De Blasio Announces New Zoning Changes as Part of Pandemic Recovery

March 11, 2021

Herrick’s Land Use & Zoning Team has learned that the City is proposing a series of city-wide zoning changes to bring more grocery stores to local communities, improve accessibility to subway stations, and support a range of small businesses across the city in response to the challenges highlighted by the pandemic. All these actions are expected to enter the public review this spring with the goal of being approved before the end of the administration.

Outlined below are the key programs that will be impacted by the proposed zoning changes:

  • MTA Transit Easements: The City, in conjunction with MTA and City Council, will expand and improve zoning rules that allow for the MTA to leverage private development density bonuses near transit in exchange for easements in the form of improvements to stations and access to them. Chair Lago has expressed that this will be a priority project before the end of the administration.

These incentives, which currently are limited to few areas mostly in Manhattan, are  proposed to be expanded to other locations in the City. While the existing density bonus was tied to a select amount of subway stations and is approved through a Special Permit, the expansion will include more subway stations and allow the bonus to be granted by just the City Planning Commission and not be subject to full ULURP. These actions will still requirement coordination with the MTA.

  • FRESH Food Program: The City’s FRESH II updates proposes to expand the existing FRESH program to include more community districts, limit oversaturation of FRESH supermarkets in certain communities, reduce FRESH parking requirements in lower density residential districts, and change window installation requirements for FRESH supermarkets located within existing buildings.

Clients should know that these changes will likely impact new Certifications for FRESH food stores in areas deemed oversaturated by City Planning. Additionally, application materials for the Certification will likely be impacted.

  • Physical Culture Establishment (PCE): The City proposes to allow PCEs (Gyms) to be allowed as-of-right and remove the existing need to get a 10-year BSA Special Permit to allow the use.

This proposed change will impact new and existing Gym owners who would normally need to acquire or extend the term of the BSA Special Permit to allow the use – this will greatly reduce costs and red-tape.

  • Open Restaurants: The City proposes to remove zoning limitations to accommodate the now-permanent Open Restaurant program.

We will continue to monitor these zoning changes as more details arise as they begin to enter public review this Spring.


For more information on this issue or other land use & zoning matters, please contact:

Mitchell A. Korbey at +1 212 592 1483 or [email protected]
Vinh Van Vo at +1 212 592 1588 or [email protected]

© 2021 Herrick, Feinstein LLP. This alert is provided by Herrick, Feinstein LLP to keep its clients and other interested parties informed of current legal developments that may affect or otherwise be of interest to them. The information is not intended as legal advice or legal opinion and should not be construed as such.