New York City is saying “yes” to zoning reform. In June 2022, Mayor Eric Adams and Director of City Planning (DCP) Dan Garodnick announced the “City of Yes” initiative to revamp New York’s zoning framework in an effort to aid small businesses, create jobs, expand affordable housing opportunities, and promote sustainability. The plan will implement three citywide zoning text amendments in response to a myriad of challenges the city is currently facing, such as homelessness and the fight against climate change. Below is a summary and breakdown of the key takeaways behind the initiative and how each amendment represents the city’s dedication to tackling specific economic, housing, and sustainability issues across all five boroughs. 

City of Yes for economic opportunity

This amendment proposes a variety of changes to zoning text that has hindered small business development across New York City for several decades. Zoning regulations that govern how uses are classified and therefore where different types of businesses are allowed to locate and remain have changed very little since 1961. These outdated rules are particularly challenging for emerging business models that require more flexibility in order to find or repurpose shuttered commercial spaces. Under the city’s Economic Opportunity amendment, new and existing businesses related to life sciences, custom manufacturing, maker-retail, and nightlife will be able to revitalize commercial streets, fill vacancies, and, City officials say, boost job growth throughout New York City. New corridor design and loading dock rules will also help businesses adapt to their spaces over time. The proposal is now undergoing a public review process that began on October 30, 2023, and the DCP is expecting to obtain approval by summer 2024.  We consider these changes long overdue and they have been largely well-received by the industry, community groups, elected officials, and planning professionals. 

City of Yes for housing opportunity

City Hall is also proposing a series of text amendments that aim to create affordable housing across all New York City neighborhoods, which City officials say will better accommodate New York’s growing (and aging) population.  Home ownership is out of reach for most New Yorkers and over fifty percent of the city’s current residents spend more than a third of their income on rent.  The Housing Opportunity amendments seek to address the City’s housing crisis by loosening regulations governing conversion of underutilized commercial spaces to residential use, increasing the maximum permitted floor area ratio for developments that include affordable housing (including senior housing), and expanding the range of acceptable housing types (co-housing) and sizes (micro units). The formal public review process for the amendment is scheduled to begin by the middle of 2024. This initiative has received mixed reviews from community groups and elected officials—their objections range from typical NIMBYism to genuine concerns about sewer capacities and transit. Industry professionals welcome most of the changes but also agree that without corresponding state legislation (namely, aligning tax policies and removing the floor area ratio cap in multiple dwelling law), the impact of the changes in the next few years will be minimal.    

City of Yes for carbon neutrality

The purpose of the carbon neutrality amendment is to implement citywide sustainable practices. New zoning rules will reflect clean energy initiatives, such as making electric vehicle charging stations readily available to the public. Buildings with hefty carbon footprints will be retrofitted to facilitate green property management and reduce carbon emissions. Rooftop spaces will be repurposed for solar panel installations, while heat pump and HVAC systems will run on electricity in an effort to reduce fossil fuel consumption. This zoning amendment—the least controversial of the three by a wide margin—gained City Council approval on December 6, 2023.

This Special Bulletin highlights some of the key issues regarding the City of Yes programs and we will provide updates as these proposals wind through the public review process.  At this time, the City of Yes for Housing Opportunity proposal is undergoing environmental review, but will enter the public review process in spring 2024.  It is expected that the City Planning Commission will vote on the City of Yes for Economic Opportunity proposal in the spring with the New York City City Council holding its hearings in early summer 2024. 



Authored by Ross Moskowitz, John Egnatios-Beene, and Stephanie Carola.


This website is operated by Hogan Lovells International LLP, whose registered office is at Atlantic House, Holborn Viaduct, London, EC1A 2FG. For further details of Hogan Lovells International LLP and the international legal practice that comprises Hogan Lovells International LLP, Hogan Lovells US LLP and their affiliated businesses ("Hogan Lovells"), please see our Legal Notices page. © 2024 Hogan Lovells.

Attorney advertising. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.