New Law Requires Racial Equity Reports in Connection to Certain Land Use Applications

Image credit: New York City Council.

A new equitable development tool would provide data on six categories and would lead to racial equity reports to be required for future land use applications and projects. On July 18, 2021, Local Law 78 was enacted into law, which will require certain land use applicants to produce a racial equity report to determine the project’s impact on equity. The bill was first introduced on May 29, 2019 as Intro 1572-A, by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and passed by the City Council on June 17, 2021.


The bill comes as a result of the national movement for all types of government to better address racial equity and to assist elected officials in making informed decisions on land use to better protect communities of color from displacement and guarantee economic development. The purpose of the bill is not to impede development but to allow for better access to data and information for policy makers and elected officials to understand how a proposed project can affect the community.

On May 29, 2019, the bill was first introduced and was then amended and named Intro 1572-A. On January 11, 2021, a hearing was held on the amended bill that led to the further amended version that was voted on during the Committee and City Council votes.


Local Law 78 will require that applications for certain land use actions must provide a racial equity report that connects to the project. The new reports will include a wide variety of data and statements on how the goal of the project connects to fairness and equity. Data would include information on demographics, economics security, neighborhood quality of live, and access to opportunity, housing security, and affordability, housing production and a displacement risk index comprised of indicators of population, vulnerability, housing conditions and neighborhood change. The law requires the data to be desegregated by race and include a 20 year look back on trends.


On June 16, 2021, a remote hearing was held by the Committee on land use to discuss Intro 1572-B. Chairperson Salamanca introduced the bill with its history and stressing its importance in addressing racial inequality. Council Member Miller spoke in support of the bill and in fixing a problem present in the city. Council Member Reynoso also spoke in support of the bill stressing the importance of the data and demographics that would be available to make rezoning more meaningful.


During the June 17, 2021, City Council voting, Public Advocate Williams and Chairperson Salamanca spoke on behalf of the bill briefly going into the bill’s history and explaining the need for it. Council Member Joseph Borelli and Council Member Steven Matteo voted against the bills passing. Council Member Adrienne Adams expressed appreciation for the bill stressing its importance for the City and stating that it was, “long overdue.” Council Member Brad Lander also spoke in support of the bill stressing the importance of addressing segregation and discrimination that is present through redlining, tax breaks, and especially rezoning.


On June 16, 2021, the bill was unanimously passed by the Committee on Land Use before being sent to the City Council. On June 17, 2021, the bill was passed by the City Council in a vote of 46 for and 2 against. The rule was enacted on July 18, 2021. The bill was returned unsigned by the Mayor on July 19, 2021.

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams stated, “Often rezonings are presented as being great for the city, but it’s clear that only applies to certain areas and communities. In others, in communities of more color, they have helped spur gentrification and displacement. Both developers and the city have been reluctant to recognize the role of rezonings in this racial and ethnic displacement, much less take adequate action to prevent it.”

By: Patrick McNeill (Patrick is the CityLaw intern and a New York Law School student, Class of 2022.)


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