New York City Initiates Zoning Amendment Process To Welcome Casinos Across The Boroughs

December 3, 2023

The NYC Planning Commission has embarked on a pivotal seven-month initiative to amend zoning regulations, intending to create opportunities for establishing casinos spanning from Harlem to Hollis.

The proposal, currently undergoing scrutiny by community boards, borough presidents’ offices, and the Planning Commission, represents a strategic move to strategically position gambling establishments in specific commercial and manufacturing districts across the city.

Dan Garodnick, Chair of the CPC and Director of the Department of City Planning (DCP), underscored the need for fairness in the casino application process within the city. “As the state considers proposals for casinos downstate, we must create a level playing field for applicants within New York City so they can compete for this opportunity,” he emphasized. The proposed text amendment seeks to simplify the approval process within the city’s zoning regulations while avoiding redundancy with the state’s comprehensive licensing procedures.

Should the proposed changes be approved, potential casinos in designated districts across all boroughs would enjoy as-of-right status. Applicants within these zones would only need approval from the state and its Community Advisory Committee to proceed with their projects, sidestepping the typically lengthy Uniform Land Use Review Procedure.

This potential shift is particularly promising for developers seeking one of the coveted downstate licenses issued by the New York State Gaming Commission. Notable proposals, such as the collaboration between Related Companies and Wynn Resorts in the Hudson Yards, align seamlessly with the proposed zoning changes, leveraging existing commercial and manufacturing zoning designations.

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The citywide initiative aims to ensure that casino applications within New York City remain competitive in the broader state process, avoiding any disadvantages compared to those in surrounding counties, as reported by Politico. Garodnick explained that the text amendment would prevent duplicating the state’s rigorous licensing process while establishing a rational framework for consideration within the city’s zoning.

The proposal also addresses concerns about a potential influx of individual land use applications from each casino bidder. Under the suggested text amendment, gaming facilities, with state licenses, would be permitted in specified commercial and manufacturing zones, deemed compliant with all applicable use and bulk zoning regulations.

Thor Equities’ plan for a gaming house in Coney Island, falling within the advantageous C7 zone, and Stefan Soloviev’s vision for an entertainment district in the C5-2 zone, are among the proposals aligning with the proposed zoning changes.

Several other noteworthy proposals, including Point72 Asset Management’s plan near Citi Field in Queens and SL Green Realty, Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, and Caesars Entertainment‘s proposal for a gaming floor in Times Square, also fit seamlessly into the proposed zoning framework.

While several proposals seamlessly fit into the envisioned zoning framework, challenges may arise for projects like Steve Cohen and Bally’s in the Bronx, facing additional hurdles such as the need for permission to build on parkland, according to Crain’s New York Business.

As the seven-month process unfolds, the city anticipates a comprehensive restructuring of its zoning regulations, potentially heralding a renaissance in the gaming and entertainment landscape across New York City. The proposal’s review by the city’s community boards and borough presidents will precede a vote by the Council next year. The potential shift raises questions about the community’s stance on bringing gambling to Harlem, inviting public discussion and opinions on this transformative proposal.

Photo credit: NYC.

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