Planning for a More Livable City

In 1916 zoning regulations were established in New York to ensure that enough light and air was getting past the buildings to the public space of the street.  Light and air have remained integral in the consideration of livability and urban design, but the Department of City Planning (DCP) also understands that there are other important ways to improve health, comfort and enjoyment within the public realm.

Livability is the sum of various elements that add up to a community’s quality of life – including the built and natural environments, social stability and equity, economic prosperity, educational and cultural opportunity. Livability is an important value of this Administration under Mayor de Blasio.

In One New York City (OneNYC), the Mayor’s plan for growth, sustainability, resiliency and equity, the plan explicitly states that to achieve “a growing and thriving city”, we must ensure that our “growing neighborhoods are livable neighborhoods”. The Mayor’s 5-borough, 10-year housing plan for New York City - Housing New York -is both about bridging the inequality gap and boosting livability. The housing plan explicitly states that “to become a more affordable city, we must become a denser city, and better plan for growth by staging investments in infrastructure and services that will make our neighborhoods more livable.”

Successful land use and transportation plans should support a diverse and robust city economy and contemplate improving mental and physical health. Plans should address equity and community cohesion, as well as climate protection, public space and parks, public safety, community facilities, traffic, noise, pollution, and essential services.

Given the nature of livability projects, benefits are likely to emerge over time and may not be fully measurable during the period of any specific project. Below are several of DCP’s strategies and initiatives to show what DCP is doing to help the City plan for more livable neighborhoods.

Active Design Guidelines are award-winning guidelines, first published in 2010, which provide architects and urban designers with a manual of strategies for creating healthier buildings, streets, and urban spaces, based on the latest academic research and best practices in the field.

Active Design: Shaping the Sidewalk Experience was released on June 24th 2013 to focus on the critical public space network – sidewalks - and prioritize the infrastructure that enhances a neighborhood’s walkability and can help enable and encourage people to be more physically active in their daily routines — and to in turn be healthier in their lifestyle decisions.

PDF Document Stairwells Text Amendment for Non-residential Buildings facilitates and makes effective additional safety features for new high-rise non-residential buildings as part of New York City’s 2014 Construction Codes.

One of our Zoning Tools, referred to as Streetscape Improvements, has helped New York City to adopt a number of measures to promote green streetscapes in residential neighborhoods throughout the city in order to foster sustainability goals.

Similarly, adopted in 2008, the PDF Document Street Tree Planting - Text Amendment requires street tree planting for all new developments and major enlargements citywide.

In 2008, PDF Document Zoning Amendments to Enhance Yards and Open Space were adopted to prevent excessive paving of front yards by encouraging landscaping and planting of yards throughout the city.

Sidewalk Cafes are regulated by zoning, and also included as one of our zoning tools. Additional physical and design criteria for all sidewalk cafes, including unenclosed sidewalk cafes, are regulated by the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA). DCA is responsible for reviewing and licensing all applications for sidewalk cafes.

Food Retail Expansion to Support Health Program (FRESH), developed in response to a citywide study, PDF Document Going to Market, offers zoning incentives and financial benefits in underserved communities. Its goal is to encourage the development and retention of convenient, accessible stores that provide fresh meat, fruit and vegetables, and other perishable goods in addition to a full range of grocery products.

Privately Owned Public Space (POPS) are an amenity provided and maintained by a developer for public use, in exchange for additional floor area. Current public plaza provisions enable the creation of high quality public plazas on privately owned sites that are inviting, open, inviting, accessible and safe.

The New York City Waterfront Revitalization Program (WRP) establishes the City’s policies for development and use of the waterfront. Revisions to this program adopted by the City Council in 2013 will require the consideration of climate change in project planning and design.

PDF Document Special Natural Area District (SNAD) Rezoning helps guide development to preserve unique and significant natural features in parts of Staten Island, the Bronx and Queens by requiring City Planning Commission review of new developments and site alteration on primarily vacant land.

The DCP Community Portal offers public access to tools, resources and information on a variety of topics related to New York City’s land use, community planning and budget processes and demographic trends to facilitate informed participation in land use and planning by all New Yorkers.