City Proposes Zoning Changes to Make Casinos Easier to Develop

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The New York City Planning Commission is beginning a seven-month process for a zoning text amendment that will help clear the table for casinos in the five boroughs.

Under the city agency’s proposal — which will need to be passed through community boards, borough presidents’ offices and adopted by the Planning Commission itself before the New York City Council can vote yay or nay — gambling dens would be allowed as of right only  in several commercial and manufacturing districts across the city. 

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“As the state considers proposals for casinos downstate, it’s important that we create a level playing field for applicants within New York City so they can compete for this opportunity,” 

Dan Garodnick, CPC chair and director of the Department of City Planning (DCP), said in a statement. “This text amendment would avoid duplicating the state’s rigorous licensing process, which includes local representation on the [Community Advisory Committee], while setting up a rational framework for consideration within our zoning.”

If passed, potential casinos in those zoning districts — which cover wide swaths in every borough — would need approval from only the state and its Community Advisory Committee to move forward with the project, avoiding the long Uniform Land Use Review Procedure for each application, according to the city.

The potential could help each developer who has made proposals for one of the three downstate licenses to be approved by the New York State Gaming Commission.

The casino proposal by Related Companies and Wynn Resorts works since much of the Hudson Yards is zoned C4-6 and M1-2. Thor Equities’ plans for a gaming house between Stillwell Avenue, West 12th Street, Surf Avenue and Wonder Wheel Way in Coney Island, Brooklyn, also seems to benefit since it sits within a C7 zone.

Stefan Soloviev’s plans for an entertainment district also looks to be helped by the proposal. Soloviev’s proposed Freedom Plaza between the East River and First Avenue from 38th to 41st Streets is also safe, falling into a C5-2 zone, according to ZoLa, the city government’s interactive zoning map.

Other proposals include Point72 Asset Management’s Steve Cohen plan for a gambling house next to Citi Field in Queens; and SL Green Realty, Jay-Z’s Roc Nation and Caesars Entertainment proposal for a gaming floor in Times Square, which is zoned for commercial uses as well.

However, proposals like Cohen and Bally’s in the Bronx could have other barriers to cross before opening a casino, since they would both require permission to build on park land, Crain’s New York Business reported.

Mark Hallum can be reached at mhallum@commercialobserver.com.