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Frequently Asked Questions

Agencies & Regulation

What is a coastal (or federal) consistency review?

New York State Department of State (NYS DOS) manages the New York State Coastal Management Program to balance competing land and water uses in New York’s coastal area. DOS staff conduct reviews to ensure that proposed projects that require federal permits within or affecting New York’s coastal area are consistent with Coastal Management Program policy. These are known as coastal (or federal) consistency reviews.

More about NYS DOS and the Coastal Management Program 

What is the Waterfront Revitalization Program (WRP)?

The New York City Waterfront Revitalization Program (WRP) establishes the city’s policies for the development and use of the waterfront. Through the WRP, New York City Department of City Planning (NYC DCP) in conjunction with the New York City Planning Commission (in its capacity as the City Coastal Commission), promotes activities appropriate to various waterfront locations and coordinates the review of activities and decisions affecting New York City’s waterfront and coastal areas. For federal consistency review, applicants must also assess a project’s consistency with the coastal policies of the NYC WRP

More about the NYC DCP and the Waterfront Revitalization Program 

What is a Section 401 Water Quality Certification?

Water Quality Certification (under Section 401 of the Federal Clean Water Act) is required by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) for placing fill or undertaking activities resulting in a discharge to what the Army Corps refers to as Waters of the United States and where a permit is required from the Army Corps under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.

More about Water Quality Certification 

What is a Standard Activity Permit?

The easiest and most efficient path to obtaining a permit from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) is the submission of an application for a project that is designed to be compatible with agency policies and land use regulations. DEC has identified waterfront activities that conform to agency standards as Standard Activity Permits (SAPs).

What are the special area designations in New York City?

The Waterfront Revitalization Program (WRP) has designated the following five special areas within which certain goals and priorities are encouraged over others to help shape how the waterfront is used:

  • Significant Maritime and Industrial Areas
  • Arthur Kill Ecologically Sensitive Maritime and Industrial Area
  • Recognized Ecological Complexes
  • Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitats
  • Special Natural Waterfront Areas

Read more about these special areas and download related maps on NYC Department of City Planning’s website 

How do I know if my project is in the coastal area or NYC Coastal Zone (and is there a difference)?

These are the same geographical areas. You can use either one of the following online mapping tools to see if a specific location is within the coastal boundary:

NYS Coastal Area Boundary – Online Mapping Tool

New York City Zoning and Land Use (ZOLA) map (under “Waterfront”)

What are development restrictions?

Where a new regulated activity is proposed within jurisdictional wetlands (within wetlands or adjacent areas), the project must be designed to comply with development restrictions that may restrict or limit the type of activity, where it can be located, and/or the extent to which it can occur.

Tidal Wetlands

Development restrictions include, but are not limited to, minimum lot sizes and setbacks for buildings and septic systems (Read More).

Freshwater Wetlands

Statewide minimum land-use regulations establish compatibility categories for different types of activities. If the activity is regulated, procedural requirements must be followed to determine compatibility and standards for permit issuance. (Read More).

Where do I find out about wetlands land use regulations?

For general guidance, read guidelines for the use of New York State wetlands here:

Tidal Wetlands Land Use Guidelines

Freshwater Wetlands Land Use Regulations

These do not represent the entirety of regulations, but should provide a good outline.

What are setback limits?

Setback limits apply to tidal wetland adjacent areas and are the minimum distance landward of the tidal wetland boundary, behind which a specified activity must occur in order to be permitted (without a variance). (See Section 661.6 Development Restrictions for examples).

Setback limits do not apply to freshwater wetlands; instead, land-use regulations specify the compatibility of activities within jurisdictional wetlands and adjacent areas. (Read More).

Getting a Waterfront Permit

How do I know if my project requires a permit?

For a high level list of activities that require permits or reviews, see: What Requires a Permit? 

How do I get started with a waterfront permit application?

Use our online project permitting Wizard: Does Your Project Need Permits? 

What are the steps I need to take to complete a Joint Application?

The process is detailed in this interactive infographic: Steps in the Permitting Process 

Where do I find a checklist for what I need to do for a waterfront permit?

We have compiled a cross-agency checklist for most projects, see: Joint Application Checklist

Additionally, there are more specific requirements available by project. See Typical Projects for more detail.

Where do I get the forms for the Joint Application?

To get the forms needed across all projects and agencies, see: Tips on Preparing Forms and Documents

Additional forms for specific project types are occasionally required. See:

How do I prepare site plans, drawings, and other attachments?
How long will it take to get a waterfront permit in New York City?

Timeframes begin after your application is received and is considered complete. For details on agency turnaround, see: Typical Timeframes