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Mayor Adams’ ‘City of Yes’ business zoning plan passed by City Council committees, with modifications

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The New York City Council on Wednesday passed a pared-back version of the Adams administration’s plan to do away with outdated zoning restrictions on businesses ahead of a final vote, cutting a proposal to bring more corner stores to neighborhoods — a move that signals the mayor’s linked housing proposal may face similar tweaks down the line.

City of Yes for Economic Opportunity is meant to give businesses a boost by cutting through decades-old red tape and making it easier for them to move and grow. It’s the second of three such zoning overhauls spearheaded by the Department of City Planning.

“This historic initiative will remove outdated limitations on businesses and ensure that local retail streets and commercial centers across the city remain lively places that sustain our neighborhoods,” Mayor Adams said in a statement.

“Zoning for Economic Opportunity” was cleared by two Council subcommittees in key votes Wednesday after being modified to address concerns, largely from outer borough groups worried about the impact on their communities.

The biggest change was nixing a provision that would have made it easier to open corner stores in residential areas, a proposal Zoning and Franchises chair Kevin Riley said “raised a lot of concerns,” especially among community boards. The rest of the zoning package remained largely intact.

Kevin Riley speaking at a City Council meeting in 2023. (Shawn Inglima for New York Daily News)

Measures that passed with some adjustments include expanding opportunities for light manufacturing such as jewelry making and 3D printing, allowing more indoor agriculture — with limits on size and growing cannabis — plus other updates around manufacturing and auto repair shops.

The Council tacked several commitments from the city onto Zoning for Economic Opportunity, including $4.7 million to hire 60 new Department of Buildings staff and beefing up the Office of Nightlife to help with compliance. There is also a deal to begin regulating last-mile warehouses.

Economic Opportunity passed 5-2 in the Zoning and Franchises subcommittee and 8-2 in the Land Use Committee.

Councilmember Kamillah Hanks, a Staten Island Democrat, voted against it in the first round.

“There’s a lot of good things in here,” she said, praising the modifications. “However, despite these efforts, it’s important to note that the civic organizations, constituents, and community members in my district simply do not agree with the proposal.”

Zoning for Economic Opportunity is the second of the Adams administration’s three-pronged “City of Yes” package. The first, Carbon Neutrality, addressed climate change issues and was enacted in December without incident.

The third and final measure, Zoning for Housing Opportunity, is the most ambitious — and most controversial. Adams has positioned it as his signature plan to tackle the city’s ongoing housing crisis by allowing “a little more housing” to be built in every neighborhood. It was recently sent to community boards for review.

But with the months of hype has come early criticism, especially outside Manhattan, and the modifications announced Wednesday hint that the housing deal will face more hurdles once it reaches the Council.

“[Housing Opportunity] negotiations will be key, but Mayor Adams and his top aides are going to need to deliver votes from more of their closest allies,” predicted one Council insider.

A final vote on Zoning for Economic Opportunity is set for June.

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