14 thoughts on “City’s Environmental Review Process Faulted for Ignoring Evidence of Development’s Harm

  1. I read both this article and the referenced Pratt Center link. I’m left scratching my head.

    The recommendations clearly have merit: housing and development policy should consider risk of displacement and adopt a goal of no net loss of affordable housing.

    But nowhere in the Pratt Center findings — or this article — is there a cogent link between an environmental review and these goals. Blaming displacement on an environmental review is like faulting a paint brush for doing a lousy job as a hack saw. When I reach into my tool kit, I try to grab the right tool for the job at hand.

    • The link is pretty clear. If the EIS fails to identify the displacement risk that a development might pose, how could the city–as you suggest–consider risk of displacement or implement a no-net-loss policy? In your tool kit, you likely have both a saw and a tape measure. Maybe the EIS is the latter. It’s not what you cut with, exactly, but a shoddy one is going to make your cutting a lot more problematic.

      • I’m still missing the link.

        An environmental review should look at a plan’s potential impact on air and water resources. In NYC, impact on wildlife is rarely relevant, though a small fish had big consequences for Westway. An environmental review should consider a plan’s potential health consequences. Dense infrastructure costs governments less than sprawl. Per-capita energy and water consumption is less in dense areas: good for air pollution and climate change. People who live where it’s dense and walkable tend to be physically healthier. These are all valid environmental considerations.

        Displacement and loss of affordable housing are also a valid concerns too, no less important than environmental impact, but they’re neither linked to nor related to an environmental review. Address them fully, but separately.

        • Ah, I think you’re thinking that environmental reviews are, well, about the natural environment. In New York City for many decades they have looked more broadly at all the impacts of a potential change in land use: Shadows, local business, schools, infrastructure, traffic, etc. It’s the “urban environment” that we’re talking about. And as flawed as the process is, there is a logic to the idea that we want a comprehensive, objective assessment of all the ways a potential move is going to affect life in the city.

        • An environmental impact statement is prepared if an action is determined to significantly affect the quality of the human environment. It compares alternatives so that the decision maker can assess which action has the least impact on the human environment. That includes all impacts: seats in the public schools, transportation, water, sewer, air, parks, and all other city services. There has not been an EIS prepared by the City in the last few years that have looked at any real alternatives, or even cared what the community stated. This article was a breath of fresh air and was duly needed.

  2. We Inwood residents urged City Hall to study the racial impacts of the Inwood Rezoning in housing and business displacement. City Hall flat out refused. City Hall does not want to what the racial impacts are because it would expose City Hall’s discriminatory policies.

    • It’s probably not legal to study racial impacts. But if what you are saying is that the Inwood rezoning will bring more whites into the area you’re probably correct. Only time will tell. But it sure looks like deBlasio rammed through the Inwood rezoning.

  3. Of course new developments will cause some displacement as overall rents increase as a neighborhood becomes more desirable. But how can you guarantee no net loss of affordable units?

  4. Isn’t it obvious that humans are also part of the environment?
    They are both ‘impacted-by’ and have an ‘impact-on’ the rest of the environment.
    Human animals need protection as much as any other animals.

  5. This discussion needs to be informed by the important work of psychiatrist Dr. Mindy Fullilove, documented in her book, “Root Shock.” Changes in the environment beyond air, water, etc. can have devastating health effects. The EIS is too limited in scope and needs to be changed or another tool of measurement developed and applied.

  6. Where are the guidelines that insist that an EIS has to be accurate? Rogue agencies, specifically the DEP, have used fraudulent EIS reports for advocacy on projects, not as objective studies on which to base decision-making.

  7. The zoning change impact on the East Harlem community is well documented from the earlier 2003 revision which preceeded the 2017 changes. All you have to do to realize tbe enormous impact on the population Past y Presenf is look. Requesting City Hall to take its head out of the sand is not too much to ask…

  8. It seems disingenuous to me that anyone who is concerned about housing affordability — which is arguably the most important social justice issue in New York City — would be opposed to the rapid construction of new housing units. Even if new units are disproportionately expensive, their mere creation takes market pressure off existing units. The New York City region needs to accommodate its growing population. Production has lagged growth for years, creating a chronic bottleneck that results in very high prices for units that are neither luxurious nor ideally located. Arcane processes that slow down new construction will ultimately contribute to a rising cost of living in all of the region’s neighborhoods.

    • If only it were that simple. New housing development can have secondary effects that raise the rents of other existing units because they change the dynamic of a neighborhood. It can be hard to decouple previously existing rent trends from those exacerbated or lessened by new development, but this is certainly a risk. Even more obvious is the risk that the zoning changes that facilitate more housing development can lead to a loss of industrial space (and jobs) and alter the economics of neighborhood retail, driving out independent businesses and low-cost options. It’s not a simple matter of supply and demand — at least not when some neighborhoods are forced to accept growth and others are shielded from it.

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