COUNCIL – City Council Land Use

Decisions Posted on Site:
Resolutions (2003 – 2005)

Link to New York City Council web site 

The 51-member City Council is the final decision-maker on many land use matters in New York City. The majority of land use issues are reviewed pursuant to the City Charter’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (“ULURP”). This process allows for review and advisory recommendations by the local Community Planning Board (60 days) and the Borough President (30 days). These reviews are followed by dispositive rulings by the City Planning Commission (60 days) and, in many cases, the City Council (50 days).

There are twelve categories of subject matter covered by ULURP:


  • Changes to the City Map
  • Maps of subdivisions and the platting of land into streets, avenues, etc.
  • Designation of zoning districts
  • Special permits under the jurisdiction of the City Planning Commission
  • Site selection for City capital projects
  • Revocable consents, solicitations for franchises, and major concessions
  • Improvements in real property, the costs of which are payable other than by the City
  • Housing and urban renewal plans and projects
  • Sanitary or waterfront landfills
  • Disposition of city-owned real property
  • Acquisition of real property by the City (except office leases)
  • Other matters that are proposed by the City Planning Commission and enacted by the Council by local law.

The City Planning Commission issues a decision on all of these matters and files every decision with the Council. Of these twelve categories, the Charter requires Council review and action of only three of them: zoning map changes, housing and urban renewal plans, and the disposition of certain real property. These mandatory items automatically go on the Council’s calendar.

The remaining matters are “discretionary.” The Council may assert jurisdiction over them within twenty days of receipt if seven Council Members make a non-debatable “Call-up” motion at a meeting of the full City Council. There is another rarely-used mechanism by which Council jurisdiction may be conferred on discretionary matters. It is called the “Triple No.” If the Community Board recommends disapproval (the first “no”), the Borough President recommends disapproval (the second “no”), but the Planning Commission approves, the Borough President may file written objections with the Council (the third “no”). In such a case, the Council must hear and act on the matter.

In addition to matters covered by ULURP, the Council’s jurisdiction over land use matters can be found in various sections of the City Charter and state statutes. For example, landmark designations and the creation of historic districts may be disapproved or modified by the Council, although an affirmative approval is not required. Similarly, the Council may disapprove site selections for new school locations proposed by the School Construction Authority. A mayoral agency may not solicit bids for franchises without first obtaining a franchise authorizing resolution from the Council. Intergovernmental transfer of real property pursuant to the General Municipal Law may also trigger Council action. Changes to the text of the Zoning Resolution must also be approved by the Council. Leases of office space are subject to a “mini-ULURP” that may result in Council action.

On all ULURP matters, the Council has a 50-day period in which to act. Its twenty-day clock in which to “call-up” a matter is included within its 50-day period in which to act. If the Council fails to act or fails to assert jurisdiction, the decision of the City Planning Commission becomes final and binding.

The current City Council has a 21-member Land Use Committee and three seven-member Subcommittees. Public hearings on all matters are held at the Subcommittee level where a recommendation to the full Committee is made. The full Committee considers each Subcommittee recommendation and then adopts a resolution approving, approving with modifications, or disapproving a matter. Approval and disapprovals proceed directly to the full Council for its consideration. Modifications proposed by the Committee are referred back to the Planning Commission for what, in shorthand, has been called a “scope” review. The Commission’s scope review must be completed within fifteen days during which the Council’s 50-day clocked is tolled. If the Commission decides that the proposed modification requires additional land use or environmental review, the Council may not adopt the modification. If the Commission decides that the modification is within scope, even if it disagrees with the change from a policy perspective, the Council may go forward and adopt the Committee’s recommendation.

The Council files its decisions with the Mayor, who may veto within five days. The Council, by a two-thirds vote, may override the veto within ten days.