City of Yes – Economic Opportunity
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Economic Opportunity – What is it? 

The City of Yes for Economic Opportunity proposal seeks to reorganize the current use groups in our City’s Zoning Resolution and make allowances to increase commercial activity in certain areas of the City. This in turn has the potential to dramatically affect housing and harm neighbors. The expansion of commercial activity into residential buildings is not only harmful to housing in a housing crisis but will have a negative effect on quality of life for the community.

Home Occupations
Home-based businesses are defined in zoning as “home occupations,” allowing a range of businesses to occur while explicitly prohibiting certain occupations. Currently, there are a number of restrictions on the operation of home occupations, such as signage, limiting the size to 25% of the dwelling unit or 500 SF, and a limit of one outside employee. There are also environmental standards home occupations have to adhere to. COYEO proposes to remove the list of prohibited home occupations, increase the number of outside employees allowed to three, increase the allowed size to 49% of the unit and remove the 500 SF limit. Increasing the size limit and capacity for home businesses could lead to increased, unregulated traffic, potentially impacting upon the quality of life of neighbors.

Allowing businesses to operate on Upper floors of mixed use buildings. 

This proposal has the potential to cause major problems for residents of mixed buildings. There is no language that determines what business types can’t operate on upper floors, possibly bars on upper floors. On top of that, it doesn’t enforce environmental standards on commercial businesses with a capacity of fewer than 75 persons and the environmental standards that are enforced on larger establishments are worryingly sparse, excluding odor, glare and vibration. Some minor measures are proposed to mitigate nuisance, but we don’t believe these are sufficient. 

Manufacturing in more districts

There are few M districts on the Upper West Side, but this proposal will allow most manufacturing uses to be located in any commercial district, including neighborhood commercial districts. This could negatively impact communities on the UWS if further regulations are not put in place. Under the existing zoning, manufacturing uses don’t have to be open to the public. If these uses were to be located in commercial districts, we want to ensure they serve the community and specify that products made on-site must be sold on-site, so as not to impinge on the communities quality of life and suffocate other businesses. 

Harmful to Housing

There are many aspects of this zoning proposal that are hostile to housing. With this new zoning proposal, manufacturing, agricultural, and commercial uses will bleed into residential zones and covet more space, ultimately pushing out residents. Lately, the finger has been pointed at preservation for exasperating the current housing crisis. We wholeheartedly disagree and can’t help thinking these proposals are single-handedly causing more harm to the current housing crisis by making existing housing less livable and decreasing opportunities for housing in favor of business interests. Additionally, the proposal to create new zoning districts for job production, which is vague and currently not mapped at all, is hostile to housing as these districts will not permit residential use.

Quality of Life

City of Yes will propose to introduce all types of nightclubs in every commercial district despite the initial zoning proposal, dated from 1989, citing neighbor’s complaints about “noise, traffic, parking, sanitation and crowding impacts from clubs” will prove disastrous for the livability of mixed zoning districts. If these issues existed in the ‘80s, they surely would now.

Additionally, City of Yes proposals could also legalize a Coney-Island style thrill ride in a Times Square hotel and enclosed amusement rides could be permitted along Madison Avenue, Broadway, and Lincoln Square. Expanding amusements into more districts could be transformative for the city, and not for the better, further appeasing the tourism industry and turning our commercial and residential districts into entertainment districts.

Special Zoning Districts

The Special Zoning Districts in the city were designed with specific curation of uses to allow entertainment and cultural districts to flourish. Replacing these custom, site specific rules with generic ones seen throughout the city, is inconsistent with the goals of a Special Zoning District. Under the current proposals, City of Yes eliminates most of the custom rules made for Manhattan Special Zoning Districts, which were designed to encourage the retention of small-scale retail to keep big establishments (like banks) at bay.

Proposed Modifications


Some notable modifications were proposed during recent review sessions at the Department of City Planning. These include:

  • Home occupations cannot ultilize residential common areas such a hallways, lobbies, and stairwells for waiting, queuing etc.
  • Clarify that additional potential hazards are also meant to be restricted from home occupations
  • Reinstate a square footage cap for home occupations at 1,000 SF.
  • Restrict proposed upper floor commercial allowances to spaces not used for existing residential units
  • Restrict all UG6B (service) UG8, and UG10, from using proposed upper floor commercial allowances unless they comply with new environmental standards 
  • Insert Language that the presence of a “dance floor” means that an eating or drinking establishment is providing entertainment
  • Provide additional specificity as to what kind of business types would be considered Amusement or Recreation Facilities



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Click HERE to read our Testimony on City of Yes for Economic Opportunity

Click HERE to read our Testimony on City of Yes for Economic Opportunity before the City Council

Are you still curious for a better understanding?  Watch our program, Understanding City of Yes with George Janes, co-hosted by LANDMARK WEST! and FRIENDS of the Upper East Side Historic Districts, by clicking the IMAGE BELOW.

LANDMARK WEST and FRIENDS of the Upper East Side City of Yes Event Poster
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