“City of Yes” Aims to Help Flatbush Businesses

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Mei Park, who owns Newkirk Fruit and Newkirk Food Market in Newkirk Plaza, Brooklyn, wanted to expand her original store, but zoning regulations prevented it.

“I wanted to expand my store, but we couldn’t go up because there are apartments above us, so the only other option was to get another storefront,” she said in her new storefront on Nov 9. Her new business, Newkirk Food Market, located in a former hardware store, opened in March of 2023 on the opposite end of the plaza from her first store. Due to the city’s onerous zoning regulations, it took her two years before she could open the new store.

At a meeting of Community Board 14 on Nov 4, which includes Newkirk Plaza and many other business areas around Flatbush and Midwood, Hanif Yazdi of the New York City Department of City Planning, called this wait period “arbitrary.” He said zoning regulations have not been updated since the 1960s.

Updating these ordinances is a key goal of a plan to allow more businesses to grow in areas where they couldn’t before. Launched by the Department of City Planning in June of 2022, the “City of Yes” for Economic Opportunity aims to support businesses in all five boroughs of New York City. It proposes to modernize out of date ordinances that make it hard for business to open and grow.

City of Yes for Economic Opportunity has four main goals, according to Yazdi’s presentation during the meeting with CB 14.

The first goal is to lift the wait period for opening new businesses in store fronts. It also will change old regulations that make it hard for businesses to grow or start in certain areas of the city. The city would achieve this by updating zoning terms and simplifying zoning districts.

Another goal is to support five growing industries in the city: urban agriculture, life sciences, nightlife, amusement, and home-based work. The city hopes to allow more businesses in these industries to open in areas where they couldn’t before.

A third goal is to keep neighborhoods vibrant by encouraging safe and walkable streets. This would mean creating better ground floor designs, reducing auto repair shops cluttered sidewalks, and creating local delivery hubs.

The final goal is to allow more businesses in residential areas. It will allow bodegas to open closer to these areas if they will not create traffic in the area. It will allow business to open near New York City Housing Authority buildings and give more space to film studios.

“This sounds like a great way to help local businesses in the area,” said Gregory Alvarez, the co-chair of the housing and land use committee for CB14 during the meeting.

Park believes that the city’s plan to update the zoning regulations would be beneficial to the area. “It does no good for the neighborhood having an empty store, and it would have benefitted my business’ growth if I had been able to open my store earlier,” she said.