zoning map

DCP NYC

A city zoning map. Critics say New York now engages only in neighborhood-by-neighborhood rezonings with little connection to what needs to happen in the rest of the city.

The city’s Charter Revision Commission meets Tuesday to consider another batch of potential questions for the November ballot—including a measure related to how the city does its land-use planning.

Last week, the Commission approved 17 proposals, including a move toward “ranked choice voting” that would consider voters’ second choices in elections where no candidate wins a majority, changes to the city’s budget process and new tools for a board that investigates alleged police misconduct.

Among those were two proposals related to land use.

One would provide 30 days of advanced notice to community boards and borough presidents before a proposal begins the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP).

The second would extend the time within the ULURP process that community boards get to review applications when those reviews occur in July and August, when summer vacations make community engagement difficult.

The Charter Revision Commission, which has been at work for 11 months, is scheduled to release its final report this July and the public will vote on those changes to the City Charter on Election Day, November 5, 2019. The last time the City Charter received a comprehensive revision was in 1989.

Several advocacy groups had pushed for the Commission to give voters a chance to approve a move toward “comprehensive planning,” under which neighborhood rezonings and other development policies and investments would be aligned with a formal set of citywide goals. Advocates also pressed for changes to the way the city does environmental reviews.

The charter commission’s staff largely dismissed those suggestions in an April report, but did recommend commissioners think about a ballot question about pulling the many different planning mechanisms that already exist in the charter—like the 10-year capital plan and neighborhood-level 197(a) plans—into a more coherent and transparent form.

It is that suggestion, along with ideas in other issue areas, that the commission will take up Tuesday.

During their discussion on the pre-ULURP process last week, one of the concerns brought up by some on the commission was that the proposal did not go far enough to address the real problems with the planning system.

Commission member James Caras said he wanted to see an amendment of at least a 60-day period and wanted the city to respond to the Community Board and Borough President.

But Commission Chair Gail Benjamin said, “We do have a ULURP process and during that process, and as imperfect as it may be, all of the people you are talking about have a time period for comment. I am concerned about establishing a pre-ULURP, ULURP commenting period and I am concerned that takes away from the process that we have.”

Commission member James Vacca, a former Bronx City Council member and Community Board district manager, said the problem ran deeper than time limits.

“Community boards make recommendations on the capital budget, and for years, back to when I was a District Manager the response from every agency was, ‘No money for this, no money for that.’ They don’t give a response. They don’t detailed answer. They just say, ‘That is not in our plans.’ That is what the community board gets,” said Vacca.

The meeting is in the Council Chambers at City Hall at 6 p.m.

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