NYC must include a Racial Impact Study in all rezonings

New York City Council Members

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The City of New York famously rezoned nearly 200,000 properties between 2003 and 2007. Typically, research has shown that areas with wealthier white populations were down-zoned to lower residential densities while lower-income, largely minority areas were up-zoned for higher density.


Rezonings are about race.

Unfortunately, this trend has continued under the current administration - many advocates, community members, and local business owners, among others, are seeing their communities displaced as a result.

As outlined in our Racial Impact Study report [link pdf?], Williamsburg and Park Slope experienced changes that were not anticipated by the City at the time they made the zoning changes. While trends of displacement existed before the zoning changes, they were significantly accelerated during this time, implying the zoning changes exacerbated previous displacement pressures rather than alleviating them. Specifically, some of the significant impacts included:

  • Decrease of about 15,000 Latinx residents in Greenpoint & Williamsburg between 2000 and 2015 despite a population increase of over 20,000 during the same time period

  • Decrease of about 5,000 Black and Latinx residents in Park Slope between 2000 and 2013 despite overall population growth of over 6,000 during the same period

  • Loss of over 5 million square feet of industrial/manufacturing space in Greenpoint & Williamsburg

  • Loss of 942 rent-stabilized units in Greenpoint & Williamsburg and 1,470 such units in Park Slope

Given the shortcomings of the current process and the fact that it results in the widespread displacement of Black and Latinx residents, the di Blasio Administration must make changes to the rezoning process going forward.

The City should require that the EIS study racial impacts of proposed zoning changes, particularly the predicted demographic changes that will likely occur as a result of the developments likely to come from the proposed zoning. This analysis would inform future affordable housing strategies, improve displacement mitigations, and ultimately help New York City to fulfill its Fair Housing Act obligations.

Adding a Racial Impact Study to the Environmental review would ensure that the racialized displacement and increased segregation that often accompany rezonings would be brought to the foreground in land use conversations and force the city to take steps to preserve communities of color and provide every New Yorker with real choices about where to live. Being displaced is not a choice, and the city has an obligation under the Fair Housing Act to both provide mobility for residents to move to higher opportunity areas as well as guarantee they have the choice to stay in their communities.

Join the Racial Impact Study coalition of 50+ community leaders, organizers, and legal experts in demanding our city take this first step towards justice and racial equity.

To: New York City Council Members
From: [Your Name]

The link between rezonings and racialized displacement is clear, yet the City of New York has failed to even acknowledge the problem. To fix this, New York City Council’s Committee on Land Use must take the first step in addressing historic housing segregation and:
A. Require a Racial Impact Statement (RIS) for all future land use decisions;
B. Prioritize and expedite a hearing date for RIS legislation; and
C. Reform CEQR to better anticipate and mitigate impacts of land use decisions.and vote yes on the addition of a Racial Impact Study to accompany the Environmental Impact Study currently required as part of every rezoning.