City Council approves part of Mayor Eric Adams' City of Yes plan despite community concerns


The City Council voted, 36 to 14, to pass a slightly altered version of Mayor Eric Adams’ City of Yes for Economic Opportunity plan.

Among the “no” votes was Councilman Eric Dinowitz.

“I think any law like this is a one-size-fits-all approach,” Dinowitz said. 

Dinowitz said he voted no on City of Yes for Economic Opportunity because, despite listening to his community boards and seeing some of their recommendations added to the now-approved proposal, he said two important pieces were not addressed — concerns over the merging of residential and commercial spaces and the community’s concern over how this could change quality of life. 

City of Yes for Economic Opportunity is one in a three-pronged approach the mayor is taking to adopt newer zoning laws to foster a what he says is better environment for small businesses, affordable housing and sustainability to thrive in New York City.  

Dinowitz said two of the three community boards he represents voted against the original economic plan from the mayor, adding the overall concern he has heard from community boards and his constituents is the merging residential and commercial spacing. 

Most city zoning laws were established in 1961, plans like this one would change those laws to allow businesses to exist in places they previously would not be permitted to. 

At present, a C1 designated zone allows for residential, community facilities, retail, and office spaces. With the City of Yes this zoning would expand to include personal and businesses services, entertainment spaces, wholesale locations and transient accommodations. 

Part of the mayor’s proposal would rezone streets to allow places like bicycle rental shops, movie theaters and mini-golf to occupy ground-floor storefront spaces, doing away with restrictions currently in place. 

Another restriction the mayor’s proposal targeted was allowing places like dance studios, instructional facilities and clothing rentals to occupy ground-floor storefronts. 

Another portion of City of Yes for Economic Development would rezone buildings for multi-use. Current regulations do not allow offices to be established in buildings not explicitly designed for that purpose but, if that policy is changed, industrial buildings can be converted to offices lowering the cost for developers. 

Dinowitz said this section of the mayor’s economic plan is in the best interest of developers rather than the people of New York. 

“If you let anyone do anything anywhere, you could have more businesses, but is that approach correct for our district?” Dinowitz said. 

Greater Riverdale is one of the more suburban sections of New York City, with plenty of green space and residential areas. Concerned constituents have lamented the prospect of businesses being allowed in residential spaces, as well as the kinds of noise and traffic that could produce in the community.

City of Yes also looks at modernizing regulations to adapt to the new storefronts the city sees today. Businesses like cellphone stores, food stores only offering delivery, and breweries do not have zoning laws written into current regulations, the mayor’s plan says are outdated. 

The proposal intends to widen opportunities for small-scale productions such as bakeries, jewelry makers, ceramics, apparel making and 3-D printing businesses. These places are not currently permitted to occupy spaces in a storefront or office but the city’s proposal argues these businesses benefit from foot traffic and locations closer to other businesses. Rezoning would allow these types of businesses to move into ground-floor and office spaces. 

According to data from the city’s planning department, the Bronx’s Community District 8 has a little more then 1,000 storefronts, with 90 of those currently vacant. Storefronts are nearly equally distributed between retail, food and drink, services, community facilities and other.

The number of vacant spots coincides with concerns Dinowitz said he heard about the potential for newly-zoned storefronts to be built only to be left vacant, adding to the already high number of vacant establishments in the area. 

City of Yes, Eric Adams, New York City zoning laws, economic opportunity, small businesses, affordable housing, sustainability, Eric Dinowitz, community concerns, mixed-use zoning