Council revises waterfront access regulations

Plan extends screening buffer waiver to community facility uses. In 1993, special waterfront zoning regulations were adopted to facilitate the redevelopment of waterfront properties. The regulations, found in Article VI Chapter 2 of the Zoning Resolution, were a response to the obstructed views, blocked public access, and out-of-character development that occurred along the City’s waterfront. The rules required developers in certain districts to construct and maintain waterfront public access areas. Over time, the rules helped create new access areas throughout the City. The access areas in Greenpoint-Williamsburg, Brooklyn and Hudson River Park, Manhattan serve as examples.

Though the regulations allowed for greater public enjoyment of the waterfront, the Department of City Planning believed revisions were necessary. Planning proposed to eliminate the design models for Shore Public Walkways and Supplemental Public Access Areas and replace them with a single set of regulations that would allow for greater design flexibility for both the walkways and access areas. The flexibility would alleviate design constraints that developers experienced when building public access areas along the highly varied conditions of the City’s waterfront. Other amendments included changes to lighting, signage, seating, bicycle parking, hours of operation, planting, and buffer requirements.

The City Planning Commission, in its report, made several modifications to Planning’s proposal. For instance, all waterfront public access requirements were reorganized into consecutive sections to make the rules more user-friendly, bicycle parking was permitted outside public access areas on adjacent public sidewalks, and the amount of table square footage needed to satisfy the social seating requirement was reduced by half.

The Commission also modified the proposed screening buffer requirements. Planning’s text amendment replaced the “buffer zone” (the area which separates the public access area from the private development on the same zoning lot) with a “screening buffer” that required at least 50 percent of its plantings to be evergreen to ensure year-round buffering. Although Planning exempted commercial uses from the requirements when 70 percent or more of the building facade was glazed, the Commission extended the waiver to community facility uses and limited the exemption to building walls within 15 ft. of the sidewalk or public access area.

The City Council found all aspects of the plan to be appropriate, and approved the application on April 22nd, with only Council Member Lewis A. Fidler voting no.

Review Process
Lead Agency: CPC,Neg.Dec.
Comm.Bd.: Citywide, 7 App’d, 1 Den’d
Boro.Pres.: Citywide, 1 App’d
CPC: App’d, 11-0-0
Council: App’d, 47-1-4

Council: Waterfront Zoning Text (N 090239 ZRY – text amend.) (April 22, 2009).

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