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NYC Mayor Adams’ “City of Yes” business plan passes Council as larger housing battle looms

A slightly pared-back version of the Adams administration’s “City of Yes” plan to modernize “laughably” outdated zoning rules for businesses, easing how and where they can operate, was passed on Thursday by a final 36-14 City Council vote.

“City of Yes for Economic Opportunity” is intended to give businesses across the city more breathing room by cutting decades-old zoning red tape.

Among other things, the measure could to make it easier to fill vacant storefronts, boost light manufacturing such as jewelry-making 3D printing, and update rules for auto repair businesses and the life sciences sector. It’s the second of three City of Yes zoning proposals spearheaded by the Department of City Planning.

“We have taken another historic step to bring our city’s zoning code into the 21st century and build a more inclusive and prosperous economy,” Mayor Adams said in a statement following the vote.

But the Council made several modifications to “Zoning for Economic Opportunity” last month ahead of its passage. Most notably, it cut a provision that would have brought more corner stores to residential neighborhoods — something particularly resisted in the outer boroughs. Many communities expressed concern about the potential clash of commercial and residential spaces, as well as frustration with the dense nature of the proposal.

Councilmember Chris Banks, a Brooklyn Democrat, was one of several elected officials  who voted against “Economic Opportunity.”

“While changes to our zoning laws are overdue, they must be changed in a responsible manner,” he said, describing passage of the plan as “rushed.”

While Economic Opportunity went through the city review process mostly unscathed, the cut of the corner store cornerstone hints ata ptentially tougher battle the administration will face later this year with “City of Yes for Housing Opportunity.”

It’s the last and most controversial prong of the City of Yes package and is Mayor Adams’s signature strategy to tackle the ongoing housing crisis by easing zoning restrictions to allow for “a little more housing in every neighborhood.” The administration estimates it could lead to the creation of 58,200 to nearly 108,900 new homes over 15 years.

“Housing Opportunity” has led to early criticism and wariness, particularly from the city’s more suburban, development-averse pockets. It is currently being reviewed by community boards, after which it will head to the borough presidents for their recommendations.

On Wednesday the borough presidents of Queens and the Bronx signaled they would be proposing changes to the measure despite supporting it overall.

A final City Council vote on the housing plan isn’t expected until the end of 2024.


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