Council modifies street trees and yards specs.

Council Members Tony Avella and Melinda Katz secure exemption for certain one- and two-family homes from new street tree requirements. On April 30, 2008, the City Council modified the Department of City Planning’s proposals to amend the zoning requirements for street trees and yards. The proposals are designed to create green streetscapes, increase open space, and ameliorate storm water runoff problems.

Under the old zoning, property owners were required to plant street trees in a limited number of special districts and only under certain conditions, such as when there is new construction in an area. The old zoning also required only one rear yard per zoning lot, to be extended along the rear lot line.

City Planning’s street tree proposal would require property owners to plant one tree per zoning lot or for every 25 feet of street frontage, whichever is greater. When street tree planting is infeasible, the property owner would have to pay the Parks Department to plant the requisite number of trees at an alternate location within the community district or a one-half mile radius. The street tree requirements would apply Citywide whenever a property owner constructs a new building, enlarges an existing building by at least 20 percent of floor area, or, in certain cases, converts an existing building. Industrial property would be exempt from the new requirements. Semi-industrial and auto-service property would be subject to a lesser requirement.

City Planning’s yards proposal would require property owners to have a minimum percentage, ranging anywhere from 20 to 50 percent, of planted area in front of their property. The proposal would prohibit property owners from paving over their front yards to make room for additional parking.

At the subcommittee on Zoning & Franchises’ public hearing, City Planning representatives requested that the Council further modify the street trees proposal so that it would apply only to newly issued building permits. Rohit Aggarwala, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Longterm Planning & Sustainability, testified that both proposals were critical aspects of the Mayor’s PlaNYC 2030 initiative to make the City more environmentally friendly.

Several environmental groups testified in favor of both proposals, including the League of Conservation Voters, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the Storm Water Infrastructure Matters coalition. In general, they noted that trees and natural surfaces improve air quality, reduce the urban heat island effect, manage storm water, and promote an enhanced quality of life.

Council Member Tony Avella, Chair of the subcommittee, and Council Member Melinda Katz, Chair of the Land Use committee, raised two concerns regarding the street trees proposal. First, they argued that it was inappropriate for the City to place the burden of fulfilling PlaNYC 2030 on property owners. Second, they claimed that City Planning’s request to exempt property owners with existing building permits would improperly reward those who held permits but delayed construction work in an attempt to avoid changes in the zoning resolution.

The subcommittee then voted to exempt property owners wishing to enlarge their one- to two-family homes from the street tree requirements, and required property owners who renewed their building permit after one year to abide by both new requirements even if they obtained the permit prior to the amendments.

Review Process
Lead Agency: CPC,Neg.Dec.

Comm.Bd.: BX 2, 9, 10, 14; MN 1, 2, 8; QN 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 13, 14; SI 3,App’d
Boro.Pres: BX, BK,MN,SI,App’d
CPC: App’d, 11-0-1
Council: App’d, 48-1-0

Street Trees
Lead Agency: CPC,Neg.Dec.
Comm.Bd.: BK 2; MN 1, 2, 5, 8; QN 3, 4, 5, 8,
9, 14; SI 3,App’d; QN 7,Den’d
Boro.Pres.: BX, BK,MN,SI,App’d
CPC: App’d, 11-0-1
Council: App’d, 47-2-0

Council: Street Tree Planting Text Amend. (Apr. 17, 2008); Yards Text Amend. (Apr. 17, 2008). CPC: Street Tree Planting Text Amend. (N 080081 ZRY); Yards Text Amend. (N 080078 ZRY) (Mar. 24, 2008).

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