New York City’s Department of City Planning has made its way into the 21st century with a tool to ease the process of filing land-use applications.
The agency’s zoning application portal now has a section where developers and property owners can fill out and submit some of the necessary forms for land use changes. It also gives applicants the ability to track those forms as they move through the approval process.
Right now, the only forms that can be filed virtually are pre-application statements and “reasonable worst-case development scenarios,” which are the first two pieces that need to be submitted. The goal is to eventually have the entire land-use application available online, according to City Planning.
The move is the latest step in the agency’s years-long effort to make zoning documents easier to find and file online. In 2011 it launched its Zoning and Land Use map, or ZoLa, giving wonks (and curious New Yorkers) the ability to check zoning regulations for a particular tract of land and see where major changes are in the works. The zoning application portal, which offers detailed information about every zoning change on file with the city, debuted in 2018.
The application portal was in the works before the pandemic, but the current situation — which led the Department of City Planning to close its main office and borough-based offices — drove home how crucial it is to give applicants a virtual option.
“Any step to improve government efficiency is a welcome one, particularly in the current environment, when in-person filings are challenging for many reasons,” said Elise Wagner, a partner in the land use department at Kramer Levin, which works with developers on zoning applications. “We think the fully-digital application platform will be an improvement over the paper filing process, which can be cumbersome and time-consuming for large applications.”