NYC Land Use Process During COVID-19: Applications Resume and Shift to Virtual Hearings

3 min

ULURP Goes Virtual

New York City land use agencies have moved to virtual public hearings since Mayor Bill de Blasio's March 16, 2020 Executive Order, which stopped the clock on land use applications that require an agency public hearing, community board public hearing, or final New York City Council vote. The latest to go virtual is the City's Uniform Land Use Review Process ("ULURP").

Update as of July 16, 2020:

Mayor De Blasio has announced that the City Planning Commission will restart the ULURP process in August, holding its first virtual meeting on August 3, 2020. Department of City Planning staff, working remotely, have continued the pre-application meetings, interdivisional meetings, and reviewed draft applications, but the Commission has not met since March 2, 2020.

To ensure the public has a chance to engage in the virtual meetings – a key concern of many stakeholders that has previously hindered ULURP's restart – the City has launched the "NYC Engage" portal. The portal provides an instructional guide for virtual participation, accessibly options (such as closed captioning), and information on how the public can request language interpretation for an upcoming public hearing. If a translator is not immediately available, NYC Engage also allows the public to submit testimony in a language other than English, which the City will later translate. The NYC Engage program will complement the efforts Community Boards have already taken to re-start virtual meetings and public engagement, discussed in our May update.

We will continue to update you as this situation evolves.

April 20, 2020:

Recently, some of the City's land use agencies and City Council have transitioned to virtual hearings to get applications back on track during the ongoing pandemic. The City Council will hold a digital hearing on April 22 for the first time in history. The Landmarks Preservation Commission will also launch virtual hearings, while the Board of Standards and Appeals has held several weeks of virtual hearings, which include a public testimony portion, alleviating some critics' concerns over public participation in the review process.

Importantly, Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) actions at the City Planning Commission and all community board meetings have yet to transition to virtual hearings. Thus the clock remains paused on all ULURP applications and any new land use applications requiring a community board hearing.

March 16, 2020:

On March 16, 2020, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio issued Emergency Executive Order 100 (the "Executive Order") in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Section 2 of the Executive Order stops the clock on all filed Uniform Land Use Review (ULURP) applications, new Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) applications that require a community board hearing, and other land use applications that impose timing limitations on the City's response, such as zoning certification and authorizations.

The Executive Order does not hinder an applicant's ability to file an application with a land use agency, nor does it halt the hearings of all land use agencies. For example, an application can be filed with the Department of City Planning (DCP), but the DCP would not have to send the completed application to a community board within the time horizons specified by law. BSA hearings, which are not required to occur within a specified time horizon, are proceeding for a limited number of cases under an executive order issued by New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo permitting public hearings by teleconference. Landmarks Preservation Commission and City Planning Commission hearings are suspended through the remainder of March.

Mayor de Blasio's citywide Executive Order will remain in effect for the entirety of New York City's state of emergency.