New York introduces mandatory racial impact studies for large developments

New development projects are a fact of life in urban areas, but unfortunately, these developments displace marginalized communities and families of color at a disproportionate rate. Communities that developers feel do not have the resources to advocate for themselves are taken advantage of and become victims of gentrification. To address this, the city of New York has passed a new bill to ensure new projects assess full community impact implications.

Called the Racial Impact Study Bill, the legislation requires that all proposed rezoning and development projects conduct a race, ethnicity, and income impact study before project approval. It has been passed by the city council and is expected to be signed into law by Mayor de Blasio shortly.

These reports would entail a complete assessment, conducted by a new online data tool, which analyzes not only race, ethnicity, and income impacts, but also other socioeconomic factors such as development affordability, impact on local business, and to what degree a project reduces racial segregation. Ultimately, the tool generates a “displacement risk index” to determine whether a project uplifts or displaces a community. This index can then be used to approve or deny projects to avoid gentrification.

The new law will be crucial for screening projects such as the redevelopment of a 59-block stretch of Inwood in 2018 which resulted in the displacement of many long-term residents, primarily residents of color.

Racial impact studies will not be required for small projects, only for those which affect five or more community districts, a new historic district of at least four city blocks, or rezonings of projects of 50,000 square feet. The requirement will be implemented on June 1, 2022.

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