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July 12, 2010

At Charter Commission hearing, most invited panelists support ULURP; Angotti, BPs, civic groups, call for planning, not zoning; AY gets a cameo

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York City Charter Revision Commission hearing on June 24 aired some important testimony on land use reform, to relatively little coverage, and though land use is not on the agenda this year, the issues deserve discussion.

The gist of the expert testimony--four of five those invited--was that the city's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) pretty much works, and shouldn't be amended. (There was also a lot of criticism of Community Benefit Agreements, as I've written.)

The one outlier, urban planning professor Tom Angotti of Hunter College--also an advisor to the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods on Atlantic Yards issues--disagreed, laying out in great detail the flaws in ULURP.

He suggested that greater weight (though not a veto) be given to the advisory opinions of local Community Boards and arguing for greater transparency in the pre-ULURP negotiations.

Also see Angotti's essay in the July Gotham Gazette, headlined Charting a Better Way for Planning and Community Boards, which questions for example, the continuing validity of a side agreement between then-Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff and then-City Council Member John Liu regarding the Flushing Commons project in Queens.

(Coming July 21: a free conference titled Land Use and Local Voices: Is the City’s Land Use Process in Need of Reform?, sponsored by the Municipal Art Society and Manhattan Community Board 1.)

The Atlantic Yards exception

Barely mentioned was that state projects like Atlantic Yards avoid ULURP completely, with no weight at all given to the Community Boards; one expert, Vishaan Chakrabarti of Columbia University's real estate program, said it was "inappropriate" for the state to control such projects.

(The three affected Community Boards all expressed opposition or significant concern.)

Atlantic Yards did play an awkward cameo role in a question from a commission member, who wondered--without recognizing how AY avoided ULURP--how the charter might allow for community participation in discussions about the "horrific" traffic generated by the arena.


NoLandGrab: While many Atlantic Yards opponents and critics called for the project to go through ULURP, it was because some process was better than no process. Clearly, it was not an endorsement of what is, as Professor Angotti pointed out, a deeply flawed mechanism.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, CB 8 Chairperson to Charter Commission: "Too often developers seek loopholes to avoid the input of the community they are attempting to infiltrate"

In the Charter Revision Commission hearing June 24 on Land Use, Nizjoni Granville, Chairperson of Brooklyn Community Board 8, was the second public speaker after the expert panel (covered here), appearing at about the 2:20 mark (webcast).

Like some other commentators, she asked for Community Boards to have more than advisory power in the city's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP).

And while Granville didn't name any names, and some of her testimony referenced supportive housing projects, her statements that "developers seek loopholes to avoid the input of the community they are attempting to infiltrate" and "developers are able to circumvent the process if they receive government funds that are not obtained from New York City" sure sound to me like references to Atlantic Yards.

As I wrote 10/1/06, Community Board 8, which takes in part of the proposed Atlantic Yards footprint at its western tip, didn't take a harsh official stance toward the project as did Community Board 6, but it did submit numerous letters of concern from Executive Committee members and area residents to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).

Granville, who is something of a skeptic regarding Atlantic Yards, was elected Chairperson in June 2009 over a project supporter, though it can't be said AY was the deciding issue.

Posted by eric at July 12, 2010 11:44 AM