The City’s proposed rezoning of Coney Island has caused ongoing controversy on many fronts since its proposal. Because this is the first major City project to start the process from the beginning since we started this blog late last year, and because Coney Island is beloved by so many people from all over the City, we thought it would make for an informative case study to follow, to help the non-planners in the audience navigate the public input process.

First off, we have to hand it to the Coney Island Development Corporation, a group formed 2003 by the Mayor, the City Council and the Brooklyn Borough President, for holding a series of public information sessions in January to inform the community about the City’s plans. If you missed these meetings, the PowerPoint presentation is available in PDF form here.

Now, the next step in the public process is the Public Scoping Meeting, taking place on Wednesday evening. Read more after the jump.

The Public Scoping meeting is the first official opportunity for public input during the City Environmental Quality Review procedure (CEQR). CEQR requires the “lead agency” for all City-proposed, funded, or approved projects determined to potentially have a “significant impact” on the environment to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). In this case, the “lead agency” is the Office of The Deputy Mayor for Economic Development. The EIS measures impacts in 20 different areas:

  • Land Use, Zoning, and Public Policy
  • Socioeconomic Conditions
  • Community Facilities and Services
  • Open Space
  • Shadows
  • Historic Resources
  • Urban Design/Visual Resources
  • Neighborhood Character
  • Natural Resources
  • Hazardous Materials
  • Waterfront Revitalization Program
  • Infrastructure
  • Solid Waste and Sanitation Services
  • Energy
  • Traffic and Parking
  • Transit and Pedestrians
  • Air Quality
  • Noise
  • Construction Impacts
  • Public Health

Before the EIS is prepared, the lead agency must produce a Draft Scope of Work, which describes the project in detail, and explains how each of the above elements will be addressed in the EIS. The Draft Scope for Coney Island is available for PDF download here. As part of the ongoing public input process under CEQR, the public is invited to comment on the Draft Scope before preparation of the EIS begins. While the document may seem long and filled with jargon, it is important for those wishing to comment to read it, since comments given at the meeting, or in writing, should address it specifically. The Municipal Art Society has a good PDF example of this online – it’s comments on the Draft Scope of Work for the Domino Sugar site rezoning. While of course their comments are more technical in nature than the typical layperson’s would be, this serves as a good example of how such comments should be structured, as well as the type of information that is often included.

The public Scoping Meeting will be held on Wednesday, February 13, 2008 at 6:00 PM at Abraham Lincoln High School, 2800 Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn, NY. The public may also respond in writing, to:

New York City Economic Development Corporation
110 William Street
New York, New York 10038
Attention: Rachel Belsky, Vice-President
rbelsky@nycedc.com

The deadline for receipt of written comments is 3:00 pm, Friday, February 29. Questions or concerns about the document can be addressed to the Coney Island Development Corporation at 212-312-4233 or info@thecidc.org.

Once the Draft EIS is completed, generally the lead agency must conduct a public hearing on the DEIS within 15 to 60 days of its completion. However, the process can be somewhat different for actions subject to ULURP (the City’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure). Most major projects, including all rezonings, are subject to ULURP, which requires comments from the Community Board and Borough President, and approvals from the Department of City Planning and the City Council. The Community Board, Department of City Planning, and City Council are required to hold their own public hearings on the proposal. In many cases, the City Planning Commission’s public hearing may also serve as the public hearing on the DEIS. We will follow the Coney Island proposal in more detail as it proceeds through this process, explaining more about each step along the way. Stay tuned!

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