Community-Based Planning

Community-based planning is essential to the city's vitality. People who are close to neighborhood issues can clearly identify community needs and advocate passionately for local concerns.

As part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Housing New York plan, the Department of City Planning (DCP) is organizing a series of place-based planning studies to foster diverse, livable neighborhoods with mixed-income housing and supporting services. PLACES is a people-centered planning approach in which DCP and other agencies work collaboratively with communities, stakeholders and elected officials to actively shape their neighborhoods. Learn more about PLACES studies.

Community-based planning studies vary to respond to the distinct needs of individual communities, but may include recommendations for affordable housing preservation and development, economic development, and priority investments in infrastructure and community supporting services. Problems that are service-related (such as clogged drains, broken street lights, park maintenance problems, etc.) can be brought to the attention of the community board district manager's office. These may be dealt with at the community board's monthly District Service Cabinet meeting attended by representatives from city agencies (Police, Parks and Recreation, Sanitation, etc.).

Useful Information:
DCP also provides technical assistance and advice to individuals and community-based organizations.

The city is divided into 59 community districts, each represented by a community board. DCP's website contains a wealth of information on each, including data organized by community district, land use, population, housing, community facilities, much of which is included in maps. Demographic information is provided for New York City, the five boroughs and other geographic areas on our Population pages. The Census FactFinder tool provides easy access to population information for a selected area.

The Department has a central office at 120 Broadway in Manhattan and borough offices. DCP borough offices are usually the first place to contact for local concerns. The DCP central divisions (212-720-3300) may be contacted about citywide questions (population, housing, economic development, and the waterfront). Zoning information can be found on our website, or on our zoning and land use web application, ZoLa. The website also includes an explanation of zoning, parts of the Zoning Handbook, a basic guide to New York City zoning and the Zoning Resolution text and maps. We have a general FAQ and zoning-specific FAQ to address any questions. You can also call the Zoning Help Desk for any questions not already addressed on our website.

Descriptions about land use and environmental review processes, and the status and details about DCP initiatives and other land use applications are also found on the Department's website. DCP offers a variety of data products, including base map files and land use data, for free download or by a license agreement.

One of the formal ways to develop a community-based plan is set out in Section 197-a of the City Charter, which authorizes community boards and borough boards, along with the Mayor, the City Planning Commission (the "Commission"), the Department of City Planning ("DCP"), and any Borough President, to sponsor plans for the development, growth, and improvement of the city, its boroughs and communities. Once approved by the Commission and adopted by the City Council, 197-a plans guide future actions of city agencies in the areas addressed in the plans. Neighborhood or civic groups within the larger community may draft a 197-a plan, but they must be approved, sponsored, and submitted by a community board, borough board, or borough president. A PDF Document DCP illustrated description of the 197-a plans process explains how this works in simple terms.

DCP provides technical assistance to help 197-a sponsors meet standards for form, content and sound planning policy for proposed 197-a plans (known as "threshold standards") as set out in the PDF Document Rules for the Processing of Plans Pursuant to Charter Section 197-a. In addition to the threshold standards, the rules outline procedures and a timetable for the 197-a process. DCP's PDF Document 197-a Plan Technical Guide provides useful "how-to" instructions and a description of the kinds of analyses most relevant to typical planning issues. The guide may also help community boards determine whether a 197-a plan is the most appropriate vehicle for addressing their issues. Both the Rules and the Guide can be purchased at the City Planning Bookstore.

Review of 197-a plans occurs in two stages. The first stage, the threshold review, is conducted by the Department of City Planning and the City Planning Commission to ensure that a plan is complete, coherent and properly documented before it is reviewed on its merits. The second stage, substantive review, allows for community board, borough president, City Planning Commission and City Council consideration of the plan's objectives, policies and proposals. The process may culminate in approval of the plan as submitted, approval as modified by the City Planning Commission and/or the City Council, or disapproval.

Taking a 197-a plan from inception to adoption is a lengthy process and requires the continuing commitment of its sponsors even after adoption to ensure successful implementation. With that commitment, an appropriate set of objectives and a realistic outlook, a community board may find the 197-a process well worth the effort.

To date, thirteen 197-a plans have been adopted: eleven were sponsored by community boards; one by a borough president and one by the Department of City Planning. One plan has been disapproved and one withdrawn.

Status of 197-a Plans*

PlanSponsorFocusCurrent Status
PDF Document Partnership for the Future Bronx CB 3 Comprehensive Adopted: 11/92
(as modified by CPC)
PDF Document The Chelsea Plan Manhattan CB 4 Zoning Adopted: 5/96
(as modified by CPC)
PDF Document Red Hook Plan Brooklyn CB 6 Comprehensive Adopted: 9/96
(as modified by CPC)
PDF Document Stuyvesant Cove Plan Manhattan CB 6 Waterfront Adopted: 3/97
(as modified by CPC)
PDF Document Comprehensive Manhattan Waterfront Plan Manhattan BP Waterfront Adopted: 4/97
(as modified by CPC/CC)
PDF Document New Waterfront Revitalization Program DCP Waterfront Adopted: 10/99
PDF Document Williamsburg Waterfront Plan Brooklyn CB 1 Waterfront/ Comprehensive Adopted: 1/02
(as modified by CPC)
PDF Document Greenpoint Plan Brooklyn CB 1 Comprehensive Adopted: 1/02
(as modified by CPC)
PDF Document CD 8: River to Reservoir Preservation Strategy Bronx CB 8 Comprehensive Adopted: 11/03
PDF Document CB 8 197-a Plan for Queensboro Bridge Area Manhattan CB 8 Waterfront / Streetscapes Adopted: 8/06
PDF Document CB 9 197-a Plan: Hamilton Heights, Manhattanville, Morningside Heights Manhattan CB 9 Comprehensive Adopted: 12/07
(as modified by CPC)
PDF Document CB 6 197-a Plan for Eastern Section of Community District 6 Manhattan CB 6 & East Side Rezoning Alliance Comprehensive with focus on waterfront and open space Adopted: 3/08
(as modified by CPC/CC)
PDF Document New Connections/ New Opportunities: Sunset Park 197-a Plan Brooklyn CB 7 Comprehensive with focus on the waterfront Adopted: 12/09
(as modified by CPC)
West Village Manhattan CB 2 Land Use/Zoning Withdrawn 8/96
Little Neck/Douglaston Queens CB 11 Zoning Disapproved 5/99

* As of May 2010

Implementation of 197-a Plans
Once a 197-a plan is adopted, the sponsor's work is not over! The sponsor, usually a community board, should work with city agencies to ensure that 197-a plan goals are met. If rezonings are recommended in the plan, the sponsor may encourage the Department of City Planning to initiate a zoning map change application (under Section 197-c of the City Charter). Rezonings based on the recommendations in four 197-a plans have been adopted.

197-a PlanRezoning Initiatives CPC Reports (Adoption Date)
Chelsea Plan PDF Document Chelsea Rezoning N 990452 ZRM and
C 990453 ZMM - (9/9/99)
PDF Document West Chelsea Rezoning PDF DocumentC 050162A ZMM - (6/23/05)
PDF Document West Chelsea Special District PDF Document N 050161A ZRM - (6/23/05)
Williamsburg Waterfront Plan PDF Document Greenpoint Williamsburg Rezoning PDF Document N 050110A ZRK
PDF Document C 050111A ZMK
PDF Document C 040115 MMK
PDF Document C 040116 MMK
PDF Document C 040417 MMK
PDF Document C 040418 MMK - (5/11/05)
Greenpoint Plan PDF Document Greenpoint Williamsburg Rezoning PDF Document N 050110A ZRK
PDF Document C 050111A ZMK
PDF Document C 040115 MMK
PDF Document C 040116 MMK
PDF Document C 040417 MMK
PDF Document C 040418 MMK - (5/11/05)
CD 8: River to Reservoir Preservation Strategy PDF Document North Riverdale PDF DocumentC 050043 ZMX - (12/7/04)
PDF Document Central Riverdal/Spuyten Duyvil PDF Document C 040515 ZMX - (9/28/04)
PDF Document Riverdale-On-Hudson PDF Document C 050480 ZMX - (10/11/05)
PDF Document Van Cortland Village PDF Document C 040516 ZMX - (9/28/04)
PDF Document Natural Area Text Change (SNAD) PDF Document N 050093 ZRY - (2/2/05)

Some 197-a plans have recommendations that focus on issues other than zoning. The first adopted 197-a plan, sponsored by Bronx CB 3, aimed at revitalizing the district and recommended measures to facilitate new mixed income housing development and increase the population. Those goals have been substantially met. The Stuyvesant Cove 197-a Plan envisioned a publicly-accessible waterfront park and pedestrian esplanade. The waterfront park was constructed and opened in 2003. A major recommendation of the Manhattan CB 8 197-a Plan is the transformation of a former heliport site to a waterfront park and esplanade. The City, in consultation with CB 8, is in the planning stage for these waterfront improvements.

If your community is interested in learning more about the 197-a process or alternative approaches to planning, please contact the Department of City Planning's Planning Coordination Division at 212-720-3464.

Integrating Different Visions
Recently the city's growing population and strong real estate market have created interest in private or institutional redevelopment of under-utilized areas. In cases where rezoning is required, these proposals may be in conflict with community plans in various stages of development. Wherever possible, DCP encourages local stakeholders to find common ground regarding their different visions. In cases where there is a 197-a plan and a conflicting rezoning proposal, DCP seeks to ensure that the competing plans are reviewed in a manner that guarantees equal consideration of each.

Columbia University proposed an expansion of its academic campus and other rezonings for one of the geographic areas covered by the Manhattan Community Board 9 197-a Plan. Public review began in June 2007 for Columbia University's expansion proposal in West Harlem and the 197-a plan proposed by Manhattan Community Board 9. In December 2007, the City Council adopted the CB 9 197-a Plan, as modified by the City Planning Commission, and the Columbia University rezoning proposal, as modified by the City Planning Commission. The recommendations in both plans, as modified, were reconciled.

The East River Realty Company (ERRC) proposed a rezoning for one of the geographic areas covered by the 197-a Plan submitted by Manhattan Community Board 6. Public review began in August  2007 for the East River Realty Company's proposal to redevelop the former Con Edison sites on First Avenue on Manhattan's east side. On January 28, 2008 the City Planning Commission approved the CB 6 197-a Plan with modifications, and the ERRC proposal with modifications.  On March 26, 2008 the City Council adopted the CB 6 197-a Plan with additional modifications, and the ERRC proposal, also with additional modifications.

Some broader topics identified for attention by communities such as transportation or infrastructure improvements, job access or building code enforcement, do not lend themselves to a formal plan or report but are more appropriate for a concerted action strategy. These subjects might best be dealt with through a task force made up of representatives of appropriate agencies, community groups and elected officials. Successful outcomes achieved in recent years have included active leadership and cooperation of the Mayor’s Office, city agencies and elected officials in conjunction with active participation and commitment of local stakeholders.

Examples of highly successful task forces formed in recent years to develop solutions to pressing local issues include:

  • The Hunts Point Vision Plan, developed in cooperation with business and community leaders, elected officials and multiple City agencies, is a comprehensive initiative aimed at promoting a competitive business environment and sustainable community on the Hunts Point Peninsula in the South Bronx. Following the Vision Plan’s recommendations, the Department initiated PDF Document zoning measures, adopted by the City Council in July 2008, to encourage the growth of the food industry sector and create a buffer between the manufacturing district and the adjacent residential neighborhood.

  • In response to the broad range of concerns expressed by participants about the future of PDF Document 125th Street in Harlem, the Mayor formed the 125th Street Interagency Working Group. In addition to DCP, the team consisted of representatives from the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and several other city agencies including the Departments of Cultural Affairs, Transportation, Small Business Services, and Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). The team worked together with the Advisory Committee to identify solutions for issues raised during the planning process. A rezoning proposal was adopted by the City Council in April 2008; follow-up measures were adopted in PDF Document November, 2008 and PDF Document June 2011.

  • The redevelopment plan for PDF Document Stapleton in Staten Island, including the former Navy Homeport, with construction of an almost mile-long esplanade along New York Harbor, stems from recommendations made in 2004 by the Task Force on Homeport Redevelopment. An RFP by the City's Economic Development Corporation will foster development of 350 residential units, a banquet hall and waterfront restaurant, sports complex, ground-floor retail and farmers market, and a major economic use such as a movie studio or office space. In June, 2013, ground was broken on the New Stapleton Waterfront Development Plan for which the City is committing $32 million toward infrastructure improvements and the construction of a new waterfront esplanade that will provide the public with waterfront access.

  • The Staten Island Growth Management Task Force, convened with the support of the Mayor’s Office in 2003 in response to overdevelopment in the borough, made PDF Document recommendations that have resulted in significant zoning changes and enforcement improvements. Following these measures, new construction conformed to more desirable patterns and the number of new permits was reduced to a rate compatible with Staten Island neighborhoods. Other recommendations have emerged from the Task Force, including comprehensive studies of the West and North Shores of the Island, which have been completed.

  • An outgrowth of the Mayor's Staten Island Growth Management Task Force was a Transportation Task Force to address one of the Island's most serious concerns. It was comprised of elected officials, City agencies, State transportation agencies, Community Board chairs and the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce. The Task Force worked at the Mayor's directive over the course of three months in 2006, to produce a short term action plan, and medium and long term recommendations that were presented to address transportation issues focusing on development patterns, roadways and highways, bridges and mass transit. Significant progress has been and continues to be made by the task force.

  • During public review of the comprehensive redevelopment plan for PDF Document Jamaica, the City convened a number of agency commissioners to at community meetings in Jamaica to develop strategies about longstanding local service needs and infrastructure issues much like the Staten Island task forces which tackled similar problems. The rezoning was adopted in September 2007 and subsequently the City has invested more than $200 million in various projects in and around downtown Jamaica, including two new schools (PS/IS 48 and PS/IS 277), distinctive street lighting along Jamaica Avenue, streetscape improvements on Hillside Avenue and upgrades to area parks.