“Zoning for Accessibility” Text Amendment approved by the New York City Council

October 11, 2021

Herrick’s Land Use & Zoning Team has learned that a citywide zoning text amendment, known as "Zoning for Accessibility ("ZFA"), was approved by the New York City Council on October 7, 2021. ZFA is meant to address the lack of accessibility in the subway system by, among other things, expanding and improving on zoning rules that allow the MTA to leverage private development density bonuses near transit. Under the old rules, developers could construct accessible transit improvements in exchange for up to a 20% zoning bonus, but only in limited areas in the City. The improvement bonus has been utilized less than ten times since the 1980s.

ZFA builds on these rules by: (i) implementing a system-wide transit easement requirement, and (ii) expanding on the existing transit improvement bonus.

Easement – Developers of most mid-or-high-density sites adjacent to subways, Staten Island Railway, Long Island Railroad, and Metro-North Railroad stations will be required to consult with the MTA before developing their site, to determine whether an easement on the property will be required for future accessibility projects. If an easement is needed, the developer may be eligible to receive certain targeted zoning relief (e.g. zoning floor area exemptions) to offset the creation of the easement. Developers will also need to obtain a Certification from the Chair of the City Planning Commission before obtaining a Certificate of Occupancy for their development.

Transit Improvement Bonus – The program incentivizes private developers to fund and/or build new transit accessibility improvements in exchange for, among other things, floor area bonuses of up to 20%. Under ZFA, the transit bonus is now applicable to an expanded group of high-density areas in the City that were previous ineligible for the program, so long as they are within a certain distance of transit stations (e.g. generally within 500 feet of transit stations in most high-density districts, or within 1,500 feet of transit stations in central business districts). To obtain the transit bonus, developers will need to obtain an Authorization from the City Planning Commission, which is a discretionary approval that is also subject to City Environmental Quality Review.

ZFA presents an exciting opportunity for the MTA to make more transit stations accessible faster and at a significantly reduced cost. It will be a win for new station adjacent developments, the MTA, and New York City at large.

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

Robert Huberman at +1 212 592 1592 or [email protected]
Mitchell A. Korbey at +1 212 592 1483 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.