Mayor Adams Celebrates ‘Green Fast Track’ For Building More Sustainable Housing

June 3, 2024

NYC Mayor Eric Adams and NYC Department of City Planning (DCP) Director and City Planning Commission (CPC) Chair Dan Garodnick today celebrated “Green Fast Track.”

A streamlined environmental review process to accelerate the production of small-and medium-sized housing projects across New York City — going into effect. A major initiative of the administration’s “Get Stuff Built” plan to create more housing by cutting red tape, streamlining processes, and removing bureaucratic obstacles, the Green Fast Track will help achieve the city’s housing and climate goals by making it easier for modest, climate-friendly housing projects to proceed through environmental review. The streamlined environmental review process could reduce up to two years of study and $100,000 in costs for qualifying projects.

“Today’s announcement proves that New York City is on the right track to build critically-needed housing in faster, smarter, and greener ways,” said Mayor Adams. “The only solution to a generational housing crisis is simple: build more. That’s why the implementation of ‘Green Fast Track’ is a critical step forward in using every possible tool to build more housing across our city, while never losing sight of the importance of protecting our environment. Our administration is proudly declaring ‘no’ to more red tape and ‘yes’ to more housing.”

“… our efforts to address New York City’s housing crisis …”

“Today’s announcement marks a significant milestone in our efforts to address New York City’s housing crisis and exemplifies our commitment to efficient governance,” said First Deputy Mayor Sheena Wright. “The Green Fast Track initiative builds on the significant action we have already taken to address our city’s housing and affordability crisis. Under the Adams administration, we financed a record number of affordable homes in 2023. We aim to beat our own records, and initiatives like the ‘Green Fast Track’ will help us do so. This innovative approach will cut unnecessary red tape and pave the way for more efficient development, ensuring a more sustainable future for all New Yorkers.” 

“To solve our housing crisis and our climate crisis, we need to act with urgency and purpose,” said Deputy Mayor for Housing, Economic Development, and Workforce Maria Torres-Springer. “Today, we’re doing just that: By creating a streamlined process for climate-friendly housing, the ‘Green Fast Track’ will deliver more housing — faster — while helping us meet our climate goals.”

“Two things are simultaneously true: As a city in the crosshairs of climate change, we must make every effort to be greener and more resilient; we are also facing an unprecedented affordability crisis, and the clearest way out is to build more affordable housing,” said Deputy Mayor for Operations Meera Joshi. “The ‘Green Fast Track’ is a perfect example of how delivering economic growth and opportunity can and must run parallel to our climate goals. It’s time to do both.” 

“As a result of this action, we are now able to build homes greener and faster and meaningfully move the needle on our climate and housing crises,” said DCP Director and CPC Chair Garodnick. “Today marks a critical step forward in our ongoing work to modernize rules and to streamline processes so we can deliver the homes that New Yorkers need.”

“Our housing and climate crises require that we build greener, more resilient housing, and do so at a much faster clip, and the ‘Green Fast Track’ will allow us to do just that,” said New York City Executive Director for Housing Leila Bozorg. “Through the streamlined environmental review process — we’ll be saving time and costs on qualifying projects, ensuring we get more housing built for more families across New York City.” 

“We have shown repeatedly, all over New York City, that small- to medium-sized housing projects are not a negative impact to neighborhoods, but rather a vital necessity to New Yorkers who need these homes,” said ‘Get Stuff Built’ Executive Director Rob Holbrook. “Taken together with the ‘Green Fast Track’ rule and DCP’s Fast Tracker web-based application, these efforts with allow new housing to move though the approval process faster. These tools will get New Yorkers into homes sooner and reduce the costs of red tape in producing new housing.”

“Making climate-friendly housing easier to build can not only assist us with meeting our climate goals — it can also make them achievable faster,” said New York City Mayor’s Office of Climate & Environmental Justice Executive Director Elijah Hutchinson. “The new rules will ensure our residents aren’t increasingly exposed to environmental burdens and air pollutants, allowing us to build a more inclusive, affordable, and sustainable city for all New Yorkers.”

The ordinary environmental review process can take up to several years and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to complete. If the Green Fast Track rules had been in effect over the last 10 years, approximately 12,000 new homes could have been built more quickly and efficiently. In exploring the potential for a Green Fast Track, city planning, and environmental experts analyzed more than 1,000 environmental reviews over the past decade, consistently finding that modest housing projects with certain characteristics had no negative impacts on the environment. By shifting these projects onto the Green Fast Track — designating them as “Type II” actions under the City Environmental Quality Review process — the city will reduce redundant or unnecessary processes for projects of a certain size and speed up environmental review by as much as 24 months, saving each project an average of $100,000 and quickly delivering urgently needed housing. By adjusting eligibility requirements to include sustainability measures — such as all-electric heating — the city can also leverage the environmental review process to accelerate its climate goals.

To qualify for Green Fast Track, projects must be under 250 or 175 units, depending on the zoning district; use all-electric heating; be outside of vulnerable coastal areas or areas with industrial emissions, and away from major roads; and meet remediation and attenuation standards for areas with hazardous materials or high-ambient noise. Projects do not qualify if they exceed 250 feet in height. If the site is adjacent to open space, natural resources, or historically-sensitive areas, the height cap is 50 feet.

The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and the New York City Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) have also adopted the same rule to similarly speed up housing projects they fund or approve. Green Fast Track proposals requiring a rezoning will still undergo the city’s existing Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). Similarly, proposals within historic districts will maintain oversight from the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Mayor Adams has taken significant action to combat the city’s housing and affordability crisis. Under his leadership, the city financed a record number of affordable homes in 2023 and is ahead of schedule on a State of the City commitment to advance two dozen 100-percent affordable housing projects on city-owned land this year through the “24 in ’24” initiative. Mayor Adams has also taken steps to cut red tape and speed up the delivery of much-needed housing, including through  the Office Conversion Accelerator, an interagency effort to guide buildings that wish to convert through city bureaucracy and other initiatives of the Building and Land Use Approval Streamlining Taskforce.

The Adams administration successfully advocated for new tools in this year’s New York state budget that will spur the creation of urgently needed housing. These include: a new tax incentive for multifamily rental construction, a tax incentive program to encourage office conversions to create more affordable units, lifting the arbitrary “floor-to-area ratio” cap that held back affordable housing production in certain high-demand areas of the city, and the ability to create a pilot program to legalize and make safe basement apartments.

Earlier this year, Mayor Adams and working-class New Yorkers kicked off the public review on “City of Yes for Housing Opportunity,” the most pro-housing proposal in New York City’s history. The proposal would enable the creation of “a little more housing in every neighborhood” through a set of carefully crafted zoning changes — which has not been done in more than half a century — to increase overall housing supply. DCP released the draft environmental impact statement of the proposal, which estimates City of Yes for Housing Opportunity could produce as many as 108,850 new homes over the next 15 years.

“The Green Fast Track plan demonstrates our commitment to speeding up housing production for New Yorkers,” said New York State Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar. “By slashing red tape and bureaucratic hurdles in the environmental review process, we will build much-needed housing faster and cheaper. This will shave as much as two years and $100,000 in costs off housing construction, rapidly adding to our affordable housing stock. I am proud to partner with Mayor Adams and DCP Director Garodnick to advance the ‘Get Stuff Built’ plan and build more housing for New Yorkers. Together, we are doing everything we can to deliver the housing we need to grow and thrive as a city.”

“New York League of Conservation Voters applauds the launch of the new Green Fast Track program, a proposal that would streamline the city’s environmental review for certain modest housing projects that consistently showed no environmental impact,” said Alia Soomro, deputy director for New York City policy, New York League of Conservation Voters. “This approach will have a positive impact on the environment, help the city move the needle on the housing crisis, and save tens of thousands of dollars and years of unnecessary delays.”  

“Any effort to speed the development of affordable housing projects to New Yorkers in need is welcome,” said Baaba Halm, vice president and market leader, Enterprise Community Partners. “An estimate has shown that the Green Fast Track could save qualifying projects around $100,000 and two years’ worth of predevelopment activities — all without sacrificing necessary environmental review. That’s a game-changer for the mission-driven developers working in communities to deliver this housing. We congratulate the city on this important step forward.” 

“There is no time to waste when it comes to the development of climate friendly housing.  The launch of the expedited review process for smaller projects is an illustration of how the administration is getting stuff done,” said Kathryn Wylde, president and CEO, Partnership for New York City. 

“We need more initiatives like Green Fast Track in New York City with so much housing to build and so little time to waste,” said Carlo A. Scissura, Esq., president and CEO, New York Building Congress. “This common-sense approach will help expedite environmentally responsible developments and get folks who need housing into it faster. In this case, it is easy being green!” 

“The launch of the Green Fast Track will help New York City swiftly advance climate-friendly housing to benefit generations of New Yorkers starting today,” said Annemarie Gray, executive director, Open New York. “By streamlining an outdated review process, we are not only expediting the development of essential, sustainable housing, but also taking a significant step towards reducing our city’s greenhouse gas emissions. This policy is a win for affordability, environmental responsibility, and the future of our communities.”  

“The New York metropolitan region may face a housing gap of nearly one million units within the next decade if we do not find ways to address our housing supply challenges at scale. The Green Fast Track initiative will help spur much needed middle-density housing in a sustainable way, and we are excited to see it go into effect,” said Tom Wright, president and CEO, Regional Plan Association. “Enabling more middle density housing is critical so that we can support sound, sustainable projects such as transit-oriented development. Unfortunately, our environmental review processes often add unnecessary time and costs to projects that undermine their viability, despite a history of similar projects proven to be successful. The Green Fast Track will help reduce this burden, and we applaud the Adams’ administration for its implementation and look forward to seeing results of this streamlined process.” 

“This new, streamlined review process is coming online at a critical moment, as the affordable housing community is ramping up efforts to build much-needed new units while also helping the state achieve is ambitious climate goals,” said Jolie Milstein, president and CEO, New York State Association for Affordable Housing (NYSAFAH). “We know that the built environment is responsible for about 40 percent of global climate emissions, underscoring the need to fast-track sustainable housing development. NYSAFAH members look forward to working with the Adams administration to ensure this new approach is successful.

“The Green Fast Track will eliminate outdated rules that slow new housing production and impede climate-friendly development. We appreciate the Adams administration for taking concrete steps to address the regulatory obstacles that hold New York City back from addressing some of its biggest challenges,” said Maddie DeCerbo, senior urban planner, Real Estate Board of New York.    

“New Yorkers urgently need more options for small and mid-size housing that boosts density, creating positive impacts to the surrounding neighborhood and the climate,” said Sara Lind, co-executive director, Open Plans. “This reform reflects that goal and helps us achieve it. Kudos to Mayor Adams and DCP for getting New York on the fast-track to the kind of development that makes our city more walkable, livable, and climate resilient. We can be a more modern, forward-looking city when we think strategically like this.”

“With Green Fast Track now in effect, housing agencies and developers have additional certainty—and critical reductions—in the timeline and costs associated with environmental review for modest housing projects,” said Linh Do, senior vice president, AKRF. “That the eligibility requirements also include sustainability measures to help the city meet its climate goals is icing on the cake.” 

“… a significant milestone in the Mayor’s Get Stuff Built plan …”

“The start of Green Fast Track—with new Type II rules in effect —is a significant milestone in the Mayor’s Get Stuff Built plan,” said David Karnovsky, partner, Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson. “Green Fast Track will streamline the process for building new homes and help address New York City’s housing crisis without sacrificing environmental concerns, due to the careful way in which the city has designed the program.”  

“Congratulations to City Planning and the Get Stuff Built team on this incredible achievement,” said Nancy Doon, northeast environmental service leader, VHB. “The creation of the Green Fast Track will significantly streamline the approval process for critically needed housing projects while ensuring the continued protection of the city’s built and natural environment.”  

Photo credit: HWM.

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