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May 18, 2007

A start on trading cumbersome (city) environmental review for the civic work of planning

Atlantic Yards Report

Nobody’s happy with the way projects get approved in New York. Rather than planning, there’s an environmental review process--city, state, or federal depending on the overseeing authority—that aims to disclose adverse impacts rather than actually mitigate them. Reams of paper produced by high-priced consultants allow developers to insulate against lawsuits, but otherwise don’t serve the public well.

The indictment, as applied in the city’s implementation of the 1975 State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), is detailed thoroughly in a new publication, Rethinking Environmental Review: A Handbook on What Can Be Done, written by Hope Cohen, deputy director of the Center for Rethinking Development at the Manhattan Institute, with a foreword by Richard Ravitch, former head of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

While the institute has a free-market bent, it gathered a panel of good government types for a panel discussion yesterday, who endorsed the critique even if they differed at points over the prescription. They included Ravitch; Robert Yaro, president of the Regional Plan Association (RPA); Kent Barwick, president of the Municipal Art Society (MAS); and Jerilyn Perine, executive director of the Citizens Housing and Planning Council of NY and former commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

As usual, at these events, the poor planning posterproject made an uninvited appearance:

Though Atlantic Yards, as a project overseen by the state, was not addressed in the handbook, it was brought up yet again by the panel as an emblematic example of poor planning.

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Posted by lumi at May 18, 2007 9:12 AM