In 1970’s and 80’s, the Department of City Planning established a set of unique rules through the creation of three special districts (Special Natural Area District in the Bronx and Staten Island, Special Hillsides Preservation District and Special South Richmond Development District in Staten Island). These districts encompass more than half of Staten Island and most of the Riverdale neighborhood in the Bronx. The rules were set to ensure that neighborhood development and preservation of environmentally sensitive resources are balanced. Over the past four decades, the rules have resulted in the tree-lined streets, the preservation of local wetlands (the Bluebelt Program), and forested parks that, today, exemplify these last remaining and extraordinary green New York City communities.
The Challenge: The current system allows a property owner to remove or modify natural features through a site-by-site review by the City Planning Commission (CPC) without considering their relationship to the larger ecological context. Additionally, it is a one-size fits all approach for parcels of all sizes, land use or type of natural feature. Overtime, this has resulted in inconsistent application of the rules and created unnecessary cost and time burden, especially for small homeowners.
The Proposed Solution: Codify best practices and streamline the special districts rules to reflect updated environmental science and a more holistic approach to natural resource preservation with clear development standards resulting in better and more predictable outcomes. DCP convened working groups in both boroughs, including representatives from local institutions, homeowners, landscape architects, elected officials, local civics and environmental groups, and City agencies to shape the proposal over the last three years and establish core principles to guide the update.
Environmental Review milestones
Project Timeline: ULURP to begin Spring 2019.
For questions and to join our mailing list, email DCP at: SpecialDistrictsUpdate@planning.nyc.gov.