To meet the mayor’s “moonshot” goal of building 500,000 new homes by 2033, the Adams administration alongside city planning commission chair Dan Garodnick announced a new program: Green Fast Track. The initiative’s goal is to streamline the city’s environmental review process, incentivizing housing construction. The legislation could accelerate the production of “small- and medium-sized housing projects” in New York City, a press release stated.
Presently, in New York, many small- and mid-sized housing projects linger in the environmental review process for 8 to 12 months. Get Stuff Built’s executive director Rob Holbrook says Green Fast Track would speed things up. “We can show that a category of housing projects is small enough not to cause environmental impacts. We must stop wasting their time filing paperwork that does not contribute to environmental protection or public engagement.”
City officials say that researchers analyzed 1,000 environmental reviews from the past decade. The study revealed that most housing projects with specific characteristics of modest size had no negative impacts on the environment. Moving ahead, similar buildings will be designated what city officials call “Type II” under the City Environmental Quality Review process. If building developers achieve Type II status, city officials say, it could cut their permitting time by 24 months, and save an average of $100,000 while quickly delivering much needed housing.
Green Fast Track excludes projects over 250 feet tall or over 50 feet tall and next to open space, natural resources, or historic resources that are sunlight sensitive. Buildings that qualify will be in low-density residential areas. Qualifying proposals must have fewer than 175 units and take up no more than 20,000-square-feet of nonresidential area. In medium- and high-density residential areas, commercial, or manufacturing districts, projects must have fewer than 250 units and take up less than 35,000 square feet of nonresidential area to qualify. Qualifying projects will still have to comply with the Mayor’s Office of Environmental Coordination (MOEC), the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA), and Department of City Planning (DCP).
To date, Mayor Adams has made “cutting red tape” central to his platform, a strategy that’s been met with mixed reviews. Contractors and libertarians applaud what the mayor is doing, tenants activists and reformers have more critical things to say.
Tom Wright, president and CEO of Regional Plan Association, applauded the initiative. “New York City’s proposed Green Fast Track is a forward-looking and environmentally sound initiative that will help address two key issues: the climate crisis and the housing crisis. Unfortunately, the ways in which environmental review laws have evolved favor suburban sprawl and auto-oriented communities, which result in greater climate-related emissions and a degraded environment, while deterring more compact, transit-oriented, and sustainable forms of development,” Wright said. “The Green Fast Track sets size- and location-based criteria to streamline the approval process of moderately sized and urgently needed housing projects. We applaud the Adams administration for moving ahead with this important initiative and look forward to its implementation.”