City of Yes – Zoning for Carbon Neutrality Enters Public Review

May 3, 2023

Herrick’s Land Use & Zoning Team has learned that the first set of city-wide zoning changes under City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality (COYCN) was Certified by the City Planning Commission on April 24th, 2023 and will begin the public review process. The proposed zoning text amendment seeks to modernize the city's outdated and oftentimes burdensome zoning regulations to make it easier for building owners and developers to make resilient changes to address the current climate goals. Such proposed zoning changes will address four categories:

  • Energy: This citywide text proposal would expand the area within rooftops and yards where solar panels and other energy infrastructure equipment can be located and allow for energy grid components to be located in the majority of the city’s zoning districts. See below examples of existing burdens that may be alleviated due to the proposed zoning changes:
    • Solar Panels: Current zoning rules curtail and limit how much solar a home/building owner can realistically install. The proposal seeks to remove coverage and setback requirements for rooftop solar and apply a 15 feet maximum height limit to all flat-roof solar installations;
    • Community Solar: Current zoning rules classify non-accessory solar generation as a commercial use, which limits these sources of power from being located within large parts of the city. The proposal seeks to reclassify this use and permit installations that are less than 10,000sf in Residential Zoning Districts as-of-right; and
    • Solar Canopies: Current zoning rules don’t always permit solar awnings/canopies in the same areas as parking, which prevents their installation. The proposal seeks to allow them to cover parking areas by classifying them as permitted obstructions.
  • Building: This citywide text proposal would promote building retrofits by increasing floor area deductions for building exteriors and updating "Zone Green" to better reflect modern building standards. See below examples of existing burdens that may be alleviated due to the proposed zoning changes and make it easier for building owners to comply with the city’s Local Law 97:
    • Retrofitting mechanical equipment for electrification: Current zoning rules provide coverage and height caps to mechanical equipment, which may limit electrical retrofits that are located on roofs. The proposal seeks to provide greater flexibility for electric equipment like heat pumps and making zoning allowances that were previously limited to within the floodplain to be applicable citywide;
    • Envelope retrofits: Current zoning rules classify certain wall thicknesses as floor area, which limits façade replacement or retrofit due to the loss in floor area. The proposal seeks to create a new allowance for additional wall thickness.
  • Transportation & Vehicles: This citywide text proposal would promote modify existing parking regulations across the city to encourage more electric vehicle charging stations and car-sharing options. See below examples of existing burdens that may be alleviated due to the proposed zoning changes:
    • EV Charging Facilities: Current zoning rules classify open-to-the-public EV charging facilities as Use Group 7 commercial uses, which limit their locations to only specific commercial districts in the city. The proposal seeks to reclassify these uses as Use Group 6, which are permitted in all Commercial Districts;
    • EV Chargers and Car-Sharing: Current zoning rules do not permit EV chargers installed in accessory parking garages to be available to the public. The proposal seeks to permit property owners to designate up to 20% of their accessory parking spaces for flexible, public EV charger-sharing, or car sharing, or any combination thereof; and
    • Automated Parking: Current zoning rules only permit special allowances to automated parking facilities in certain areas of the city (Manhattan Core). The current proposal seeks to expand the applicability to other areas so more owners may take advantage of such automated facilities.
  • Waste & Water: This citywide text proposal would update street tree regulations and clarify permeable paving concerns to ensure new projects can incorporate stormwater and waste management measures. Rooftop greenhouses would no longer require a ministerial approval and be permitted as-of-right, reducing costs for property owners seeking to facilitate rooftop food production.

Please note that this city-wide zoning text amendment will be subject to public review, including multiple public hearings. We will continue to monitor this initiative and will provide updates as more details arise.

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]

© 2023 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.