Mayor Announces “Get Stuff Built” Plan to Streamline Building and Land Use Processes

Mayor Adams holds a copy of “Get Stuff Built,” the administration’s proposal for streamlining parts of the land use process and Buildings requirement. Image Credit: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office.

On December 8, 2022, Mayor Eric Adams unveiled New York City’s latest land use roadmap, Get Stuff Built, a complement to his City of Yes zoning proposals announced earlier this year. Get Stuff Built represents a collaborative effort among more than two dozen agencies serving on the Building and Land use Approval Streamlining Taskforce (BLAST), which held 18 working group sessions and four roundtable discussions with more than 50 external stakeholders. Designed to address housing affordability, support small businesses, and facilitate capital projects, Get Stuff Built lays out 111 initiatives to streamline development in the City in three categories identified for reform: environmental review, land use processes, and building permitting.

Currently, developments that require discretionary approvals must go through City Environmental Quality Review (CEQR), an environmental disclosure process that the City estimates adds more than $4 billion annually to construction costs. To address the cost and delay involved in preparing CEQR studies, Get Stuff Built proposes 45 reforms that include exempting small housing developments with up to 200 units from CEQR and changing analysis methods, which could shave significant time off traffic studies that currently average six months to a year to complete.

Get Stuff Built also takes aim at land use processes, noting that a three-month delay in commencing construction of a 100-unit building typically adds $1.4 million in project costs. It proposes 19 land use reforms, including the City of Yes zoning changes, eliminating the need to obtain obscure special permits for certain uses, and allowing the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) to begin as many as two years earlier than is typical today by shortening the pre-certification phase and allowing community boards to review materials earlier in the process.

Lastly, building permitting in the City would see 49 overhauls, including shifting Fire Department permits to the Department of Buildings, creating a citywide portal for construction approvals across city agencies, and allowing homeowners to file small renovation projects without hiring a design professional to submit drawings.

The Mayor can directly implement most of the Get Stuff Built proposals on his own initiative through rulemaking, amending the CEQR Technical Manual, or operational changes for mayoral agencies. But as the Mayor acknowledged in his announcement, “Teamwork is the only way we get this done. We need everyone doing their part to reform outdated laws, expand incentives, increase coordination, and build, build, build.” The remainder of his proposals require ULURP, local laws passed by the Council, or rulemaking by a State agency.

Notwithstanding these political hurdles, reactions to many of the proposals have been tinged with a palpable sense of enthusiasm. “We’re incredibly excited by the innovation in Get Stuff Built,” notes Sarah Watson, interim executive director of Citizens Housing Planning Council. “We are especially delighted that the City is addressing the pre-certification process for ULURP, which is an area that can lead to vast development delays, adding to the cost of development and prohibiting smaller development firms from being able to carry the time risk.”

Alicia Glen, former Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development, concurs: “The Get Stuff Built report is filled with lots of good ideas to streamline and rationalize the development process in New York City. Like prior administration’s attempts to ‘cut red tape,’ the key is to prioritize the ones that actually matter and put the political capital and financial resources necessary to make those happen. But at the end of the day, the actions that will actually increase housing production are largely not administrative, they are legislative and driven by the capital markets.”

And the Real Estate Board of New York notes the positive impact that Get Stuff Built will have on housing production: “We applaud Mayor Adams for the reforms recently announced that will help streamline the production of new housing. With approximately 500,000 new units needed by 2030, REBNY is continuing to work with public officials to identify and implement a wide range of policy solutions to address New York’s housing crisis.”

Others, however, have expressed reservations about the Get Stuff Built announcement. Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, notes that “removing or weakening necessary reviews of negative impacts of significant projects is not [a good thing], and in the rush to ‘Get Stuff Built,’ there’s a concern that the baby will be thrown out with the bathwater. Many of these initiatives seem to be based upon the unquestioned assumption that ‘more is better’—that maximizing demolition and new construction will somehow lift all boats and inherently make our city a better, more affordable, more just place. We would advise a carefully considered and thoughtful approach, wherein we really analyze what sort of reviews and analyses are needed, and which aren’t, and what kinds of development we need more of, like affordable housing, and those of questionable value, like luxury housing that only serves as places to park money, or third or fourth homes for the super-rich.”

The City has already implemented several of the Get Stuff Built proposals. Half of the remainder are expected to be implemented within the next year, and the rest are expected to be implemented over the next two to three years. Get Stuff Built represents a collaborative effort among more than two dozen agencies serving on the Building and Land use Approval Streamlining Taskforce (BLAST), which held 18 working group sessions and four roundtable discussions with more than 50 external stakeholders. To read the report in full, click here.

Additional proposals to address the affordable housing crisis are being developed on city and state levels. On December 14, 2022, Mayor Adams and Governor Kathy Hochul announced their joint plan New New York: Making New York Work for Everyone, and on December 15, 2022, New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams released her Housing Agenda to Confront the City’s Crisis. On January 9, 2023, Mayor Adams released a plan to convert unused office space into housing. CityLand coverage for each is forthcoming.

By: Kurt M. Steinhouse (Kurt M. Steinhouse is an associate at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP and teaches planning law at Columbia University.)




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