Mobilizing the Region
Issue 93August 23, 1996

NYC Mega-Store Zoning Fight Down to Wire

New Yorkers for Responsible Land Use Policy will protest the zoning change proposed by Mayor Giuliani to weaken NYC land use review procedures and permit the opening of retail mega-stores in industrially zoned sections of New York City on Wednesday, Sept. 4, the same day the City Planning Commission will hold hearings on the proposal at City Hall.

The new land use group encompasses primarily Queens-based civic groups, the 130,000 small New York City store owners of the Small Business Congress of NYC and several labor organizations. The coalition objects to the drive to bring mega-stores into the city and to the erosion of community review and oversight proposed as the means to ease the retail giants' development plans. In a recent call to action that it issued, the group said, "Either we defeat this proposal now, or we live with giant strip malls in our backyards forever." Barbara Stuchinski, president of the Forest Hills-based Neighborhood Preservation Alliance, told the Queens Courier, "We are not a number. We are not a price tag. No government should decide how we maintain our neighborhood."

Generation of additional traffic in city neighborhoods is a leading concern among the civic groups. Last year, planners at the Pratt Institute estimated that 50 new NYC big-box stores would produce 200,000 more city vehicle trips every day, for a 5% rise in total vehicle miles traveled citywide.

Current regulations require that large supermarkets and department stores seeking sites in industrially-zoned areas obtain approvals via review procedures involving community boards, borough presidents and the City Council. The Mayor's plan would permit mega-stores to be built as-of-right, without community review. Analysts say the change could bring 50-60 new "big-box" stores to NYC in the next few years. Borough Boards from all boroughs have voted against the proposed change, though their votes are non-binding. New Yorkers for Responsible Land Use Policy: 718-886-5567.

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