City of Yes Special District Zoning Provision

April 9, 2024

The Hon. Rafael Salamanca Jr., Chair
New York City Council Land Use Committee
250 Broadway Suite 1747
New York, NY  10007

Re: City of Yes for Economic Opportunity Special District provision

Dear Chair Salamanca:

Lower East Side Preservation Initiative (LESPI) opposes the current City of Yes for Economic Opportunity (COYEO) proposal to “create consistent ground floor design requirements” to replace the individualized design treatment currently stipulated by New York City’s Special District zoning. 

Special Districts were created to reinforce “distinctive qualities that may not lend themselves to generalized zoning and standard development” within special areas or neighborhoods, in such diverse areas as Parkchester, Harlem’s 125th Street Corridor, and Sunnyside Gardens, to name a few. Since most pedestrians experience New York’s streets at the ground floor level, the proposed ground floor unified design requirements will in effect nullify a major aspect of the intent of the Special District zoning. Passing this provision will lead to blander, more uniform neighborhoods, something that New Yorkers definitely do not want. We believe it is the responsibility of city government to help sustain the diversity and richness of our urban environment. 

If the motivation for this change is to streamline the Dept. of City Planning’s review process, then we recommend instead adding appropriate staffing to the department to ensure proper and timely review of proposed work within the districts. 

Although there are some aspects of COYEO that we support, we believe that undermining the purpose of the much valued Special District zoning provision in the name of efficiency is not the right way to govern the city’s growth.

This letter follows LESPI’s testimony at yesterday’s City Council Public Hearing. Thank you for your consideration.


Richard Moses

Cc: The Hon. Christopher Marte, New York City Council
The Hon. Carlina Rivera, New York City Council