new york
Population: 18, 175, 301
Counties: 58
Governor George Pataki

                                                     Key Laws/Overview


Click here for the amount of protected land in New York, and click here to review New York's federal transportation spending.
Source:  Pew Center on the States & Changing Direction:  Federal Transportation Spending in the 1990s. Surface Transportation Policy Project

The Quality Communities Task Force, setup by Gov. George Pataki, releases 41 recommendations to promote smart growth.  Recommendations include: 
· Proposals to steamline state grant applications 
· Increase incentives for brownfield redevelopment 
· Preserve farmland with tax credits. 
To read the report, visit

In June of 1996, the State Commission on the Capital Region released their report, "Growing Together Within the Capital Region." Created and funded by the State legislature in 1994, the Commission set out to assess ways to improve the delivery of local government services through regional approaches. When the Commission was getting started, they held facilitated public hearings in each of the particiapting counties for the purpose of identifying five discrete substantive areas where they would focus reserach and study for 18 months. From almost two dozen potential identified areas of study, land use planning ended up on the "top five list" in every county where public hearings were held.

The Commission created a land use advisory commitee to make recommendations.1 The Committee had representation from the public, private and non-profit sectors, and after many heated meetings delivered a consensus report with nearly unanimous committee support for every recommendation.  The Commission adopted most of the recommendations. However, in several instances, Commission members altered the aproaches and then integrated them with recommendations from the economic development and transportation areas.2

The Commission was unsuccessful in its efforts to secure state funding to continue its work. A June 1997 invitational forum on regional planning, targeting all chief elected municipal officials, key business leaders, key regionalism leaders, real estate specialists, and others, for a day long working session to determine whether there was any interest in moving forward with regional planning.3 There was an interest in cooperation and collaboration, but it was clear it was going to be slow and incremental.  Participants want education, information and dialogue. Local officials need to develop a greater trust of one another, and people need to talk more about comfort levels as to exactly what regional plan and/or process is and what it is not. While there was no strong consensus to charge forward with the development of a regional land use vision or planning document in the near future, there was great interest in developing next steps, and identifying an appropriate entity or entities to continue the dialogue once the Commission sunsets.

A second ongoing intiative in New York is the work of the Legislative Commission on Rural Resources and their comprehensive effort to recodify New York's land use laws. The New York approach offers a textbook case study of how to successfuly modernize land use statutes incrementally. From 1990 through 1998, the Commission, assisted by a Land Use Advisory Committee, has been responsible for developing and helping to enact over 30 new land use laws.  These laws, which cover everything from codifying case law which was never included in statute, to developing consistent laws for cities, towns and villages, to innovative zoning techniques such as incentive zoning, have made the tough job of planning and zoning by board members somewhat easier by providing guidance and clarification.  Although New York is not a state which has had any official government involvement in terms of vocal support for statewide and regional planning, the Commission has been able to get laws enacted which coordinate local planning with the Agricultural Districts Program, and which provide specific authorization for intermunicipal cooperation in land use planning (as well as for county participation in these planning agreements). In 1997 new statutory authority for county planning boards and regional planning councils was enacted.

In March 1998, two bills related to smart growth were introduced. One bill directed the Governor to prepare a Smart Growth compact between the various constituencies invloved with the shaping patterns of development in the State.4 A second bill called for the creation of a 17 member Planning and Land Use Task Force to study local, regional and statewide Planning Issues and to issue recommendations to thwart sprawl. Although no action was taken on these bills during the 1998 Legislative Session, statewide municipal associations, the home builders, and environmental interests have all held major programs centered around Smart Gorwth for the State and Senator Rath and Assemblyman Hoyt have held regional forums on the proposals.

In 1999, New York has already experienced unprecedented interest in smart growth and sprawl. Legislation entitled, "The Smart Growth Economic Competitiveness Act of 1999" was intorduced in January 1999 by Senator Rath and Assemblyman Hoyt.5 The legislation calls upon the governor to develop a smart gorwth economic competitiveness strategy.6 The bill further permits the Secretary of State to award regional compact competitiveness grants to intermunicipal entities for the purpose of identifying priority funding areas within their geographic area or for undertaking a cooperative planning project.7 A seventeen member Smart Growth Economic Competitiveness Task Force would also be formed to advise the governor and the legislature.8 A press conference officially announce the introduction of the bill on February 22, 1999, and was followed by public hearings on March 1, 1999 in Albany, and April 9, 1999 in Buffalo. In addition to the Legislative activity, special edcuational forums have been held every month during the Legislative Session on the topic of smart growth by the public, private, non-profit and academic communities.9

The above material is excerpted with permission from "Smart Growth at Century's End: The State of the States" by Patricia E. Salkin, published in The Urban  Lawyer,    Sumr 1999 v 31 n 3, p. 601.  For a complete copy of the article, please contact The Urban Lawyer.

Key Laws:
For an overview of New York's planning and zoning statutes, see the excellent summary provided by the American Planning Association.

"Vote on Land Preservation Likely; Suffolk revisits issue of borrowing." Newsday. January 26, 2001.

"Human Nature:  New Hope for Community Gardeners," New York Times. March 29, 2001.

"Holding Onto Harlem," New York Times. April 12, 2001.

"For history's sake," Buffalo News. April 24, 2001.

"A City at a Standstill:  Seeking solutions as NYC's costly congestion grows worse," Newsday. May 14, 2001.

Regional Plan Association
4 Irving Place, 7th Floor
New York, NY 10003
Tel: 212-253-2727

Tri State Transportation Campaign
The Tri-State Transportation Campaign is an alliance of public interest, transit advocacy, planning and environmental organizations working to reverse deepening automobile dependence and sprawl development in the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut
metropolitan region.

Transportation Alternatives
Since 1973 Transportation Alternatives has been New York’s advocate for cyclists and pedestrians. Cyclists want safe city streets and full-time access to bridges, parks and public transit.  Pedestrians need safe, calm neighborhood streets and car-free parks. T.A. leads the fight for both.


1 The author served as consultant to the Land Use Committee.
2 Part II of the report, titled "Managing and Investing in the Region's Assets: For a Stronger Economy and a Better Quality of Life," suggests strategies for integrating land use, economic development and transportation planning.
3 The Forum was hosted by the Goverment Law Center of Albany Law School.
4 A. 10038 (M. of A. Hoyt).
5 S. 7256 (Sen. Rath).
6 S. 1367/A. 1969 (1999-2000). The bill suggests a number of items which may be included in such strategy including: guidelines for local and regional identification of priority funding areas for eligible state funding; an arrangement for a collaborative compact process for local governments; identification of projects that have an impact on settlement patterns; recommendations for organizing regional compacts to implement the smart growth strategy; and identification of any necessary state organizational changes.
7 Id.
8 Among their functions and duties are: evaluating the effectiveness of current state, regional and local infrastructure policies; surveying stakeholders; reviewing model legislation, studies and the cost of sprawl; identifying data collection andanalysis; proposing a GIS strategy; and proposing innovative and cooperative economic development planning and land use approaches. See, S. 1367/A. 1969 sec. 160-ccc.
9 A February 22, 1999 program on smart gorwth presented by Rochester Mayor William Johnson, Jr., is the annual Crawford Lecture on Municipal Law at Albany Law School. The same evening, the Government Law CEnter of Albany Law School along with the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy are hosting an invitational dinner for members of the Legislature, the Governor's Cabinet and key stakeholders. on March 3 an 4, 1999 a major statewide conference on smart gorwth was held at the Empire State Plaza. The conference was Chaired by the Sec. of State and featured members of the Legislature and Exec. Branch. It was co-sponsored by dozens of interested organizations. An April 13, 1999 the Government Law Center sponsored a legislative breakfast program for members of the Legislature on Smart Growth for New York.