Eric Adams wants to legalize bar dancing and all-studio apartment buildings in New York
The wave of successful zoning reforms that swept the country far exceeded the largest city in the United States. Not anymore, it seems.
On Wednesday, Mayor Eric Adams released a Initiative “City of Yes” which aims to reduce the city’s regulatory burden on new housing, small businesses and “zero carbon” infrastructure
“We’re going to make New York a city of yes. Yes in my backyard. Yes in my neighborhood. Yes in my borough,” the mayor said. during a speech. “Rules that made sense in the days of the rotary phone are getting in the way of doing business in the age of the smartphone.”
There is little revolutionary in the mayor’s plan, which was also light on details. The thrust of Adams’ initiative, however, is to consider that the city imposes too many unnecessary regulations on its contractors and homebuilders.
For businesses, Adams has proposed an economic opportunity zoning amendment that would allow certain businesses — his plan specifically mentions life sciences, custom manufacturing, retail and nightlife — to open in more areas of the city and give other businesses easier access. expanding time.
In his Tuesday remarks, Adams gave the example of how a bakery in a residential area would have to move to a manufacturing area if it wanted to expand and start making wholesale deliveries. He wants to give them the flexibility to grow locally.
He also called for finally ending the city’s restrictions on dancing in bars. In 2017, the city repealed its law require cabaret licenses for bars that wanted to allow dancing. This reform left in place zoning regulations that still prohibited dancing.
Adams offers to finish this unfinished business, saying “we’re going to turn that no into a yes, and let people dance.”
The Mayor’s Zoning Amendment for Housing Opportunity is also a set of reforms intended to expand housing supply in a city that has been under construction for a decade.
Adams proposed giving density bonuses to projects that include affordable and limited-priced units, eliminating restrictions on the number of studio apartments buildings can include, and making it easier to convert commercial space into new homes.
Much to the delight of zoning reformers, he also proposes to reduce the number of parking spaces needed in new residential developments.
“It’s outdated policy,” says Logan Phares, policy director of zoning reform group Open New York, of the city’s parking requirements. “We can let the market decide if parking is needed. Many places in the city don’t need to build new parking lots. We have the best public transit system in the country.”
Open New York and Open Plans, another nonprofit planner, released a statement urging Adams to eliminate the city’s parking requirements altogether, saying the policy unnecessarily forces developers to dedicate floor space to cars that no one asks.
Other cities that have reduced their parking needs have seen a rush for new development. After years of reductions, Minneapolis eliminated citywide parking minimums in 2021, contributing to an increase in the construction of new, smaller buildings.
Eric Kober, a former New York City planner and researcher at the Manhattan Institute, says the individual elements of Adams’ plan are all virtuous, but it doesn’t address the biggest obstacles to new housing development in the city.
“The things they do are good, but they’re not the most impactful things they could do,” he said. Raison.
In particular, he says Adams is missing an opportunity to call for much-needed reform of the city’s Mandatory Inclusion Housing (MIH) program created by the last mayor, Bill de Blasio, in 2016.
The MIH requires projects built in areas that have been rezoned to allow for more housing to include a set percentage of affordable units. Developers looking for individual rezonings that would allow them to build larger projects must also include a set percentage of affordable units.
Nearly 1,000 jurisdictions nationwide have such inclusive zoning programs. Research has generally shown that they act as a tax on new housing, increasing rents overall and/or suppressing new supply.
Because MIH requirements are so high (developers must offer anywhere from 25 percent to 40 percent of their units at below-market rates), the program “effectively prevents new housing from being built during rezoning, except in the city’s wealthiest neighborhoods,” he says.
A study 2020 authored by Kober notes that in its first four years, the MIH produced only 2,065 units, most of them in projects that received large government subsidies.
A state tax credit that builders of MIH projects could use to offset the costs of affordable units also expires this month, making projects submitted to MIH even less viable, Kober says.
“The city can’t rezone and get privately funded housing that doesn’t have a strong public subsidy component,” he says.
Correcting this program will be a great political boost. Kober expressed skepticism that the current New York City Council, which he describes as hostile to the development of private market-priced housing, will make the necessary changes.
Phares struck a more optimistic note, recounting Raison that although many council members successfully oppose housing in their districts, it is becoming increasingly politically controversial.
The day before Adams announced his “City of Yes” initiative, news broke that the developers behind One45, a proposed 1,000-unit project in Harlem, had pulled their development app. The project had been fiercely opposite by council member Kristin Richardson Jordan, who said it didn’t include enough low-income units.
Jordan’s opposition was enough to kill the project. But it also drew an impassioned tweet thread from council member Erik Bottcher, who said the “fiasco” illustrated the need for city-wide rezoning for more housing.
“I refuse to spend my time on Council (and the zoning sub-committee) jumping from one project to another, only to produce a fraction of a fraction of the housing we need,” he said. he declares. said on Twitter.
TOPIC: The Harlem One45 fiasco is an example of why we need a new comprehensive citywide planning framework. ????
— Erik Bottcher (@ebottcher) May 31, 2022
“Not only are people realizing that we have a housing shortage and we’re in crisis,” says Phares, but they also realize that a system that gives individual politicians so much power to block new housing in is responsible.
Adams’ “City of Yes” doesn’t confront the worst aspect of this system. But it is a first step towards eliminating the regulations that have made the country’s largest city one of the most expensive as well.