Overview of NYC Waterfront Permitting
The permitting process for structures and activities on or near New York City’s waterfront and wetlands is complex.
This stems in part from the varying policies, standards, and regulations of the federal, state, and municipal agencies responsible for ensuring clean, navigable waterways, a protected ecosystem, and shorelines that are well protected from major storms.
Before you can get a construction permit for a project on the waterfront, (such as one from the Department of Buildings or Small Business Services), you need to assure the appropriate city, state, and federal agencies that you have properly evaluated any environmental impacts and followed certain procedures.
The Four Agencies
Four agencies examine the impact of most projects on or near the waterfront and wetlands in New York City:
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps)
- New York State Department of State (NYS DOS)
- New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC)
- New York City Department of City Planning (NYC DCP)
Your project may need approval from one or more of these agencies based on what you plan to do, where you plan to do it, and the possible impact of the work you are doing. There may be additional approvals or permits required by other agencies, such as New York City Small Business Services (NYC SBS), New York City Department of Buildings (NYC DOB), New York State Office of General Services (NYS OGS), etc. For more information, see: Related Permits
Common Principles in project review
While each agency has individual goals, policies, and requirements for waterfront permitting and reviews, they do share the following common principles in reviewing projects:
Applicants should clearly communicate how their projects comply with applicable environmental regulations
You must clearly communicate your project’s goals and scope, and satisfy each agency’s requirements. This includes providing a detailed description of your project; alternative approaches that might be feasible; and ways to avoid, minimize, and mitigate (or compensate) for your project’s impact on natural resources.
Scale matters – for project approval and timing
Repairs are more readily approved than new construction, and smaller-scale projects are more readily approved than larger ones.
All agencies need to agree in order for projects to be approved
Each agency has the discretion to grant you a permit or to approve your application. Each agency carefully considers the nature of your project and its location in reaching a determination. All agencies must agree on a project before it can go forward.
Some agencies have developed standardized permitting (such as Army Corps’ Nationwide Permits or the NYS DEC’s Standard Activity Permits) which allow commonly requested project types (such as bulkhead repairs) to be reviewed and approved more quickly. Applications for projects outside of the recommended limits for either repairs or for standard project types take longer for review and approval.