The process of land use and planning in the city is not perfect – the city council and the de Blasio administration seem to agree.
However, the Urban Planning Commission has criticized the Council for blocking affordable housing projects and resonances, while Council members say the process does not take community needs into account in the long run.
During a stormy all-day hearing on Tuesday, City Planning Commissioner Marisa Lago testified against City Council President Corey Johnson’s proposal to create a ten-year planning cycle for the city, which is considered impracticable and expensive. The administration estimates that environmental inspections alone would cost half a billion dollars.
Lago said the plan would create a “top-down approach” to land use decisions, in which the city council would swing even more over plans for its districts and would be more likely to exceed the wishes of municipal councils. Anti-development groups used similar language in the opposition to the proposal last week.
Lago has repeatedly cited the respect of members – the tradition of the city council, which agrees with the local member in deciding on land use – as a guide to the actions the administration is following.
Without a buy-in from a local council member, proposals are dead on arrival. For this reason, Lago stated that the administration carried out territorial actions only in the communities that signaled support. She predicted that the speaker’s proposal would further paralyze city planners.
According to Johnson’s bill, at least three land use scenarios would be developed for each district. The city council would choose one after receiving contributions from the presidents of the city districts, community councils and the public.
City council members would not have to vote on resonance requests, but could decide – which Lago said it would almost certainly do, effectively adding another “veto point.”
“Basically, this is another obstacle in the construction of affordable housing,” Lago said.
Johnson objected to cost estimates, saying the measures would streamline the planning process and allow the city to budget more efficiently for each district. He repeatedly argued that his proposal increased the level of community involvement in land use decision-making and planning, and said that Lago was distorting the language of his bill.
The Council spokesman also opposed the idea that the bill would effectively end the spatial planning of individual families in the city, leading to the demolition of some existing houses to make room for denser housing.
He also called the current process a top-down approach, saying city planning asked community members to consider land use proposals that were already “fully baked”.
“It was supposed to be the administration that ended the Two Cities Story,” Johnson said of the mayor’s pledge to fight inequality. “You don’t seem to want to do the hard work we think is necessary.”
Johnson noted that the pandemic disproportionately affected colored communities hospital in some of these neighborhoods they have been replaced by luxury housing.
“What made you stop and think we might be doing something wrong here?” he asked.
During the hearing, other members of the city council asked Lago’s version of the same question: What would it do to increase community involvement and address inequalities exacerbated by land use decisions?
Many admonished her that she did not answer the question directly. Some members defended members’ respect as the key to protecting the interests of their constituents.
Council member Antonio Reynoso criticized the fact that City Planning had given up pressure on the Bushwick resonance after he and Council member Rafael Espinal he demanded that agency studies and alternative community design it required readily available housing and fewer units.
This plan required only 2,000 units, all available. The city plan required almost the same number of such units, but also more than 3,000 more, to subsidize the affordable ones.
Reynoso said the community had shown a willingness to work with urban planning, but the agency had an “all or nothing” approach, which resulted in no affordable housing being built. According to him, the agency decided to “postpone the community to the destruction of gentrification”.
Council member Brad Lander, a sponsor of Johnson’s law, quoted the proposal rezone Gowanus – which, in his words, “took most of the decade” before it started – as a reason for reform. He said the land use process in the city had become “toxic and disrupted.”
Council member Deneek Miller said he was concerned that the bill did not sufficiently increase community involvement in urban planning. Manhattan President Gale Brewer testified that the bill could achieve certain planning goals, but expressed concern that it “does not place communities at the center of the planning process.”
She also addressed criticism of Rezon Soho ‘s proposal, blaming the city’ s mandatory inclusive housing program insufficient level of affordable housing in the plan.
The New York City Council has shown support for some of Johnson’s goals, but the bill fails to “create a framework for addressing competitive priorities between the needs of a localized community and city-wide goals.”
The industry group also stressed that city council members are unlikely to give up their ability to have the final say in resonant applications.
“The council is not just a passer-by, but a major factor in the current land use process,” the group wrote in a prepared testimony. “This legislation does not address this basic principle.”