Preservation Issues

Governor Vetoes Bills That Would Halt MTA from Ignoring Zoning Laws

UPDATE: November 29, 2016

Governor Cuomo has vetoed bills that would have prevented the MTA from bypassing local zoning. Now the MTA could develop its Madison Avenue headquarters building, Sunnyside Yards in Queens, or any of its outdoor stations without following the City’s zoning laws and without public review. New buildings on MTA land could be exempt from property taxes.

The Conservancy asked members two weeks ago to write the Governor and urge him to sign legislation that would have prevented the MTA from doing this. We thank the hundreds of you who responded.

The language exempting the MTA from local zoning was included in the 2016-17 state budget with no public comment. Prior to this provision, the MTA could only override local zoning for “transportation purposes.” City Planning Chair Carl Weisbrod called the new provision a “radical change.”

The Department of City Planning, State Conference of Mayors, and many local officials joined a large, bi-partisan effort in the Legislature to repeal the budget provision.

In his veto, the Governor said the provision “did not change or expand” the definition of “transportation purposes.” He added that the provision “simply confirmed” a long-existing legal principle that that MTA may use its property to realize revenue that supports its mission.

Local officials fear that the MTA’s huge revenue needs could mean that the Authority could lease land for multi-story commercial and residential developments that damage neighborhood character while providing no income to local governments.

State Senator Liz Krueger’s office said there would likely be another attempt to remove the exemption from the budget in the upcoming legislative session. The Conservancy will monitor any legislative activity on the matter and any potential MTA developments.

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November 18, 2016

Governor Cuomo has one week to sign legislation that stops MTA land grab: Senate Bill 8037 and Assembly Bill 10421. This legislation will repeal a provision tucked into the NY State budget that allows the MTA to avoid local zoning. Read the Conservancy’s memo of support for this legislation.

Without this legislation the MTA will be able to develop sites such as its Madison Avenue headquarters building, Sunnyside Yards in Queens, or any of its outdoor stations without following New York’s zoning laws and without public review. New buildings on MTA land could be exempt from property taxes.

This language was inserted into the 2016-17 state budget with no opportunity for public comment. The legislature moved swiftly to pass bills that would repeal the MTA loophole back in June, but they just landed on the Governor’s desk and and he needs to hear from you immediately. The New York Council of Mayors and the New York City Planning Commission Chair have urged the Governor to sign the bills.

Your voices were heard on Zoning for Quality and Affordability and Mandatory Inclusionary Housing. The Council improved those proposals because you spoke out. Now we’re asking you to speak out again.

Click here to Contact Governor Cuomo or call 518-474-8390 and ask him to sign Senate Bill 8037 and Assembly Bill 10421.

Tell Cuomo that New York voters understand the critical role that zoning plays in buildings, streets, and neighborhoods and they want their voices to count.