Zoning Practice — February 2007

Ask the Author

Here are reader questions answered by Rebecca Retzlaff, author of the January 2007 Zoning Practice article "Habitat Loss: Global Crisis with a Local Solution."

Question from Rex Curry:

Can you cite New York City zoning cases and regulations on habitat preservation, or know of a local expert?

Answer from author Rebecca Retzlaff:

New York City does include some provisions for habitat protection in their zoning ordinance, although I don't know of anything that is specific to one species or natural community. Section 105 (Article X, Chapter 5) includes a "special natural areas district," which (among several purposes) has the purpose of protecting "aquatic, biologic, botanic, geologic, and topographic features having ecological or conservation values and functions." Other purposes of the district are to reduce hillside erosion, landslides, stormwater runoff, and protecting scenic areas.

Article VI, Chapter 2, contains special regulations for waterfront areas, although it appears that little in this chapter actually deals with habitat protection. One possible exception is a list in the appendix of plants that are required for public access areas. The required plants, as the ordinance says, are suited for the conditions along the NYC waterfront (such as salt spray, wind, or sandy or clay soils).

The Wildlife Conservation Society has drafted a model conservation area overlay district ordinance, based on New York state law — www.wcs.org/media/file/MCA-WCS-TP3-CAOD.pdf. The Metropolitan Conservation Alliance could probably put you in touch with a local expert.