New York, NY – On Thursday, May 9th, Members of the City Council’s Progressive Caucus and grassroots and planning organizations from the Thriving Communities Coalition rallied before the Charter Commission Hearing to express their concerns about the lack of substantial reform proposed in the Charter’s preliminary staff report.

On Tuesday, April 23, the 2019 Charter Commission released a preliminary staff report that included consideration of a “planning cycle,” that would attempt to synergize and coordinate  existing planning documents. The staff report’s recommendation to simply string together existing reports fails to address the fundamental lack of transparency, coordination, accountability, and equitable outcomes in our current land use process.

Together with community groups, planning organizations, and elected officials, the Progressive Caucus and the Thriving Communities Coalition are urging the Charter Revision Commission to consider eight elements necessary to a meaningful comprehensive planning effort. Without these features, a comprehensive citywide planning cycle will not have enough power or coherence to enact real change and remedy our city’s increasing  inequity, unfairness, and inefficiency.

The eight elements which must be expressly required in the charter are:

  1. A single clear, coherent plan: Aligning what’s already required in the charter is a start, but it’s not enough. The charter must require the creation of a citywide comprehensive plan, which would guide future land use, budgeting and policy decisions.
  2. Equity principles: The comprehensive planning process should be designed to further equity; inclusiveness; sustainability and resilience; transparency; and accountability. The plans should be required to articulate specific equity goals and indicators that can measure progress over time.
  3. Citywide & localized analysis: The City must perform data-driven, top-down analyses of citywide infrastructure and service needs, as well as displacement risk. These analyses must result in a plan that transparently balances neighborhood and city-wide needs.
  4. Balance citywide and local needs through bottom-up community planning: The process must entail a robust community-based planning process that gives under-resourced communities and underrepresented stakeholders a meaningful voice in the planning process and subsequent land use and development decisions, transparently balance community priorities with citywide needs in alignment with principles and goals.  
  5. Equitable Distribution of Resources and Future Development: The plan should set concrete, measurable, and equitable neighborhood targets for growth, including affordable housing, essential City services and facilities, and critical investments, so that all neighborhoods do – and receive –  their fair share.
  6. Coordinate with Capital Budget:  The community investments identified in the plan should be included in the 10-year capital strategy to ensure the City allocates needed resources and capital investment to communities through each annual expense and capital budget process, consistent with the plan.
  7. Create a future land use map: The City should create a future land use map to guide growth and development that will engender the citywide and local goals of the comprehensive plan.
  8. Incentivize alignment with the plan: The City should enact mechanisms to incentivize plan-aligned growth, discourage land use actions that do not comply with the plan, and require rationale for pursuing the project. This includes allowing plan-aligned developments to bypass ULURP, and those that do not align to be subject to ULURP.

Any comprehensive planning cycle needs a real regulatory framework that can give teeth to the needs and opportunities the plan identifies. These 8 elements aim to create that very framework.

“Our current land use process, which relies solely on piecemeal rezonings, is insufficient to address the challenges facing New York City,” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso, Member of the Progressive Caucus. “Our city is already in a full-blown housing crisis, displacement is rampant, and climate change poses a real threat to large swaths of our city. It is imperative that we meet these issues head on; to do so, we must actually start to plan in New York City. I thank the Charter Commission for putting forth a recommendation that nods toward comprehensive planning, however it remains unclear how the proposal would be incorporated into decision-making around land use and the capital budget; simply connecting our city’s existing plans without a mechanism to facilitate compliance does little to change the status quo of the current process. I’m proud to join my Progressive Caucus colleagues and the Thriving Communities Coalition in urging the Charter Revision Commission to strengthen this recommendation and deliver meaningful change for our communities.”

“The City of New York has effectively abandoned its responsibility to plan for the future. Our city is changing before our eyes, and this change is driven almost exclusively by private interests. This is not planning; private interests do not plan for the public good. Planning requires a values-driven vision, meaningful engagement with communities, analysis of our city-wide needs, and tools and resources to make the plan a reality. Only a Comprehensive Plan can put our public institutions and communities back in the driver’s seat, and enable us to plan for what New Yorkers deserve and demand: greater equity, climate resilience, and a livable future,” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca, Vice-Chair of the Progressive Caucus.

“The Charter Revision Commission staff report finds that the city’s many disconnected planning processes sew disillusionment and confusion in our land use process. The existing plans do not add up to a coherent, data-based, values-driven vision for the city, giving us the ability to attend to sea level rise and climate change, our housing affordability and displacement crisis, or make investments in infrastructure that’s a century old. We need to implement bold, transformative land use reform in order to meet these pressing challenges. Any planning process must be grounded in shared principles and long-term goals, link data-based needs assessment with public participation, and provide mechanisms to ensure that future land use decisions are plan-aligned and that priority investments are funded through the capital budget process. That’s why I’m proud to join my Council colleagues and the Thriving Communities Coalition in urging the Charter Revision Commission to take up serious land use reform and comprehensive planning to bring to the voters this November,” said Council Member Brad Lander, Member of the Progressive Caucus.

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