Adams Administration’s Casino Zoning Plan Sparks Citywide Debate

The Adams administration unveiled a comprehensive zoning proposal that could pave the way for casino developments across broad sections of New York City. 

Proposed Zoning Overhaul Opens Doors for Casinos Across New York City

Unlike the city’s current zoning regulations, the proposed changes would permit the establishment of casinos in any manufacturing district and nearly all commercial areas, with minimal restrictions on their size. The scope of the proposal extends beyond just gambling halls, as developers could incorporate additional amenities within the casino footprint, such as restaurants, hotels, bars, and performing arts venues.

City officials argue that these sweeping changes are essential to streamline the regulatory process for the winners of the highly sought-after casino licenses. The move is seen as an effort to position New York City as a more attractive option compared to neighboring areas, where casinos are currently not allowed under existing zoning codes.

Dan Garodnick, the head of the Department of City Planning and the City Planning Commission, stressed the importance of establishing a level playing field for casino applicants within the city, reported AM New York. He stated that it was crucial to create such an environment as the state considers proposals for casinos downstate, allowing applicants within New York City to compete for this opportunity.

Concerns Rise Over Ambiguous Casino Zoning

While several bids for casinos have emerged, targeting prime locations such as Times Square, Hudson Yards, and Coney Island, some industry insiders believe existing “racinos” at Aqueduct Racetrack and Empire City Casino have an advantage due to their current footprint in racetracks with video slot machines.

The proposed zoning changes are expected to face a rigorous approval process, involving local community boards, Borough Presidents, Borough Boards, the City Planning Commission, City Council, and the Mayor. If approved, the amendment would expedite the process for chosen casino projects, bypassing the traditionally lengthy and complex land-use review.

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However, the lack of specificity in the proposal has raised concerns among civic leaders. Layla Law- top646 Gisiko, the land use chair at Manhattan Community Board 5, expressed bewilderment over the vague nature of the proposal, especially considering the meticulous details required for other zoning amendments.

Critics point out apparent contradictions within the proposal, such as the exemption of casino developers from the special permit requirement for new hotel developments, a requirement implemented in 2021 to mitigate adverse effects on local communities. The proposal’s ambiguity has sparked calls for a more detailed and strengthened review process to ensure the responsible development of potential casino complexes in the city.