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October 28, 2010

MAS Summit: the dominance of NYC EDC in planning, the value of green space, and the importance of sharing the bounty across the boroughs

Atlantic Yards Report

While the livability survey revealed at the Municipal Art Society's (MAS) Summit for New York City October 21-22 suggested that most New Yorkers were satisfied, there were significant pockets of discontent, notably (and unsurprisingly) among poorer residents in the outer boroughs.

So there was a good deal of discussion about how to improve things. After all, suggested Robert McNulty, founder and president of Partners for Livable Communities, "livability should be defined by the least advantaged member of your community."
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Blame NYC EDC

Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, blamed the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYC EDC) for thinking that parking garages and big development like the East Side Gateway Mall or Yankee Stadium were the key to development.

"I think EDC needs to undergo a revolution," he said. "This stuff isn't window dressing." Such "stuff" includes things like parks and transportation.

Indeed, in a 10/4/10 Gotham Gazette column headlined The Real Power in City Planning, Hunter College planning professor Tom Angotti wrote:

Name just about any big and controversial development project in New York City -- the new Yankee Stadium, Bronx Terminal Market, Willets Point, Coney Island, Metrotech -- and behind them stands a single powerful dealmaker that makes them possible, the New York City Economic Development Corp. or EDC.

His conclusion:

Whether EDC does better planning and development because of its special position and powers is an open question that we might all disagree on. But EDC has assumed critical government planning powers that the City Charter and local law give to city agencies. By negotiating and making decisions in the shadows, EDC can avoid the sunlight that helps citizens understand what is getting developed and decide whether they want it or not. We may know what EDC's executives say to the public through their public relations office but little is know what is said in their exclusive discussions with developers.

Note that NYC EDC has supported Atlantic Yards, though the lead role went to another not quite transparent agency, the Empire State Development Corporation, controlled by the governor.

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Posted by eric at October 28, 2010 8:58 AM