For anyone who missed yesterday’s City Council Hearing about the Manhattan CB9 197-a Plan and the Columbia Expansion, our testimony follows after the jump.  Did you attend?  What were your thoughts? 



The Community-Based Planning Task Force is a coalition of environmental justices groups, community boards, community-based organizations, civic groups, academics, and planning practitioners that works toward creating a more meaningful role for New Yorkers in local planning and development decisions. We acknowledge the support and leadership that members of the Council have brought to our efforts to make the city’s planning process more responsive to the needs of all New Yorkers.


In general, the goals of the Task Force are to ensure that communities have the resources to plan; to ensure that planning processes are fully participatory and representative of the community; and to ensure that community-based planning recommendations are implemented as part of the city’s overall planning process. We look toward the experiences of other cities such as Seattle, Washington, and Boston, Massachusetts as models of what can be accomplished when cities partner with communities before development decisions are made. Part of our Campaign revolves around making the 197-a process as effective a planning tool as possible, and finding ways to strengthen the role of 197-a plans in the city’s overall planning process. We’re here today to testify on behalf of Manhattan Community Board 9’s 197-a plan.


New York City is growing, as the Mayor’s PlaNYC has so thoroughly outlined. The Mayor’s plan has given us a roadmap for growth—laying out citywide needs for infrastructure, carbon emissions reduction, housing, open space, transportation, etc. CB 9’s plan is the first 197-a plan to go through the review process since the announcement of PlaNYC and represents the best way of implementing citywide goals at the neighborhood level. For example, CD 9’s transportation plan focuses on allowing people to move about the district while walking or biking with greater ease. The plan focuses on finding creative ways to house new residents through preservation of existing housing stock, adapting uses, using vacant land, and creating a housing trust fund. The plan also makes room for expansion of community facilities in a way that doesn’t displace or replace existing residents or jobs.


The best way to ensure that that growth proceeds in an orderly fashion that responds to communities’ needs is for the city to take the reins, partner with neighborhoods, and embrace community-driven plans for where that growth should take place, and how. The city, and not private developers, must plan for growth. Private development, including the extremely important and valuable contributions that Columbia University makes to this city and can bring to this neighborhood, needs to be interwoven with existing neighborhood fabric—the city has planning processes in place to ensure that this can happen: approving the 197-a plan; requiring Columbia to build on land that it own; using the ULURP process to dispose of publicly-owned land under city streets, and using state and local tools for designation of historic resources.


The members of Community Board 9 and the residents and workers of West Harlem have taken the City Charter at face value, spent years at the table planning for the future of their neighborhood, and created a plan for sustainable growth. Whent the Committee votes next week, please send a message to New York’s many communities that the 197-a process is alive and well, and that New Yorkers can count on their voices being heard in a democratic processes that embraces communities’ plans as blueprints for growth. The Task Force urges the Council to adopt the 197-a plan in its entirety and uphold its commitment to the community planning process.