, architects and construction firms, and environmental advocates, the proposed rules are more streamlined than the current rules and take advantage of advances in environmental science.

The proposed rules:

  • Establish comprehensive and consistent wetland regulations across all special districts, and expand protection to wetlands not currently regulated by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) - found in Staten Island; 
  • Continue to require City Planning Commission (CPC) public review for developments larger than one acre, or sites less than one acre with sensitive ecological features;
  • Allow small home projects to go directly to the Department of Buildings (DOB), with clear rules that will ensure the preservation of trees and topography by setting requirements for planting and permeability on every site;
  • Require that natural features, such as trees, be added to the project details that are posted online for the community to review, significantly assisting in enforcement.

“For more than forty years, Protectors of Pine Oak Woods has struggled to preserve open space on Staten Island during an age of prolific over-development. We welcome the Department of City Planning's proposed text amendments and recognize that many of the changes will better protect the trees, escarpments and natural corridors of Staten Island,” said Clifford Hagen, an Eltingville resident, president of Protectors of Pine Oak Woods and a member of the Staten Island Special Districts Update Working Group.

“I support the Department of City Planning’s proposal to amend the SNAD regulations. The amendments provide the right balance of environmental protection with regulatory relief to homeowners, namely: more certainty for smaller lots; more protection for larger parcels and more incentive to institutions for creating long-term plans for open space protection,” said Chris Rizzo, resident, member of the Bronx SNAD Working Group, and Partner, Carter Ledyard & Milburn LLP.

The new rules would fix many outstanding issues:

  • Problem: While protecting individual natural features, current rules fail to consider their contribution to the health of the wider natural environment.
    • Solution: Under the proposed regulations, the Special Natural Resource District will shape development by focusing on outcomes. For instance, an emphasis is put on creating connectivity between large natural resources, such as parks and waterways, and the properties surrounding them. This promotes biodiversity and helps to preserve a continuous tree canopy.
    • Solution: The new regulations place firm limits to the modification of natural features; and on larger sites, one acre or more, a portion of the property will designate habitats for preservation in perpetuity.
  • Problem: The outdated rules have been applied inconsistently and have resulted in unpredictable development and preservation outcomes for the community. They require homeowners to invest significant time and cost for even the smallest renovation, with no discernable additional protection for natural resources. Under existing rules, adding a deck or building a room for a grandparent could take over a year to navigate the multi-step process involving DCP and DOB, and cost as much, if not more, than the improvement itself.
    • Solution: By allowing homeowners to go directly to DOB, the new rules for small projects on most sites under an acre will dramatically reduce the time and expense needed to gain approval while increasing predictability and environmental protections for these neighborhoods.

Curious if any special rules apply to your home? Search the interactive map!

The next steps in the formal public review process are a 60-day review by Community Boards 1, 2 and 3 in Staten Island and Community Board 8 in The Bronx, followed by a 30-day review period for the respective Borough Presidents and Staten Island Borough Board, before returning to the City Planning Commission and then going to City Council.