NYC DOP proposes new rules for Staten Island's green neighborhoods

NYC DOP  proposes new rules for Staten Island's green neighborhoods
Ms. Marisa Lago

The New York City Department of Planning has today announced proposed new rules for Staten Island's green neighborhoods aimed at lessening the burden for homeowners making small renovations.

Department of City Planning (DCP) Director Marisa Lago announced preliminary recommendations to improve rules pertaining to three Staten Island Special Districts.

"The changes will clean up and streamline decades-old zoning rules, which have resulted in tree-lined streets and the preservation of natural features that have come to define these communities. The proposed changes seek to help individual homeowners save time and money, while maintaining a strong public review process for larger developments and sites.

“The changes outlined in these easy-to-read guidebooks will make home renovations more affordable for many families, while ensuring that development on larger and ecologically sensitive properties receives a higher level of review. Taking into account 50 years of experience and advances in environmental science, we’re charting a path forward for more predictable and affordable development, and a more vibrant, ecologically sound Staten Island for decades to come,” said Lago.

Lago said the easy-to-enforce proposed rule changes apply to the three Staten Island special districts: Special Hillsides Preservation District, Special Natural Area District and Special South Richmond Development District.

"To provide an overview of these preliminary recommendations as outlined in our online guidebooks and an opportunity for discussion, DCP is hosting webinars on Wednesday, July 29, and Wednesday, August 12. Both events will run from 5 to 7 p.m. Details will be posted in the coming weeks on our webpage.

Additional community events, including updates at Community Board meetings, will be held in the next few months. You can also reach out to SISpecialDistricts_DL@planning.nyc.gov with questions or comments about the proposal," noted Lago.

She said the proposed new rules aim to make home improvement projects less costly and burdensome by creating a more predictable process for small properties, while bolstering oversight for larger or more sensitive sites that have a greater impact on neighborhood character. 

"Under these newly proposed rules, City Planning Commission (CPC) approval will be removed for most small sites, ones that are less than one acre. The homeowner applications to renovate their homes, including adding a deck or a swimming pool, have, for decades, been extremely burdensome and costly.

"Rather than a homeowner having to spend a significant amount of time and money going through New York City’s monthslong public review process, they will be able to go directly to the Department of Buildings to finalize their permits" she said.

Lago said CPC oversight will be shifted to sites that are one acre or larger, developments that require new private roads, and ecologically sensitive sites
(such as those with wetlands or along the cliff face) that propose four or more zoning lots or new buildings, or eight or more dwelling units.

"As development and natural feature preservation is less predictable in these instances, applications fitting these criteria will be subject to a public review process with input from the local Community Board and a binding vote by the CPC," said Lago.

Lago noted that the changes were based on feedback from Staten Island communities, including requests to simplify an earlier version of rule revisions for these special districts last year.

She said DCP restarted conversations with the SI Special Districts Working Group of local stakeholders, which includes representatives from local civic groups, Community Boards, Council Members, environmental groups and architecture groups, in the summer of 2019.