Saturday, October 3, 2015

Announcing the Launch of NY Geographic Information Gateway website

The New York Department of State just launched the New York Geographic Information Gateway. The Gateway is a new educational, interactive and user-friendly website that identifies New York’s diverse land and offshore assets. It provides the public access to free and reliable geographic data, including over 400 datasets, a map viewer and interactive stories describing how the NY Department of State’s Office of Planning and Development uses geospatial information in its planning and development efforts. It offers real-time information, interactive tools, and expert knowledge on New York’s resources, including climate change and community resilience.

As described in the Secretary of State's press release, the Gateway will empower residents, businesses and local governments to improve resiliency, grow the economy and invest in New York State Communities.

Post by Sarah J. Adams-Schoen, Assistant Professor of Law and Director of Touro Law’s Institute for Land Use & Sustainable Development Law, and managing author of the blog Touro Law Land Use.

October 3, 2015 in New York | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 2, 2015

Sink or Swim: In Search of a Model for Coastal City Climate Change Resilience

New York City, like other major cities around the world, has acknowledged the problem of climate change, undertaken a comprehensive risk assessment, created a suite of adaptation and mitigation planning initiatives, and begun to implement policies to both decrease the city’s contribution to the problem and make the city less vulnerable to the effects of climate change. In an article published in the Columbia Journal of Environmental Law, I provide a detailed analysis of the city’s climate change resilience initiatives and conclude that many of the city’s initiatives provide a model for other coastal communities, but the city's initiatives nevertheless fall short of what is likely required to sufficiently moderate harm from dangerous interference with the climate system.

The city’s robust suite of initiatives put it ahead of the pack as compared to most other U.S. municipalities, especially with respect to comprehensive reform of zoning and building codes, integrated mitigation and adaptation planning, transparent climate change-related data analysis initiatives, and commitment to reduce GHG emissions 80% by 2050 from 2005 levels and progress toward that goal. However, the city also faces a host of wicked policy binds, ineffective regional structures, a lack of support at the federal level, and numerous conditions that constrain its ability to remain resilient. In light of this, the “toughness” theme that runs throughout the city’s plans risks undermining its robust data analysis and reporting initiatives by instilling in New Yorkers a false sense of security with respect to both the scope of the problem and their local government’s ability to protect them from it. The city faces an equally wicked policy bind with respect to waterfront development. Given the foreseeable risks of increasingly intensive and frequent coastal storms, flooding and storm surges, coastal municipalities must carefully evaluate their waterfront development policies to assure consistency with future climate risks and adopt regulations that curtail or eliminate waterfront development in high-risk areas, encourage or require relocation away from vulnerable areas, and take maximum advantage of opportunities to develop natural flood-mitigation infrastructure.

See Sink or Swim: In Search of a Model for Coastal City Climate Change Resilience, 40 Columbia J. Envt’l L. 433 (2015), available here.


Post by Sarah J. Adams-Schoen, Assistant Professor of Law and Director of Touro Law’s Institute for Land Use & Sustainable Development Law, and managing author of the blog Touro Law Land Use.

October 2, 2015 in Climate, Coastal Regulation, Green Building, Local Government, New York, Planning, Scholarship, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Online Professional Development Course in Adaptive Planning & Resilience

Land Use Prof colleagues -- please share the following information about an online self-paced course in adaptive planning and resilience as broadly as possible.  It's especially relevant for professionals who are engaged in planning and would benefit from skills to make their planning processes more adaptive and resilience-oriented.  Students, professors, and other professionals are welcome too.  Thanks for your interest and help!  All best wishes, Tony Arnold

I’m writing to let you know about an online self-paced professional development course in adaptive planning and resilience.  This course is aimed at any professional who engages in planning under conditions of uncertainty, complexity, or unstable conditions, whether in the public sector, private sector, local community, or multi-stakeholder partnerships. 

The course is ideal for professionals in sectors such as urban planning, community development water supply, water quality, disasters/hazards, environmental protection, land management, forestry, natural resources management, ecosystem restoration, climate change, public infrastructure, housing, sustainability, community resilience, energy, and many others.  I hope that you and the employees and/or members of your organization will consider enrolling in this course.

 The 12-hour course is offered by the University of Louisville for a cost of $150 and is taught by Professor Tony Arnold, a national expert in adaptive planning and resilience, and a team of professionals engaged in various aspects of adaptive planning.  The online lectures are asynchronous, and the course is self-paced; this offering will last until November 22.

 More information is provided below and at the registration web page:  This offering of the course begins October 12 but registration will be accepted through November 15 due to the self-pacing of the course.  We are seeking AICP CM credits for the course in partnership with the Kentucky Chapter of the American Planning Association, but cannot make any representations or promises until our application is reviewed. 

Please share this blog post or information with anyone who might be interested.  Please contact me at, if you have any questions. 

Adaptive Planning and Resilience

Online and self-paced

Oct. 12 – Nov. 22, 2015

Adaptive Planning and Resilience is a professional development course in which professionals will develop the knowledge and skills to design and implement planning processes that will enable their governance systems, organizations, and/or communities to adapt to changing conditions and sudden shocks or disturbances.

Adaptive planning is more flexible and continuous than conventional planning processes, yet involves a greater amount of goal and strategy development than adaptive management methods. It helps communities, organizations, and governance systems to develop resilience and adaptive capacity: the capacity to resist disturbances, bounce back from disasters, and transform themselves under changing and uncertain conditions. Adaptive planning is needed most when systems or communities are vulnerable to surprise catastrophes, unprecedented conditions, or complex and difficult-to-resolve policy choices.

The course will cover the elements of adaptive planning and resilient systems, the legal issues in adaptive planning, how to design and implement adaptive planning processes, and case studies (including guest speakers) from various communities and organizations that are employing adaptive planning methods.  Enrollees will have the opportunity to design or redesign an adaptive planning process for their own professional situation and get feedback from course instructors.

The six-week course totals about 12 hours broken into 30-minute segments. It is conducted online and is asynchronous. Cost is $150.

 About Professor Tony Arnold

Professor Craig Anthony (Tony) Arnold is the Boehl Chair in Property and Land Use at the University of Louisville, where he teaches in both the Brandeis School of Law and the Department of Urban and Public Affairs and directs the interdisciplinary Center for Land Use and Environmental Responsibility. Professor Arnold is an internationally renowned and highly-cited scholar who studies how governance systems and institutions – including planning, law, policy, and resource management – can adapt to changing conditions and disturbances in order to improve social-ecological resilience. He has won numerous teaching awards, including the 2013 Trustee’s Award, the highest award for a faculty member at the University of Louisville.

Professor Arnold has clerked for a federal appellate judge on the 10th Circuit and practiced law in Texas, including serving as a city attorney and representing water districts. He served as Chairman of the Planning Commission of Anaheim, California, and on numerous government task forces and nonprofit boards. He had a land use planning internship with the Boston Redevelopment Authority, did rural poverty work in Kansas, and worked for two members of Congress. Professor Arnold received his Bachelor of Arts, with Highest Distinction, Phi Beta Kappa, in 1987 from the University of Kansas. He received his Doctor of Jurisprudence, with Distinction, in 1990 from Stanford University, where he co-founded the Stanford Law & Policy Review and was a Graduate Student Fellow in the Stanford Center for Conflict and Negotiation. He has affiliations with interdisciplinary research centers at six major universities nationwide and is a part of an interdisciplinary collaboration of scholars studying adaptive governance and resilience.

 Professor Arnold will be joined in co-teaching the course by a team of his former students who are

professionals knowledgeable in adaptive planning. They include:

  • Brian      O’Neill, an aquatic ecologist and environmental planner in Chicago
  • Heather      Kenny, a local-government and land-use lawyer in California and adjunct      professor at Lincoln Law School of Sacramento
  • Sherry      Fuller, a business manager at the Irvine Ranch Conservancy in Orange      County, California, and former community redevelopment project manager
  • Andrew      Black, who is Associate Dean of Career Planning and Applied Learning at      Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida, and a former field      representative for two U.S. Senators in New Mexico
  • Andrea      Pompei Lacy, AICP, who directs the Center for Hazards Research and Policy      Development at the University of Louisville
  • Jennifer-Grace      Ewa, a Postdoctoral Fellow in Inequality and the Provision of Open Space      at the University of Denver
  • Alexandra      Chase, a recent graduate of the Brandeis School of Law who has worked on      watershed and urban resilience issues with the Center for Land Use and      Environmental Responsibility and now lives in St. Petersburg, Florida.


October 12 – November 22, 2015,

Online, asynchronous, and self-paced



For more information



September 23, 2015 in Agriculture, Beaches, Charleston, Chicago, Coastal Regulation, Comprehensive Plans, Conferences, Conservation Easements, Crime, Density, Detroit, Development, Economic Development, Environmental Justice, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, Exurbs, Federal Government, Finance, Financial Crisis, Food, Georgia, Green Building, Houston, HUD, Impact Fees, Inclusionary Zoning, Industrial Regulation, Lectures, Local Government, Montgomery, Mortgage Crisis, New York, Planning, Property, Race, Redevelopment, Scholarship, Smart Growth, Smartcode, Sprawl, State Government, Subdivision Regulations, Suburbs, Sun Belt, Sustainability, Transportation, Water, Wind Energy, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0)

Two Great Long Island, NY Land Use Planning and Zoning Programs this Week

Are you in the New York metro area? Join planners and attorneys, municipal board members and others this Thursday for the APA's 2015 East End Planning Conference and this Friday for Touro Law's Bagels with the Boards program.

  • 2015 East End Planning Conference

Thursday, September 24, 2015, 3 PM – 7:30 PM

Tour of Marine Sciences Center 2pm – 3pm

Stony Brook University

Tuckahoe Road, Southampton, NY 11968

For more information visit here

  • Bagels with the Boards

Friday, September 25, 2015, Program 9 – 10 AM (breakfast 8:30 – 9 AM)

Telecommunications Law for Planning and Zoning Boards by Christopher B. Fisher, Charles J. Gottlieb and Anthony F. Morando, of Cuddy & Feder LLP

For more information and to register visit or email

New cases, including recent U.S. Supreme Court cases, continue to shift the legal landscape relevant to planning for, permitting and siting telecommunications infrastructure. This one-hour program will provide participants with an update on recent changes in the law, and is especially relevant as municipalities continue to see increased deployment of wireless communications infrastructure to address the explosion in data use and demand for mobile broadband. To harness these advancements and growth in technology, municipalities must fully understand recent developments in Federal law to ensure that their local codes are not only compliant with the most recent Federal law and policy, but properly balance their own administrative burdens with the nature of the infrastructure being deployed. Tools to aid in the deployment of wireless infrastructure includes as-of-right sites, town wide planning, amendment of local laws including zoning regulations, as well as development of ongoing policies at the municipal level including use of municipal rights-of-way and properties. Successful use of these tools, however, requires staying abreast of federal law--which is evolving quickly as federal statutes and regulations are amended and as federal courts issue opinions interpreting these laws.

And save the date for future Land Use & Sustainable Development Law Institute programs:

  • Oct. 16, 2015 – Land Use & Zoning for Fair and Accessible Housing including Overview of Regional Trends and Impediments by Chris Jones of the Regional Plan Association; Fair Housing Act Nuts and Bolts by Kevin Dwarka, land use and economic consultant and Senior Fellow at Pace's Land Use Law Center; Fair Housing Is Accessible Housing by Robin Malloy of Syracuse College of Law, Brian Baer of The Elevated Studio, and Marcie Roth of FEMA; Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing by George D. Williams, Sr., Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Policy, Legislative Initiatives, and Outreach at HUD/FHEO, and Lorraine Collins, Assistant Commissioner/Director Fair and Equitable Housing Office at NYS HCR; and Disparate Impact by Michael Goldberger, Chief of Civil Rights, Civil Division, Assistant US Attorney, USAO Eastern District of NY, and Peter L. Contini of L'Abbate, Balkan, Colavita & Contini.
  • Oct. 30, 2015 – Bagels with the Boards: Planning & Zoning for Disaster Resilience by Maggie Palmer, Sam Capasso & Chelsea Holland of the New York City Environmental Law Leadership Institute (NYCELLI)
  • Nov. 20, 2015 – Bagels with the Boards: Reed v. Town of Gilbert – Signs of Our Times by A. Thomas Levin of Meyer Suozzi English & Klein PC
  • Feb. 26, 2016 – Bagels with the Boards: Form Based Codes by Joel Russell, Executive Director of the Form-Based Codes Institute
  • Mar. 11, 2016 – Second Annual Long Island Coastal Resilience Summit
  • Apr. 22, 2016 – Bagels with the Boards: The Grasping Hand – Kelo v. City of New London and the Limits of Eminent Domain by Ilya Somin, Professor of Law at George Mason University School of Law
  • May 27, 2016 – Bagels with the Boards: Planning & Zoning for Small and Medium Wind Energy by Sarah Adams-Schoen and Evan Zablow, Land Use & Sustainable Development Law Institute Director and Graduate Fellow
  • June 24, 2016 – Bagels with the Boards: Ethics Update by Touro Law Dean Patricia Salkin


All Land Use & Sustainable Development Law Institute programs at Touro Law Center are accredited for CLE (professional practice credits), AICP CM Law credits are anticipated for the Sept., Oct., Mar., April and June programs, and AICP CM general credits are anticipated for the Nov., Feb., and May programs. The Law Center issues certificates of attendance for self-accreditation for architecture, engineering and municipal board continuing education credits.

September 23, 2015 in Conferences, New York, Planning, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Only 6 Months Until New FEMA Guidance Requiring Consideration of Future Climate Risks in State HMPs Becomes Agency Policy

In March 2015, FEMA issued a State Mitigation Plan Review Guide, following notice and comment. Under the new guidance, state Hazard Mitigation Plans (HMPs) must consider the probability of future hazards, taking into consideration changing future conditions including changing climate and weather conditions.  And, on March 6, 2016, this new guidance will become the agency’s official policy on the natural hazard mitigation planning requirements of Title 44 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 201, and FEMA’s interpretation of federal regulations for state hazard mitigation plans.

A change in the requirements for state HMPs can mean real money to state governments because these plans are one of the conditions of eligibility for certain federal assistance—for example, Public Assistance Categories C-G and Hazard Mitigation Assistance mitigation project grants. Although states are currently required to adopt HMPs in order to qualify for certain disaster funds, under past FEMA guidelines state governments could assess their potential risks based on historic data. In other words, their HMPs could ignore risks from the foreseeable effects of climate change, including rising sea levels, higher storm surges, and more frequent and intense storms, droughts and heat waves. Expressly recognizing the significance of climate change to risk mitigation planning, the new guidance explains that future climate-change related risks must be considered because

“Past occurrences are important to a factual basis of hazard risk; however, the challenges posed by climate change, such as more intense storms, frequent heavy precipitation, heat waves, drought, extreme flooding, and higher sea levels, could significantly alter the types and magnitudes of hazards impacting states in the future.” (State Mitigation Plan Review Guide § 3.2.)

The new FEMA guidance also recognizes the significance of land use planning to risk reduction. The guidance suggests that to effectively increase community resilience the HMP must be more than an emergency management plan and the planning process must include the full range of effected sectors, including land use, economic development, housing, health and social services, and infrastructure.

In an apparent shot across the bow to state climate change deniers, the new guidance also finds that 44 CFR §201.4(c)(6), which requires state HMPs to “be formally adopted by the State,” means that the plan must be adopted by the highest elected official in the state or his or her designee. The guidance states that

“[Plan adoption by the state’s highest elected official or designee] demonstrates commitment to the mitigation strategy and may serve as a means to communicate priorities to entities within the state agencies regarding vulnerability and mitigation measures . . . [and] may increase awareness of and support from the state agencies with mitigation capabilities and responsibilities, not just the state agency responsible for the mitigation planning program.” (State Mitigation Plan Review Guide § 3.7.)

A survey of state HMPs from the 2010-11 period by Columbia Law School’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, found that

  • 18 state HMPs had “[n]o discussion of climate change or inaccurate discussion of climate change.” (AL, DE, GA, ID, IN, IA, KT, MS, MO, MT, NE, NV, NM, ND, OK, TN, SD, WY)
  • 11 state HMPs had “[m]inimal mention of climate change related issues.” (AZ, AR, IL, KA, LA, OH, PA, SC, TX, UT, VA)
  • 10 state HMPs had an “[a]ccurate but limited discussion of climate change and/or brief discussion with acknowledgement of need for future inclusion.” (FL, ME, MI, MN, NJ, NC, OR, RI, WV, WI)
  • 11 state HMPs had a “[t]horough discussion of climate change impacts on hazards and climate adaptation actions.” (AK, CA, CO, CT, HI, MD, MA, NH, NY, VT, WA)

Even though it appears 21 states already include at least an accurate, albeit sometimes limited, discussion of climate change, the new FEMA guidance requires significantly more—which raises the question of whether states are equipped to address future hazards, including climate-related hazards, as robustly as the new guidance requires. For example, are states equipped to quantify climate-change related risks at the state level? For most, the answer is probably “no.” The Guide gives a nod to this problem, suggesting that “states are expected to look across the whole community of partners (for example, public, private, academic, non-governmental, etc.) to identify the most relevant data and select the most appropriate methodologies to assess risks and vulnerability.” (State Mitigation Plan Review Guide § 3.2.) However, notwithstanding potential support from community partners, the complexity of scaling global climate data to a regional scale and identifying related risks within a relatively short time frame means that most states will be hard pressed to quantify future hazard probabilities by the time their next HMP update is due.

New York may be among the few states that are equipped to respond in time. New York’s Department of State and Department of Environmental Conservation began developing statewide climate-related projections earlier this year in response to the newly enacted New York Community Risk and Resiliency Act, which among other things directs the state agencies to prepare climate projections and model municipal laws taking into consideration sea-level rise and other climate-related events.

Given the unmet need for state and local resources to adequately assess, plan and ultimately implement hazard mitigation strategies that account for climate change, as well as the political backlash from the new requirement, is FEMA’s new guidance ill conceived? My answer is “no.” Many resources exist to help states in their hazard mitigation planning process, and I suspect FEMA will accept plans that consider climate change risks even if the supporting climate data are not scaled to the state level, as long as the state risk assessment takes into consideration FEMA's updated flood maps and other available climate-related risk projections.

And, more significantly, the new guidance is a necessary step in closing a troubling gap between climate-related vulnerabilities and preparedness that exists in the United States. Global temperatures are increasing and the rate of increase is accelerating, with corresponding increases in sea levels, acidification of oceans, and losses of flood-mitigating wetlands. Many communities are already experiencing climate change related hazards, including eroding shores, more massive storm surges, more severe storms, salt water intrusion, loss of land, heat waves, wildfires, and droughts. State HMPs based solely on historic data that don’t take into account these changing conditions fail to address the full gambit and magnitude of hazards that are likely to impact the states—with resulting loss of lives, public health and welfare impacts, property damage, and potentially avoidable expenditures of federal disaster funds. Thus, although some lawmakers are charging FEMA with politicizing the hazard mitigation planning process and access to disaster funds, state administrations that are unwilling to fully consider and plan for foreseeable hazards are themselves jeopardizing public health and welfare in order to hold onto a political position that no longer holds water.

For more information check out:

Post by Sarah J. Adams-Schoen, Assistant Professor of Law and Director of Touro Law’s Institute for Land Use & Sustainable Development Law, and managing author of the blog Touro Law Land Use.

September 5, 2015 in Climate, Federal Government, New York, Planning, State Government | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 22, 2014

New York Governor Signs Climate Change Resiliency Legislation Into Law

And the New York climate change news keeps rolling in…. Today, in conjunction with Climate Week 2014 in New York City, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into state law the Community Risk and Resiliency Act.

In today's press release, the Governor described the Act as "a comprehensive package of actions that help strengthen and reimagine our infrastructure with the next storm in mind." The legislation implements some of the recommendations made by Governor Cuomo’s NYS 2100 Commission, established following Superstorm Sandy. The Governor also proclaimed the week of Sept. 22-28, 2014 "Climate Week," finding among other things that

"New York State will not allow the national paralysis over climate change to stop us from pursuing the necessary path for the future."

You can read the executive proclamation here.  

The Community Risk and Resiliency Act (A06558/ S06617-B)  requires New York State agencies to consider future physical climate risks caused by storm surges, sea level rise or flooding in certain permitting, funding and regulatory decisions. The standards would apply to smart growth assessments; siting of wastewater treatment plants and hazardous waste transportation, storage and disposal facilities; design and construction regulations for petroleum and chemical bulk storage facilities and oil and gas drilling permits; and properties listed in the state’s Open Space Plan, as well as other projects. The Act also requires the NY Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to adopt sea level rise projections by January 1, 2016, and update the projections every five years.  

But, of particular note to land use scholars and practitioners, the Act also:

  • Requires the NY DEC and NY Department of State to prepare model local laws to help communities incorporate measures related to physical climate risks into local laws, and provide guidance on the implementation of the Act, including the use of resiliency measures that utilize natural resources and natural processes to reduce risk.
  • Provides funding, subject to appropriation, to municipalities for local waterfront revitalization planning projects that mitigate future climate risks. Projects may include preparation of new local laws, plans, and studies, and construction projects.
  • Provides funding on a competitive basis, subject to appropriation, to municipalities or not-for-profits toward the cost of coastal rehabilitation projects that consider future climate risks.
  • Allows the Commissioner of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to enter into maintenance and operation agreements for open space land conservation projects in urban areas or metropolitan park projects with municipalities, not-for-profits, and unincorporated associations, if the project demonstrates consideration of climate-change risks.

According to today’s press release,

"Scientists have confirmed a sea level rise of approximately 13 inches since 1900 along New York's coast, and have also measured a significant increase in the proportion of total precipitation that arrives in heavy rainfall events. These climate changes, coupled with land-use planning, zoning and investment that allow and sometimes encourage development in at-risk areas, have resulted in more people, businesses and public infrastructure existing in vulnerable areas."  

The legislation was approved in both houses by wide margins, and had support from a diverse group of stakeholders including: The Nature Conservancy in New York, The New York League of Conservation Voters, The Business Council of New York State, the General Contractors Association, The Reinsurance Association of America, The American Institute of Architects New York State, The Municipal Arts Society of New York, Audubon New York, Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Advocates of New York, and The Adirondack Council. 

Click here to read the full text of the Community Risk and Resiliency Act. Click here for the bill history and sponsors

Posted by Professor Sarah J. Adams-Schoen, Director of Touro Law's Land Use & Sustainable Development Law Institute. You can follow the Institute's blog here, and contact Professor Adams-Schoen by email or phone (, (631)761-7137).  



September 22, 2014 in Climate, Coastal Regulation, Environmentalism, Local Government, New York, Smart Growth, State Government, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 19, 2014

Climate Week in NYC

All things climate change are about to descend on NYC. Revolving around next week’s UN Climate Summit (Sept. 23), more than 100 events are being planned for NYC’s Climate Week. Here are just a few: 

People’s Climate March:
Sunday, Sept. 21 at 11:30 a.m.
Location: Meet at Central Park West, between 59th & 86th Streets in Manhattan. The march will end at 11th Ave. between 34th and 38th Streets.

Promoters are heralding this as a "massive, history-making march," with hundreds of coordinating actions throughout the world. 

Interfaith Summit on Climate Change:
Monday, Sept. 22 from 9-11 a.m.
Location: Saint Peter’s Church, 619 Lexington Avenue, New York, New York
Morning discussions on ethics, spirituality, climate change and faith communities, divestment and renewable energy. Registration is required, but there is no admission cost.

UN Climate Summit:
Tuesday, Sept. 23
(Invitation only)
By invitation from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon,  more than 120 heads of state as well as other world leaders, including EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, have committed to attend the summit, with a goal of galvanizing action to reduce emissions, strengthen climate resilience, and mobilize political will for a meaningful legal agreement in 2015. 

Rising Seas Summit:
Sept. 24-26
Location: Crowne Plaza Times Square, New York, NY
EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck will be speaking at a lunch plenary session with other environmental leaders on the first day of this inaugural event. Online registration is available until Sept. 22 only.  

Find more NYC Climate Week events at and Read more about NYC Climate Week events and other NYC sustainability initiatives at the EPA blog Greening the Apple.

Posted by Professor Sarah J. Adams-Schoen, Director of Touro Law's Land Use & Sustainable Development Institute. You can follow the Institute's blog here, and contact Professor Adams-Schoen by email or phone (, (631)761-7137).

September 19, 2014 in Climate, Environmental Justice, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, New York | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 8, 2014

Does New Plan to Protect Long Island Sound Sufficiently Prioritize Land Use?

Today, 20 years after approval of the original Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan, the Long Island Sound Study released a draft updated CCMP. The Long Island Sound Study, co-sponsored by the EPA and the states of Connecticut and New York, is a partnership of federal, state, and local agencies, universities, businesses, and environmental and community groups. According to an EPA press release, the draft Plan emphasizes the principles of sustainability, climate change resiliency, environmental justice and ecosystem-based management.

Recognizing the significance of land use to wetland and watershed protection, the draft Plan highlights the need for

  • Integration of transportation planning, conservation of energy and water, resiliency to climate change, and pollution control policies;
  • Smart growth and low impact development to minimize the environmental impacts of new and existing development;
  • Meeting numerous ecosystem-level targets such as increasing riparian buffers and open spaces; and,
  • Fully involving and responding to the needs of underserved communities.

The draft Plan describes the benefits of these investments in economic terms, explaining that they will provide substantial returns for the regional economy. 

"The financial value of goods and services provided to the region's economy by Long Island Sound Basin's natural systems ranges between $17 billion and $36.6 billion annually. Treated as a capital asset, the value of these natural systems, calculated using a standard 4% discount rate with a lifespan of 100 years, is $690 billion to $1.3 trillion (Kocian, 2014). Unlike built systems that depreciate, however, natural assets often accumulate value over time, particularly if they are protected and restored. In addition, an estimated 191,000 direct and indirect jobs in the region result from that the healthy function of these natural systems, and the associated stewardship work."

With respect to implementation and land use, the draft Plan identifies as "Implementation Actions"

  • Providing technical guidance for incorporating Low Impact Development/Green Infrastructure into development and redevelopment projects and through zoning and planning changes;
  • Reducing the amount of impervious cover that discharges directly into waterbodies;
  • Remediating brownfields;
  • Tracking implementation and effectiveness of approved watershed plans by local municipalities;
  • Promoting establishment and protection of riparian corridors and wetland buffers at the municipal level through development of local ordinances and promoting permanent land protection; and,
  • Increasing land protection efforts by municipalities and land protection organizations that permanently protect wetlands and riparian areas and buffers.

Notably, however, these Implementation Actions are not identified as "Priority Implementation Actions." Of course, prioritizing of implementation actions is where the rubber hits the road, so to speak. Given that EPA and the LISS are currently accepting comments on the draft updated Plan, those of us concerned with NE region watershed management should take a close look at the draft Plan, with particular attention to the Implementation Actions and their designation -- or lack thereof -- as "Priority." A copy of the draft Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan is available at the Long Island Sound Study website at

Public meetings on the draft plan will be held

  • September 16, 1:00 to 3:00pm, in Westbury, NY at the Yes Community Center
  • September 16, 6:00 to 8:00pm, in the Bronx, NY at Rocking The Boat
  • September 17, 2:30 to 4:30pm, in New Haven, CT at Southern Connecticut State University

Public comments on the plan will be accepted via email and post until Saturday, November 8, 2014. Emailed comments should be sent to Mailed comments should be sent to:

EPA Long Island Sound Office

Stamford Government Center

888 Washington Blvd.

Stamford, CT 06904-2152

Posted by Professor Sarah J. Adams-Schoen, Director of Touro Law's Land Use & Sustainable Development Institute. You can follow the Institute's blog here, and contact Professor Adams-Schoen by email or phone (, (631)761-7137).

September 8, 2014 in Beaches, Climate, Coastal Regulation, Environmental Justice, New York, Smart Growth, Sustainability, Water, Wetlands | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

No Per Se Deduction for Conservation Easements

Many of the exciting conservation easement cases (yes I did say "exciting conservation easement cases") come up in the context of facade easements. I think facade easements just sound sketchy questionable to many of us. Someone with a beautiful historic building gets a tax deduction for agreeing not to destroy the facade of that beautiful home. My gut reaction is to object that the landowners unlikely had any plan to mar one of the aspects that likely drew them to purchasing the building. In fact, I have heard more than one landowner brag that they just got a tax deduction for doing what they were already doing. On further consideration though, we can see that there might be value to the public here. This is particularly so in an area where (1) landowner are having trouble affording the upkeep on the homes or (2) where economic pressures or a lack of other protection mechanisms put the buildings at risk. Some have argued that such restrictions always have value. That is, even if we have a landowner who was already planning to protect the building and the home is in a district where local laws prevent destruction (or require upkeep), you never know what the future holds in terms of other landowners or changing government whims so a facade easement may end up saying the parcel one day. Personally, such speculative value doesn't seem the best use of public funds when we can confidently identify so many places where conservation yields immediate results.

Scheidelman v. C.I.R. (2014 WL 2748623) decided yesterday by the Second Circuit is the latest in a saga over the deduction of a Brooklyn townhouse. In 1997, Huda Scheidelman paid $255,000 for this house in the designated Fort Greene Historic District. The district is designated as a historic district by the National Park Service and by NYC's Landmarks Preservation Commission. Under these protections, it is illegal to alter the facade without the consent of the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

In 2003, Scheidelman donated a facade conservation easement to the National Arhcitectural Trust, now renamed the Trust for Architectural Easements. The Trust's recommended appraiser valued the conservation easement at $115,000 and Scheidelman claimed a charitable deduction for that amount on her 2004 tax return.

After an audit the IRS rejected her claimed deduction as not being accompanied by a "qualified appraisal" as required by statute. The Tax Court agreed, but the Second Circuit vacated and sent the case back for a de novo review of the fair market value of the conservation easement. After doing so, the Tax Court determined that the value of the conservation easement should be $0 because it did not diminish the property value of Scheidelman's townhouse. Using the standard before and after method of appraisal, this calculation makes sense. Because other laws already restrict the property, the presence of the conservation easement doesn't change the value of the property. Of course, some may argue that the before and after method isn't appropriate and perhaps instead we should do some calculation based on value to the public but well... that's a harder number to crunch and more open to abuse. The Second Circuit just upheld the tax court's finding that the deduction had no value.

My favorite line of the Second Circuit (per curiam) opinion is the statement that conservation easements do not represent a per se reduction in fair market value and in fact may even serve to enhance property value.

June 19, 2014 in Architecture, Caselaw, Conservation Easements, Land Trust, New York, Property Rights, Servitudes | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Takings and Conservation Easements

Like many nerds tech-savvy people, I have an alert set up with WestLaw to send me any new law review article or case that even mentions the phrase "conservation easement." It sends me a lot of fluff, but every now and then I find a gem that seems to have eluded the 5,000 SSRN lists I get. When I saw an article entitled "Environmental Preservation and the Fifth Amendment: The Use and Limits of Conservation Easements by Regulatory Takings and Eminent Domain," I just couldn't resist dropping everything and reading it immediately.

I was surprised that I didn't know the author (Beckett Cantley of Atlanta's John Marshall Law School) because well the conservation easement crew is a small one. Turns out that Cantley is an interesting combination of a tax law prof who also teaches property. As the title suggests, the article focus on standard 5th Amendment  takings analysis. Unsurprisingly, this involves a large focus on exacted conservation easements. As I am sure all none of you know, my 2005 dissertation was entitled Exacted Conservation Easements, and I have a small obsession with the phenomenon.

Cantley has an interesting take on the issue.

First, he asks whether there is a market for conservation easements. He contends that a landowner's ability to voluntarily sell a conservation easement constitutes an "economic use for regulated land that could help avoid a regulatory taking by lessening the economic impact of environmental and land use regulations." I assume the argument goes this way: The government entity enacts a land-use law that restricts development. The landowner argues that this violates the 5th amendment under a Lucas-style total deprivation of value argument. The government entity says no we haven't totally deprived you of value because you could still donate or sell a conservation easement on your land. Of course, it would be pretty tricky to find a willing buyer for such a conservation easement but probably not impossible to find someone willing to accept the donation (depending on the features of that parcel). But what would be the value of the donation? Would it be zero? Well the current regulations do not allow development, but conservation easements can extend regulations (making them more stringent, giving them certainty, extending the restriction in perpetuity). So the value of the conservation easement while low, is probably  not zero. Cantley suggests that such a conservation easement market would be so speculative that it would not be enough to defeat a Lucas-style takings claim.

Second, Cantley analyzes the ability of a government agency to create a conservation easement with eminent domain. This is a tricky issue. As a threshold, it would only work where the government entity had eminent domain power. Some states prohibit creation of CEs via eminent domain explicitly. In other places, it is just politically sensitive (not to mention potentially hard to calculate). The best example of this phenomenon was when the Highway Commission in Wisconsin exercised eminent domain over holdouts for scenic easements along the Great River Road. One of the confusing points for me here has to do with the fact that when a parcel encumbered by CE is condemned, most jurisdictions acknowledge the CE is compensable and they pay the CE holder for their lost property interest when they pay the underlying landowner just compensation for her property interest. Do such payment policies mean that the jurisdictions recognize CEs as something one could take via eminent domain without taking the fee title? Just an interesting way to do parcel by parcel regulation? Spot zoning with compensation? Something several folks have speculated about but few governments seem interested in pursuing just to amuse us academics.

Now, on the exacted CE front, Cantley notes that generally Nollan and Dolan analysis apply but in some places there is a bit of trickiness with what constitutes an "exaction" meriting Nollan/Dolan analysis (i.e., nexus + rough proportionality) versus just a regulatory act with the less demanding Penn Central balancing test. I have written about this weirdness before in New York where the case of Smith v. Town of Mendon held that conservation easements are not actually "exactions" even where they are er... exacted. As I speculated in a recent piece for the Environmental Section of the New York Bar Association, I think the broad definition of exaction in Koontz overrules Smith v. Town of Mendon and makes it pretty hard to argue that you can't exact conservation easements. One bone I have to pick with Cantley is his description of exacted conservation easements as being required donations. I think we really need to remove the donation language from our talk about such CEs. Landowners are sometime surprised that they can't (or well at least they shouldn't) get tax benefits from these exactions because they associate all CEs with tax breaks. It also looks to me like Cantley must have written his article pre-Koontz (unsurprising considering the pace of law review publication). I think that case may change his assessment that failed exactions are not cognizable takings... or maybe it depends on how/when we assess failure.

Interesting stuff! The artcle doesn't appear to be available for free on SSRN or elsewhere, but those of you with access to various legal databases can find it at

Beckett G. Cantley, Environmental Preservation and the Fifth Amendment: The Use and Limits of Conservation Easmeents by Regulatory Taking and Eminent Domain, 20 Hastings W.-N.W. J. Envtl. L. & Pol'y 215 (2014).


January 28, 2014 in Caselaw, Conservation Easements, Eminent Domain, New York, Scholarship, Servitudes, Supreme Court, Takings | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Ko & Salkin on Health Impact Assessments and Land Use Decision Making

Pamela Ko (Sage Colleges) and Patricia Salkin (Touro College) have posted What Every Land Use Lawyer Should Know About the Emerging Use of Health Impact Assessment and Land Use Decision MakingNew York Zoning and Planning Law Report, Vol. 16 No. 6 (May/June 2013).  The abstract:

The field of Health Impact Assessment is relatively new to the United States, but already a number of state and local governments are incorporating these assessments into land use planning and decision making. In five years, the use of HIA in the U.S. has increased dramatically with more than 100 HIAs completed or in progress in the U.S. from 2007 to 2010. This article provides a brief overview of HIA in the United States, describes how it is being used in other states with respect to land use decision making, and examines how HIA is starting to be incorporated into traditional land use and environmental decision making in New York.

Add public health to the list that makes land use one of the most interdisciplinary fields of legal practice.

Matt Festa

July 16, 2013 in Environmental Law, New York, Oil & Gas, Planning, Scholarship, State Government | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 1, 2013

Late to the Game: Koontz and whether you can have a takings claim without an actual takings

The past few weeks have been exciting ones for Supreme Court opinions. Busily finishing a book chapter, I did not have time to read Koontz carefully until Friday and of course by that time, I also had a stack of blog postings and news articles to peruse as well by then (Note to self: Post earlier next time so I don't have to read everyone else's posts first and try to avoid repeating them). As so much has already been said (and said better than I could), I am going to highlight the way the case could affect New York law (particularly conservation easements in NY). I get giddy anytime we here the Supreme Court mention conservation easements even when well they aren't really talking about conservation easements.

As we all know by now, there are two intriguing topics in Koontz.

(1) Timing. I like to think of this as when does a takings become a takings even if that is a bit inartfully said. On this point, I think both the majority and the dissent get it right. In thinking about the life of a permit and associated takings case, we generally see a landowner trying to get a permit to build on her property. In exchange for the permit, the permit-issuing agency requires something of the applicant. For example, let's say you want to build on your 10-acre property that is mostly wetlands. The local governement may allow you to build on 2 acres as long as you restrict building on the rest of the property with a conservation easement. Nollan tells us that the government's demand must have a significant nexus with the harm. For example, where the landowner converts wetlands, the exaction should be aboout protecting wetlands or the ecosystem services provided by wetlands. Dolan tells is that the government demand must be roughly proportional to the harm caused. If the property owner is converting 2-acres of wetland to dry land, you need to make sure the exaction compensates for those 2-acres -- requiring creation of a 100-acre wetland park would likely be considered disporportionate (unless you could show that those were some amazing super wetlands that were being destroyed). Okay, so far so good. This has been the established analysis for takings in the exaction context for some years now. This case now says, what if the governement tells the landowner that in return for developing 2-acres, she needs to protect 8 acres and the landowner thinks that is not proportional (i.e., violative of Dolan's rough proportionality rule).

Could our hypothetical landowner challenge this as a takings? Note, nothing has actually been taken at this point. She had not actually given over the 8 acres.

I actually  think that Justice Alito gets it right (not sure I have ever written that phrase before) here when he says, yes. It simply doesn't make sense to go forward with the project and then seek compensation for the 8 acres. This is especially true in the context of exacted conservation easements because they are perpetual. What would we do afterward if a court held that the exaction was too much? It would be pretty hard to change the perpetual conservation easement at that point and compensation can be challenging to calculate. Although I agree with Alito on this principle though, I think Justice Kagan has a better read on the facts in Koontz. Here, it looked like the Water District (the permit agency) and the landowner were in negotiations over what type of exaction might be appropriate. Koontz made an offer. The Water District made a counteroffer, but said it was interested in further negotiations. Instead of more back and forth though, Koontz jumped straight to the lawsuit. I am not sure how to figure out at what point we would say that we have the final word from the agancy and its decision is ripe for review, but it doesn't seem like this should be it. The agency was still in discussions.

It also seems that Alito and Kagan both agree that Koontz doesn't get compensation here, as again nothing was actually taken. Does he get his permit issued though? That doesn't seem quite right to me either. It seems like we should go back to the agency to get another round of negotiations and a chance to impose a proper exaction.

(2) Definitional. Now, this is a question that has been intriguing me particularly since I moved to New York. What constistutes an exaction and therefore requires Nollan/Dolan analysis versus just run-o-the mill Penn Central style inquiry. I have had severeal conversations during my brief academic career on what constitutes an exaction (with Tim Mulvaney almost convincing me that requirements to paint your house a certain color should qualify). Logically, it makes sense that anything we are demanding of the landowner in exchange for a permit is an exaction. Thus, anything that is not the permit application fee or something already required by another law should qualify. Some courts and commentaters assert however that exactions are only interests in land. This has been an interesting issue in New York because of a case called Smith v. Town of Mendon from New York's highest court. In that case, the court confusingly held that a conservation restriction was not an exaction because it there was no public access but because it was bound by precedent the court acknowledged that you could have monetary exactions. In a short piece written between oral argument and the issuance of the opinion in Koontz (for the Environmental Law Section of the NY Bar Association), I discuss the meaning of exactions in New York and ponder the potential implications of Koontz on New York's rules. It seems hard to swallow New York's definition excluding conservation easements in light of this opinion, which seems to read exactions so broadly.

Overall, it is hard not to agree with commenters who believe this decision just makes things messier for courts and complicates land use planning. Tim Mulvaney has a great summary of course, with links to others chiming in.

Jessie Owley


July 1, 2013 in Caselaw, Conservation Easements, New York, Supreme Court, Takings, Wetlands | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Furman Center report on Housing & Superstorm Sandy

The NYU Furman Center has issued a timely report called Sandy's Effects on Housing in New York City.  From the announcement by Vicki Been and Ingrid Gould Ellen:

We are pleased to share with you our latest fact brief: Sandy's Effects on Housing in New York City (PDF) Our report is the first independent, comprehensive analysis of the Superstorm's impact on housing in New York City.


The study revealed some surprising insights into the impacts of the Superstorm Sandy. It found that low-income renters were disproportionately impacted by the storm's surge; over half of the victims were renters, 61 percent of whom make less than $60,000 per year, instead of middle-class homeowners. It also exposed the age of the housing stock affected by the surge; 82% of the properties hit by Sandy were built before 1980, before the latest flood maps and building standards were established.


The report also summarizes newly available information about the characteristics of properties in the area in New York City flooded by Sandy's storm surge, as well as demographic characteristics of households that have registered to receive assistance from FEMA. The study was released in partnership with Enterprise Community Partners, who provided a similar analysis on Long Island and New Jersey.


The press release (PDF) and report (PDF) are now available online.


Lots of interesting maps and data in this report, which should be of interest to anyone researching law, land, housing, and disaster planning


Matt Festa

March 7, 2013 in Affordable Housing, Beaches, Coastal Regulation, Community Economic Development, Environmentalism, Federal Government, Housing, Local Government, New York, Property, Redevelopment, Scholarship, Water | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

What is the Value of a Historic Facade Easement?

For those of you interested in conservation easements (particularly historic façade easements), you may have been following the Scheidelman saga.The next installment is now out.

In Scheidelman v. Comissioner, T.C. Memo. 2010-151 [Scheidelman I], the landowner sought a deduction for a façade easement burdening her Brooklyn brownstone. The Tax Court disqualified an appraisal because it viewed the method of calculating the easement’s value inadequate. Appraisals must include the method of valuation used as well as the specific basis for the valuation. The appraiser applied a percentage to the fair market value of the property before conveyance of the conservation easement. The Tax Court found that the appraiser had insufficiently explained the method (i.e., the percentage approach) and basis of the valuation (i.e., the specific data used).

The landowner appealed to the Second Circuit. The Second Circuit [Scheidelman II, 682 F.3d 189 (2d Cir. 2012)] reversed the Tax Court, saying that the shortcomings of the approach should not disqualify the appraisal.

On remand [Scheidelman III, T.C. Memo. 2013-18 ], the Tax Court accepted the Second Circuit's assessment that the appraisal was “qualified” but still  thought it was crappy was not credible. You can check out the case if you want to delve into the nitty gritty of appraisal methods. The most problematic issue appeared to be the fact that the appraisal just picked a number between 10 and 12% of the fair market value of the home when trying to determine the value of the conservation easement. The appraiser's reasoned that those are the numbers that courts and the IRS seem to like instead of actually looking at the property and making an assessment.

I am enamored of this case though because in the end the Tax Court said no tax deduction is warranted. The evidence demonstrates that façade easements actually increase the value of homes in this area. Additionally, the landowner herself admitted that she was seeking a tax deduction for something she would have done anyway. Here is my favorite quote from the landowner:

    "Well, I was primarily interested in preserving my house itself in light of the dramatic development     that was occurring in and around Fort Greene during those years and still is. I was also intrigued by     the tax benefit of preserving the facade which I had intended to do anyway. …I also wanted to benefit     tax wise. I didn't know how much I would benefit, but I wanted to benefit from what I was already     intended to be committed to doing."

I have been disturbed fascinated by conservation easement tax deductions that pay owners not to do things they never planned on doing. In understand that there can be some value to the conservation easements becuase perhaps future landowners would have other desires, but it is hard for me to reconcile that worth with the high value of tax deductions current landowners receive. I am glad to see the IRS and Tax Court calling these landowners out. Maybe if a landowner seeks to claim a tax decuction for a conservation easement and we see that the conservation easement increased the value of their land, they should have to pay that difference to the treasury.

Jessica Owley




January 22, 2013 in Architecture, Caselaw, Conservation Easements, Development, Historic Preservation, New York, Property Rights | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Urban Gun Violence

Today I stumbled across this compelling Associated Press story about how urban advocates have very mixed feelings about how the Newtown shootings have seemingly changed the national debate around gun control.

The moment also is causing some to reflect on the sudden change of heart. Why now? Why weren't we moved to act by the killing of so many other children, albeit one by one, in urban areas?

Certainly, Newtown is a special case, 6- and 7-year-olds riddled with bullets inside the sanctuary of a classroom. Even in a nation rife with violence, where there have been three other mass slayings since July and millions enjoy virtual killing via video games, the nature of this tragedy is shocking.

But still: "There's a lot of talk now about we have to protect our children. We have to protect all of our children, not just the ones living in the suburbs," said Tammerlin Drummond, a columnist for the Oakland Tribune.

In her column Monday, Drummond wrote about 7-year-old Heaven Sutton of Chicago, who was standing next to her mother selling candy when she was killed in the crossfire of a gang shootout. Also in Chicago, which has been plagued by a recent spike in gun violence: 6-year-old Aaliyah Shell was caught in a drive-by while standing on her front porch; and 13-year-old Tyquan Tyler was killed when a someone in a car shot into a group of youths outside a party.

Food for thought.

Jamie Baker Roskie


December 22, 2012 in Crime, New York, Race, Suburbs, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 9, 2012

Food Trucks Feed Sandy Survivors

We've blogged about the food truck phenomenon a fair amount in the past, so I thought folks might enjoy this New York Times blog post on how food trucks are coming to the rescue in NYC:

As Hurricane Sandy spread its path of destruction in New York City, there was suddenly an urgent need for a fleet of expensively equipped, city-inspected, self-sufficient mobile food-delivery vehicles that could flee to high ground during the flooding and the winds, then drive to dispense hot meals to the hungry in devastated neighborhoods.

That exotic vehicle already existed. It is called the food truck.

And indeed, dozens of the trucks survived the storm in working order, then immediately began feeding needy citizens in broken neighborhoods where brick-and-mortar restaurants were still closed. Thanks to the generosity of individual donors, New York City agencies and sponsoring corporations, much of that food has been free.

A little local entrepreneurship, a little corporate sponsorship, and voila! some hungry, cold New Yorkers get fed!  It's always nice to see creative generosity during tough times.

Jamie Baker Roskie

November 9, 2012 in Climate, Food, New York | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Ellickson on the Law and Economics of Street Layouts

Robert C. Ellickson (Yale) has posted The Law and Economics of Street Layouts: How a Grid Pattern Benefits a Downtown, forthcoming in the Alabama Law Review from its lecture series on boundaries.  The abstract:

People congregate in cities to improve their prospects for social and economic interactions. As Jane Jacobs recognized, the layout of streets in a city’s central business district can significantly affect individuals’ ability to obtain the agglomeration benefits that they seek. The costs and benefits of alternative street designs are capitalized into the value of abutting lots. A planner of a street layout, as a rule of thumb, should seek to maximize the market value of the private lots within the layout. By this criterion, the street grid characteristic of the downtowns of most U.S. cities is largely successful. Although a grid layout has aesthetic shortcomings, it helps those who frequent a downtown to orient themselves and move about. A grid also is conducive to the creation of rectangular lots, which are ideal for siting structures and minimizing disputes between abutting landowners. Major changes in street layouts, such as those accomplished by Baron Haussmann in Paris and Robert Moses in New York City, are unusual and typically occur in bursts. Surprisingly, the aftermath of a disaster that has destroyed much of a city is not a propitious occasion for the revamping of street locations.

Highly recommended, with lots of interesting planning-type details in addition to the larger importance to land use theories and approaches.

Matt Festa

October 2, 2012 in Aesthetic Regulation, Architecture, History, Housing, Lectures, Local Government, New York, Planning, Scholarship, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 27, 2012

New York Times on Home Businesses

The NY Times has a recent article on home businesses in New York City, some of which operate in violation of zoning rules.  The businesses discussed include one-room hotels, children's used-clothing shops, personal training, and a vegan cookie business.  Operating a business from home is of course, partly motivated by high commercial rents.  The article notes that the number of these businesses in New York is unclear: 

Because so many home businesses operate under the radar, it is hard to say just how many there are. Complaints to the city’s 311 telephone system about illegal commercial use in a residential area have been decreasing. In 2011, the tally was roughly 2,150, down from about 2,450 in 2008. Even so, the data may not accurately reflect the full range of complaints about businesses, because annoyed tenants who call 311 to carp about ungodly noise may not know about zoning rules.        

Not every home business is legal, but the prohibited businesses are not always obvious:

Not surprisingly, kennels and veterinary practices aren’t allowed to operate from homes. Zoning rules also prohibit a curious mix of other businesses, including advertising and public relations. Stock brokerages and offices for real estate, insurance and interior design aren’t supposed to operate from a desk in the bedroom. Running a commercial kitchen at home isn’t permitted, either — “home processors” like Mr. Semosh cannot use commercial-size equipment.

New York City's Zoning Resolution, at Section 12-10, expressly includes “fine arts studios,” “professional offices,” and “teaching of not more than four pupils simultaneously” within the definition of permitted “home occupation.”  It expressly does not include, among others, advertising or public relations, barber shops and beauty parlors, interior decorators’ offices, stockbrokers, ophthalmic dispensing, and real estate or insurance offices.  In addition, the code prohibits the sale of articles produced elsewhere and exterior displays. One person who does not reside at the unit may be employed “in connection with the practice of a profession.” Finally, the home occupation must not “produce offensive noise, vibration, smoke, dust or other particulate matter, odorous matter, heat, humidity, glare, or other objectionable effects.”

It is not clear that the prohibited occupations are more likely to produce these nuisances or would cause more traffic or related negative externalities in a neighborhood than the permitted home occupations.  It is worth considering whether the categorical acceptability of "professional offices" and the outright prohibition on "beauty parlors," without regard to a specific uses' impact on neighboring properties, reflects a class-conscious determination of what is desirable and should be replaced by a more careful consideration of specific factors that affect residential neighborhood character.  

For a discussion of how home occupation regulations might be modernized, see this publication from a few years ago by Patricia Salkin.

John Infranca


August 27, 2012 in Local Government, New York, Nuisance, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Fascinating 21st Century Real Estate Cases

The New York Observer has a list of the 15 Most Fascinating NY Real Estate Cases of the 21st Century, based on a survey of NYC real estate lawyers.  Although most involve contracts or financing gone awry, a few involve zoning and land use disputes.  They also make use of Sherlock Holmes-esque titles, like "The Case of the Mischievous Mall Developer." 

Of particular interest are "The Case of the Masterpiece & The Condo Ad," involving a dispute over advertising, public art, and landmarking.  The "Case of the Museum and the Architect" involves a building designed by Jean Nouvel next to MOMA, as well as zoning, landmarking and air rights issues. "The Case of the Brooklyn Basketball Arena" gives a very truncated summary of the series of legal battles over eminent domain and the construction of a new arena for the Brooklyn Nets.  (For a more detailed account in response from critics of the development see the Atlantic Yards Report).  And "The Case of the Abused J-51" details the legal battles over rent regulation following the $5.4 billion purchase of Stuyvesant Town.

John Infranca

August 15, 2012 in Architecture, Caselaw, Development, Eminent Domain, Historic Preservation, History, Humorous, New York, Real Estate Transactions, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Interesting Set of Interviews with Staff of New York City Planning, and a Note on Pruitt-Igoe

Over at Next American City there is a five-part series of interviews being conducted with staffers from New York City’s Department of City Planning, discussing changes to city zoning.  The first two installments provide some interesting insights into two innovations to the zoning code.

The first installment looks at the FRESH program, a combination of zoning and tax incentives that are intended to encourage the entry of grocery stores into underserved neighborhoods throughout the city.  The zoning incentives include a bonus allowing the construction of a larger mixed-use building if a developer includes a ground-floor grocery store as well as the easing of parking requirements.

The second installment looks at Zone Green, a set of changes to the zoning code that relax barriers to adding more environmentally friendly features to new and existing buildings.  Installing such features can often require lengthy approval processes to allow elements not permitted by the building code.  Both posts are worth checking out. 

On an unrelated note, following up on Stephen’s recommendation of the Pruitt-Igoe Myth, which I strongly second, I wanted to mention a proposed design for the current site, much of which remains empty, that I came across a while back.  It offers a neo-classical approach that tries to link the site back with the surrounding grid.  

John Infranca

August 6, 2012 in Economic Development, Environmentalism, New Urbanism, New York, Redevelopment, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)