The NY State Legislature finalized their negotiations and voted on Governor Hochul’s omnibus budget bill at the end of April. The outcome of the issues that we are concerned about was, to put it mildly, a mixed bag. One thing that I didn’t mention before was the push to get rid of the Statewide FAR (Floor Area Ratio) cap which has long been at a 12.0, meaning that if you have a 10,000 square foot property and are in a zone that allows for a 12.0 FAR, you can have 120,000 square feet of building space. The budget bill included legislation to change that number to a maximum 18.0 FAR which is a massive increase in buildable square footage wherever this would be adopted. This dovetails with the City of Yes for Housing Opportunity proposal, which would introduce two new zones above the current maximum – R10 – and allow a 15.0 FAR at R11 and an 18.0 FAR at R12. These zones would have to be mapped to allow this, but clearly this is the intent.
Here are the outcomes for the three other pieces mentioned above:

•ADUs– the State Legislature agreed to create an “opt-in” incentive program to allow all municipalities throughout New York State to have the ability to create local legislation with a small amount of state funding connected to it. While this program was created with the intention of helping smaller communities upstate that are interested in legalizing ADUs, we already have reports from places in Westchester, including the City of Yonkers, that are looking to tap into this program. In addition, New York City, while not interested in the funding stream connected to it, has ADUs as a centerpiece in the City of Yes for Housing Opportunity.

• Basement / Cellar Apartments – hand in hand with ADUs, Governor Hochul and her allies in the State Legislature placed great pressure on legislators to support a blanket legalization of basement and cellar apartments in New York City. The basement / cellar apartments, along with ADUs, are a key component of the City of Yes for Housing Opportunity and Mayor Adams and Department of City Planning Chair Dan Garodnick were lobbying hard for citywide adoption. However, numerous Assemblymembers from areas all over the city balked at this, particularly outside of Manhattan. Therefore, a compromise was reached: a pilot program was created and was only mapped in Community Boards where an Assemblymember was in favor. In addition, it could still be overturned if the Community Board itself and/or the representative Councilmember were opposed to it and voted against the pilot program within 90 days. Currently, the Community Boards where it is mapped (but not yet implemented) are Bronx CBs 9, 10, 11 & 12: Brooklyn CBs 4, 10, 11 & 17; Manhattan CBs 2, 3, 9, 10, 11 & 12; and Queens CB 2. If you are opposed to basements and cellars having the ability to be legalized and are located in any of these boards, we urge you to contact your Community Boards and Councilmembers to vote NO.

• High-Density Development for Religiously-Owned Property in Low-Density Areas of NY – this proposed bill was removed from Governor Hochul’s budget bill one week prior to adoption, as (once again) she attempted to violate the New York State Constitution by creating zoning mandates that would allow any property owned by any religious organization to build housing at a higher density than whatever local zoning it was located in throughout the state. While this action was withdrawn at the state level, it has been reintroduced into the City of Yes for Housing Opportunity, which will allow all property owned by religious organizations in lower density zones to build at Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) zoning densities and heights, regardless of whether they are in one. Giving preferential treatment to properties based upon ownership may violate the New York City Charter as well as violate the New York State Constitution.

All of this legislation was specifically geared towards the densification of lower-density neighborhoods in New York City, dovetailing directly with the City of Yes for Housing Opportunity. For our communities to survive, we must stop Mayor Adams and his administration from passing and implementing these proposed changes to our existing zoning. We are currently in Round Two. I’ll keep you posted.

If the City of Yes legislation passes, there is a statewide bill that has been introduced in Albany (A9417) by Assembly Member Jaime Williams of Brooklyn that would allow neighborhoods in NYC to break away from the city and form their own town. Passing this would be a heavy lift, but it would mean those in the new town would have actual self-governance, meaning that they can do what they wish including saying “No” to just about everything that they don’t like about being part of New York City – and raise and spend their own tax revenue. The text of the bill is below.

Introduced by M. of A. WILLIAMS
— read once and referred to the Committee on Local Governments
proposing an amendment to article 9 of the constitution,
in relation to the formation of new towns

Section 1. Resolved (if the Senate concur), That article 9 of the constitution be amended by adding a new section 4 to read as follows:

§ 4. Owners of parcels of land that are adjacent to each other or only separated by a road, highway, railroad, body of water, and/or a watercourse within a single county may separate from any city or cities and/or town or towns whose jurisdiction the land is currently under and incorporate a new town. First, the owners must draw up a map and prepare a charter of the proposed town and have one-fifth of the owners of land in the proposed new town sign a petition agreeing to the map and charter. The proposed town must have at least two thousand people residing in it.

The charter they draft shall describe how any special district or districts will be affected and when the charter will take effect and when the special election to fill offices created for the first time under the charter will be held. Second, the map, charter, and petition must be filed with the county board of elections where the proposed town will exist before September first of any year. The county board of elections shall then schedule a vote on the proposed town on the next election day in November. Only voters who reside within the proposed town may vote on creating it. If a majority of those voting approve it the new town will be created and will cease to be part of the municipality or municipalities it separates from thirty days after the new town’s officials take office.

The new town and the municipality or municipalities it separates from should negotiate fair prices for water, sewer or other services that must continue to be shared. If an agreement cannot be reached, either may petition the appellate division of the supreme court to set the prices for up to four years at a time. Should anyone go to court to block the creation of the new town and not prevail they shall pay the reasonable legal fees and court costs of those trying to create the new town.