New York City Simplifies Environmental Review Process

NEW YORK, New York, June 1, 2010 (ENS) – New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg today launched four measures to make New York City’s environmental review process more transparent and user-friendly for small businesses and homeowners.

Environmental review is mandatory for any project, public or private, that requires a city discretionary decision. Each year, some 250 separate projects trigger city environmental review. Projects requiring review range from large area-wide rezonings to small changes in property line delineation.

“If the city’s environmental review processes are to be accurate and thorough, business owners and homeowners need to be able to understand what’s being asked of them,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “The measures we’re launching today will clarify the requirements and, as a result, they will reduce the time it takes applicants to comply and lessen the need for them to hire expensive consultants and attorneys.”

The measures include a new Environmental Assessment Statement short form with clear requirements that apply to small projects such as changes in property line delineation.

Construction is always happening somewhere in New York City. (Photo by Pat Guiney)

There is a clarified full form to better target and improve the analysis of the potential impacts on medium-sized projects.

In addition, an upgraded Mayor’s Office of Environmental Coordination website aims to create a one-stop-shop for environmental review including forms, calendars and review support.

For the first time, the website will include a help-line staffed by the Mayor’s Office of Environmental Coordination to answer City Environmental Quality Review-related questions.

Finally, a revised and more user-friendly City Environmental Quality Review Technical Manual is intended to improve the quality of analysis and its reporting.

The manual includes new topics that align with modern environmental concerns such as greenhouse gas emissions, sustainability and PlaNYC, and refined infrastructure.

“Complying with City regulations isn’t supposed to be cruel and unusual punishment for our small businesses and homeowners,” said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. “These measures will streamline the certification process, create an improved website, and provide better forms, all in the interest of eliminating the small print and bureaucratic foot-dragging.”

“We don’t want to antagonize small businesses: we’re looking to nurture and support them,” said Quinn. “These new measures will make sure we complete the environmental review process – with better and more modern responses to environmental issues – while making things as simple as possible for everyone involved.”

“The challenge here was to create an environmental review process that is more robust yet easier to follow – and the city has succeeded,” said New York League of Conservation Voters President Marcia Bystryn.

“The addition of a greenhouse gas analysis is a major improvement that will give a snapshot of a project’s climate change impacts and help identify areas for improvement. Plus, the more detailed infrastructure analysis will give a truer picture of water and sewer needs,” Bystryn said.

“Perhaps the greatest benefit is a simplified process and checklist that actually encourages applicants to follow the rules,” she said.

In 2009, Mayor Bloomberg announced a commitment to make the environmental review process more consistent, transparent, and user-friendly.

An interagency team representing more than a dozen city agencies, including the Office of Environmental Coordination, Department of City Planning, Department of Housing Preservation and Development, Board of Standards and Appeals, Department of Transportation, and Department of Environmental Protection, has worked to revise the Technical Manual and create new methods to target analysis and improve the quality of review.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2010. All rights reserved.