City Planning Approves Green Fast Track Rule to Expedite Some Environmentally-Friendly Housing Projects

NYC Department of City Planning

On March 20, 2024, the City Planning Commission voted to approve the Green Fast Track for Housing rule, a new rule to reduce the cost and time to approve certain modest and eco-friendly buildings by exempting them from review under the State Environmental Quality Review or City Environmental Quality Review laws. State law permits city agencies to have the authority to propose new rules that can allow certain projects to undergo a more streamlined process. 

To qualify under the rule, projects must add 175 or fewer units to lower-density (R1 – R4) residence districts or 250 or fewer units to mid- to high-density residence, commercial, or manufacturing districts. Qualifying buildings must also use all-electric hearing instead of fossil fuels, and be located away from major roads and outside the most vulnerable coastal areas. The projects must meet specific standards for areas with hazardous materials, industrial emissions, or ambient noise. 

Projects over 50 feet tall, or next to open space, natural resources, or historical and sunlight sensitive resources will not be included under the exemption. Proposals that qualify for the Green Fast Track that require a rezoning will still need to undergo the ULURP process, and proposals within historic districts will still need approvals from the Landmarks Preservation Commission. 

The environmental review process can add months or even years to a project’s timeline, and thousands of dollars in extra expenses to the approval process. According to the Mayor’s Office, had the proposed rules been in effect over the past ten years, approximately 12,000 new housing units could have been built faster and more efficiently. As part of the consideration for this rule, the Department of City Planning reviewed over 1,000 environmental reviews from the past decade; the agency found that modest housing projects with certain characteristics consistently had no negative impacts on the environment. 

In a December 2023 press release, Mayor Adams stated, “The solution to our housing crisis is simple: We must build more. Our administration has been relentless in its pursuit of new tools to speed up the production of housing — and to build that housing in a smarter, faster, and more sustainable way. The Green Fast Track will deliver more homes to more New Yorkers while encouraging greener homes — a true win-win.”

At the vote, Department of City Planning Director and City Planning Chair Dan Garodnick stated, “The vacancy rate for available apartments in the city has dropped to 1.41 percent, which is an eye-opening number that is the lowest vacancy rate since 1968. Supply is not even close to keeping up with the demand for housing in our city. We need to do all we can to get shovels in the ground, homes built faster for New Yorkers. The Green Fast Track will do just that. This rule change is a significant step forward in addressing our environmental and housing crises by speeding up approvals and cutting costs for sustainable housing developments. . . By putting these projects on the environmental expressway we will cut up to $100,000 and two years from the pre-certification time for qualifying projects – money and time that should be spent building new housing.” 

Commissioner Juan Camilo Osorio voted no. Commissioner Leah Goodridge voted yes but voiced a concern that the maximum of 250 units was possibly too high, noting that the need for housing can sometimes minimize the concerns about quality of life issues that get identified through the environmental review. The other commissioners also voted yes. 

To read the revised rule in full, click here.

By: Veronica Rose (Veronica is the Editor of CityLand and a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2018.)



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