Today is the final public hearing in the ULURP process for Manhattan Community Board 6’s 197-a Plan, which is being considered side-by-side with developer Sheldon Solow of East River Realty Company’s plans for the development of the former ConEdison properties on the waterfront.  Our testimony follows after the jump — please join us today if you can at 3pm at the Council Chambers to support community-based planning.

The Community-Based Planning Task Force is broad and diverse coalition of community boards, grassroots community organizations, citywide civic groups, environmental justice advocates, planners, academics, architects, and elected officials–who are working to secure a more meaningful role for New Yorkers in the city’s land use process, and to establish community-based planning as official New York City policy.

The Task Force urges the Administration to support consensus-driven comprehensive planning, which sets forth goals and growth targets, and can be used as a blueprint for the development of consensus-driven local plans. The city is growing and neighborhoods need development, but effective planning has to be a partnership between the city and local residents. Otherwise, development will continue to be plagued by costly delays, neighborhood growth will not be sustainable, and land use decisions will continue to be made in the court system, as opposed to within the public review process.

Manhattan Community Board 6 has developed a comprehensive land use plan for the district, and a site-specific plan for the First Avenue properties, both driven by neighborhood need and desire for development, and both created through a consensus-based process.

 The community board’s 197-a plan constitutes a comprehensive planning framework which accords with stated citywide goals; provides a framework for the development of specific sites; outlines an overall vision; and is an extension of the Comprehensive Manhattan Waterfront 197-a Plan. The board’s 197-c plan set out a detailed rezoning for the site in accordance with its 197-a framework. Action on CB 6’s 197-a and 197-c was held in the ULURP pipeline until the developer had a chance to catch up—this delay was antithetical to effective planning; this delay ignored CB 6’s 197-c action; and this delay sent a message that the city is overlooking an opportunity to implement expressed community needs and goals.

Community Board 6 obviously supports development in the district, and is willing to play its part in the future growth of the city—accepting the goals that the Mayor has laid out in PlaNYC 2030. CB 6’s commitment to consensus-driven planning must be matched by the city’s commitment. So far, the City Planning Commission has made many changes to both the 197-a, and to ERRC’s development plan, in an attempt to reconcile the two plans with each other.  While we are happy to see the community’s plan exerting influence over coming development, we are discouraged to see that many of DCP’s modifications favor the developer’s wishes over the community’s goals.  This undermines the community’s plan, undermines faith in the charter provisions for community planning, and discourages other community boards and organizations from doing their own planning in the future.  We need to go beyond adopting the 197-a plan and advance to the point of taking its recommendations seriously, and implementing them.

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