New-York News

Life sciences firms embrace City of Yes despite restrictions to outer borough development

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Life sciences businesses are eager for the passage of a new zoning plan that could expand neighborhoods where they can build labs despite new changes from city lawmakers that restrict development in the outer boroughs.

The city’s $3 billion life sciences industry is getting behind Mayor Eric Adams’ City of Yes plan for business growth, a proposal that rewrites zoning laws that determine which types of businesses can build where. The plan could open up opportunities for life sciences businesses; if passed by the City Council next month, the rules will open up more commercial areas for life sciences development and allow pharmaceutical companies and biotech firms to develop lab space on hospital and academic campuses.

City lawmakers voted to advance the City of Yes business plan on Wednesday, pushing it one step closer to approval. But along with that vote, they made modest changes that limit life sciences growth outside of Manhattan, restricting companies from building labs in commercial strips in residential neighborhoods that are typically reserved for grocery stores and dry cleaners.

Not all residential areas are ripe for research and scientific activity, as pointed out by Councilman Kevin Riley, chair of the zoning and franchises committee, at the Wednesday council hearing.

“Laboratories are not compatible with local retail corridors where residents go to pick up a bagel and do laundry,” he said, adding that lawmakers welcome job growth from the city’s life sciences sector. The changes will primarily limit development in low-density residential neighborhoods, he noted.

Although the recent changes restrict some commercial areas outside of Manhattan, industry leaders agreed that the existing plan will create even more opportunities for a growing life science sector.

Jennifer Hawks Bland, chief executive of the life sciences industry group NewYorkBio, said that the Council’s move to advance the City of Yes plan shows that New York has made “tremendous strides” in expanding where life sciences businesses can grow – especially given that current zoning rules haven’t changed since 1961.

Hawks Bland said she would have liked to see the original life sciences proposals in City of Yes advance to promote development in commercial districts in outer boroughs. Nevertheless, the moves will set up business development for years to come and it’s probably not necessary to build a lab next to every bodega. “I don’t think that is realistic,” she said.

The city’s bid to ease development restrictions for pharmaceutical and biotech companies is part of its overall plan to strengthen New York’s life sciences industry. The Economic Development Corporation, the city’s development arm, launched its $1 billion LifeSciNYC in 2016 under former Mayor Bill de Blasio, pledging to add 10 million square footage of lab space and 40,000 life sciences jobs in the next decade.

Officials are counting on the City of Yes to help New York’s life sciences dreams come to fruition, and have filed zoning applications to boost life sciences growth in anticipation of the new laws. Earlier this month the EDC filed plans for its life sciences hub Innovation East in Kips Bay, citing changes under the City of Yes.

The full City Council is set to vote on the City of Yes business plan next month.

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Amanda D'Ambrosio , 2024-05-23 11:33:02

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