City of Yes

Economic Opportunity

Adopted June 6, 2024
City of Yes for Economic Opportunity passed the City Council on June 6, 2024.


"OPEN" Lighted Sign
Source: Mayor’s Photography Office

Our local businesses are the lifeblood of our neighborhoods. They need clear and sensible rules that give them the flexibility to change and grow. City of Yes for Economic Opportunity would remove outdated limitations on businesses and ensure that local retail streets and commercial centers across the city can remain lively places that sustain our neighborhoods.

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What does City of Yes for Economic Opportunity do?

City of Yes for Economic Opportunity removes outdated restrictions on where businesses can set up shop to make it easier for businesses to find space or expand. For example, City of Yes would:

  • Remove deadlines to fill vacant storefronts
  • Simplify rules on which types of businesses are allowed in commercial areas
  • Allow small-scale clean production like "maker spaces" to locate in more areas of the city
  • Update rules on loading docks so building uses can adapt over time
  • Allow more types of businesses to locate on ground floors and, in some cases, on upper floors
  • Simplify how zoning rules classify businesses

City of Yes for Economic Opportunity removes barriers in today’s zoning rules that businesses in growing industries face. For example, City of Yes would:

  • Modernize regulations for life sciences so innovative companies can grow
  • Simplify regulations for amusement venues, which include arcades, laser tag arenas, and swimming pools
  • Permit dancing and live entertainment like comedy shows at venues where music is allowed
  • Clarify rules about where businesses are allowed to grow plants and vegetables
  • Allow entrepreneurs to open more types of home-based businesses

City of Yes for Economic Opportunity creates consistent and easy to understand rules that encourage active, safe, and walkable commercial streets. For example, City of Yes would:

  • Establish consistent streetscape rules to ensure new buildings contribute to lively and active commercial areas
  • Encourage neighborhood hubs for the local delivery of goods and services
  • Reduce conflicts between auto repair shops and pedestrians

City of Yes for Economic Opportunity rewrites zoning rules to ensure they are user-friendly, consistent, and modern. For example, City of Yes would:

  • Create a pathway for businesses like film studios to build spaces that suit their needs
  • Establish new zoning districts to boost job growth and business expansion while creating new options for loft-style buildings
  • Allow local commercial spaces to locate on residential campuses


Why is this initiative needed?

When rules make it hard for businesses to find space, small businesses hurt the most.

To support commercial corridors and entrepreneurs throughout the city, and reduce retail vacancy, we need modern zoning regulations that help the city adapt in a dynamic and evolving economy.

The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the importance of flexibility in our zoning regulations. Businesses small and large are reevaluating how they use space, where to locate, and how they function in the face of changing consumer preferences and economic conditions.

Entrepreneurs in New York City have always experimented to develop new business models that make our city more vibrant and dynamic. Yet zoning rules that describe where different types of businesses are allowed have barely changed since 1961.

These often confusing and outdated regulations make it harder for mom-and-pop stores and other entrepreneurs to open, grow, and adapt in New York City.

City of Yes for Economic Opportunity would support businesses and job growth by ensuring a wider range of businesses can use existing commercial space. The proposal would make sure that our zoning is flexible enough for empty storefronts to be activated by businesses that serve our neighborhoods.

Context and research


City of Yes for Economic Opportunity Supporters

Proposal FAQ (January 2024)

Today’s outdated and confusing zoning restrictions can make it expensive and time-consuming for a small business owner to understand where they can locate and what they can do in their space.

Business owners often need to consult with land use attorneys or other technical experts to understand current zoning. This situation makes it costly and burdensome to set up shop. 

By making zoning more simple and modern, City of Yes for Economic Opportunity seeks to lower the cost of opening and operating a small business in New York City – which in turn helps reduce vacancies and encourage a more diverse and vibrant city.

In a city where commercial businesses often operate near homes, we understand that quality of life concerns are top of mind. NYC Planning is working hard to ensure that the City of Yes for Economic Opportunity proposals do not themselves create new quality of life concerns. 

For example, City of Yes would make sure that new commercial uses on the upper floors of buildings are designed to keep noise from downstairs neighbors. 

In many other cases, zoning and other regulations safeguard residents against unsafe, unsightly, or noisy business activities.

We are working closely with the NYC Department of Environmental Protection, the NYC Department of Buildings, and the Mayor’s Office of Nightlife to continue to support quality of life in the city’s business areas and provide further opportunities for public feedback.

The NYC Department of Buildings would enforce changes made to zoning rules.

This project conducted an Environmental Assessment Statement (EAS), which is an in-depth environmental study that considers 19 areas such as noise and air quality, traffic, and access to open space. An EAS determines whether a land use action might have significant adverse environmental impacts. 

For this proposal, the analysis in the EAS did not reveal any potential for significant impacts. 

Read the EAS on the Zoning Application Portal here.

Read our responses to common questions from 100+ community meetings held since October 2023.

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