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  • Writer's pictureKevin Corte

A Red Light on the Green Fast Track

Fixing some components of the RWCDS Memo would help us determine GFT eligibility instantly with the help of our automation tools.

The NYC Dept. of City Planning (DCP) has provided new guidance on the "Green Fast Track for Housing", an initiative to fast-track projects before the City Planning Commission that create new affordable housing. The Green Fast Track (GFT) will reduce the time and expense of producing Environmental Assessment Statements by eliminating most (but not all) of the required analysis for residential developments under a certain size. In high density neighborhoods (those zoned R5 or greater) the GFT could be used by projects proposing to create fewer than 250 new units. In lower density neighborhoods (zoned R1-R4) the GFT could be used by projects proposing to create fewer than 175 new units.

DCP has provided process guidance for determining GFT eligibility, revised rules, and a draft survey that will need to be completed and submitted to the agency to enter the program. These materials make it clear that the GFT has two major requirements for entry:

Environmental Sensitivity (Location Based)

Air Quality, Noise Hazardous Materials

Special Coastal Resiliency Districts

Natural Resources

Archeological Resources

Architectural Resources

Shadows (On Parks and Architectural Resources)

Project Density and Program

Figuring out if a new development is located in an area that is environmentally sensitive (near a highway, elevated rail, adjacent to a park or historic resource) is very straightforward. DCP has recently shared a demo of a web-based mapping tool that will make this determination even easier. Many of the location based criteria also allow for a project to remain within the GFT. Being adjacent to a highway for example doesn't automatically exclude a project from the GFT, it simply requires a Noise Analysis be conducted as a standalone "section" of the review.

The Project Density and Program requirements are not so forgiving. Exceeding the thresholds above removes the project from eligibility for the GFT.

The Environmental Assessment Statement does not consider the impact of an applicant's proposed project. Instead it looks to establish a "Future With-Action Scenario". In other words, the EAS studies not only the applicant's proposed project but also any other potential development that could occur within the area being rezoned.

Enter the "Reasonable Worst Case Development Scenario".


Determining the Reasonable Worst Case Development Scenario (RWCDS)

Rezonings always affect more than just the applicant's lots

Creating a RWCDS is the first step in completing an Environmental Assessment Statement. Once the rezoning area boundary has been established (usually in a joint effort by the land use attorney and DCP's Technical Review Division), the affected lots can all be studied for their development potential. The potential for lots to be combined and redeveloped, and potential height and bulk of new buildings and the potential uses that could occupy new buildings are all considered. At APS, we've automated this process to an extensive degree allowing us to complete RWCDS projections faster than ever. Tools like PropertyScout make visualizing these projections even faster.

Because of our automation tools, we can produce a full RWCDS within hours and quickly determine a project's eligibility for the GFT.

Although our first RWCDS submission was approved by DCP with only minor comments, in one round, we did have to make some educated guesses. There exists some ambiguity in the RWCDS Memo process that becomes more apparent when trying to create code that contains "rules". Eliminating the guesswork entirely from the RWCDS can be done by addressing 5 Items. We have thoughts on how to do so!

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