The Urban Renewal Law authorizes the City to acquire sites in an Urban Renewal Area for redevelopment in accordance with an Urban Renewal Plan ("Plan"). When researching the restrictions on a property that is or was subject to a Plan, it is important to begin by understanding what the Urban Renewal Law actually does. Unlike the Zoning Resolution, the Urban Renewal Law is not a land use regulation statute. It does not authorize the City to simply regulate the use of privately owned property. Instead, the Urban Renewal Law authorizes the City to acquire property and then dispose of it (by sale or lease) for redevelopment in accordance with the requirements of a Plan.
The requirements of the Plan are therefore imposed in the documents by which the City disposes of the property. In New York City, that almost always means a Deed, a Land Disposition Agreement (“LDA”), or both. In these documents, the purchaser of the urban renewal site contractually binds itself and any future owners to develop and use the property in compliance with the Plan.
Every Plan contains an expiration date (usually stated in Section H of the Plan). However, that expiration date is not the end of the story. Remember that the Urban Renewal Law authorizes the City to require compliance with the Plan as a condition of disposing of the property. This means that the property owner is subject to an urban renewal covenant contained in the Deed or LDA (and sometimes both) requiring compliance with the Plan. If that covenant is silent regarding its own duration, the requirement to comply with the Plan will expire on the date stated in the Plan. However, the urban renewal covenant in a Deed or LDA may sometimes extend the requirement to comply with the Plan well beyond that expiration date. While this is unusual, it does happen, and it is therefore essential to always check the Deed, LDA, and any other agreements recorded against the property to see what the urban renewal covenants say about the duration of their requirements.
For example, an urban renewal covenant might require “compliance with the plan for 40 years from the date of completion of the improvements in the housing project.” With this type of covenant, you would need to examine how the Deed or LDA defined the housing project, then determine when the last building in that project was completed (likely the date that it first obtained a certificate of occupancy for the entire structure, but the Deed or LDA might also contain a more detailed definition of completion). Even if the Plan expired by its own terms on an earlier date, the urban renewal covenant would require the owner to comply with the Plan until the later date specified in the Deed or LDA.
Over the life of any Plan, it may undergo multiple modifications, often referred to as “amendments” or (for lesser modifications) “minor changes.” However, any urban renewal site that the City disposes of for redevelopment pursuant to a Plan is subject to the version of the Plan that was in effect at the time of that disposition. Fortunately, it is generally very easy to figure out which version of the Plan was in effect at the time of disposition because that version will almost always be attached as an exhibit to the Deed or LDA. If the plan is changed at any time after disposition of an urban renewal site, the change will not apply to that site unless the City and the property owner enter into a written agreement specifically subjecting the site to the new changes. Some Plans may include a fact sheet at the end of the document. The fact sheet is a general summary that is not part of the Plan and has no legal effect, so you must review the Plan itself. Additionally, the fact sheet only addresses the changes made in the last amendment to the Plan, so it may only address a few sites.
Using the Automated City Register Information System (ACRIS) to Research Property
Below are instructions for researching restrictions and other information recorded against an urban renewal site.
You will get a list of documents with a dark row of headings at the top. One of the items in that dark row of headings will say “Max Rows”:
As a result of tax lot mergers and/or subdivisions, the same geographic location (e.g. an urban renewal site) may be associated with different tax lot numbers at different points in time. ACRIS is an important resource for researching restrictions on urban renewal sites; however, since information on ACRIS is searchable by tax lot, it is important to identify and research all lots associated with that geographic location.
Using the Digital Tax Map to Research Changes to Tax Lots
The City’s “Digital Tax Map” website is a helpful resource for determining whether the original lot number associated with an urban renewal site is now equivalent to all or a part of a tax lot with a completely different number. To complete this review of the urban renewal site, the current tax map must be compared to the historic tax map, the Plan’s maps, and the lots included in the Plan’s Exhibit A. Use the following steps to access the required information:
General Zoning, Property, Land Use and CEQR links: