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Last month, we covered the marathon City Planning Commission public hearing concerning the East Village/Lower East Side Rezoning, Hunters Point South housing development plan, and Willets Point redevelopment. Last week, CPC followed up on two of those plans, approving both the Hunters Point South and Willets Point Plans.

According to the Gotham Gazette, The Commission’s modifications to the Willets Point plan, “focus primarily on incorporating green building standards within the mixed-use development. Incentives were given for car sharing programs (car sharing equals greater number of parking spaces in a development) and encouraging the incorporation of green roofs. Other changes address a green median for the primary retail street to act as a stormwater management element, solar orientation of buildings and including a varied design for the development’s taller buildings.”

The Willets Point plan still faces much opposition from the City Council, which now has 50 days to make its determination.

The CPC has until October 10 to make its determination about the East Village/Lower East Side rezoning.

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In yesterday’s Gotham Gazette, writer Courtney Gross examines in detail the ongoing conflict between the Bloomberg administration’s rampant rezoning of the city and community advocates’ call for more public participation in the planning process. From the Jamaica Plan to Williamsburg to Willets Point, she points out the flaws in the process that allow plans to proceed despite community opposition. She also tackles the issue of the lack of teeth given to 197-a planning under the current system.

Eve Baron of the Municipal Art Society Planning Center and our Task Force says, “When we’re talking about public participation, sitting down and being willing to talk before rezoning happens is one thing,” said Baron. “There is another thing that is working with the community beforehand to create proactive plans.”

Check it out, as its a great primer explaining the need for the Task Force’s draft legislation, mentioned in the article and coming soon to this blog.

In yet more news relating to tomorrow’s mega-hearing at the City Planning Commission, Crain’s is reporting that a group of 30 City Council members (that’s a majority) led by Council Member Hiram Monseratte, who represents the district that includes Willets Point, have drafted a letter to CPC saying they are in “absolute opposition” to the plan.

“Unfortunately, this is a product of a flawed process that has continuously ignored the requests of the community in pursuit of a top-down planning process that sets a dangerous precedent for large-scale development projects citywide,” they wrote.

According to the article, “the council members say they will not support the plan unless eminent domain is taken off the table in negotiations with landowners; half of the 5,500 housing units are guaranteed to be affordable; a comprehensive relocation and compensation plan for small business owners and employees is put in place; and a community benefits agreement that includes traffic mitigation is implemented.”

This leaves the City’s Economic Development Corporation, the agency that created the plan, basically no choice other than to negotiate with the Council, which will vote on the plan in November.

Another bit of information in preparation for tomorrow’s mega-hearing at the City Planning Commission: Asian-Americans for Equality, an advocacy organization located near the Chinatown/Lower East Side border, has come out in favor of DCP’s proposed rezoning of the East Village and Lower East Side. Their position statement calls the rezoning, “a positive step in stemming the rampant gentrification and out-of-context, luxury development in our mixed-income neighborhood,” and includes a petition calling for a similar process for Chinatown.

In response to groups, such as the Coalition to Protect Chinatown, that claim the rezoning is racist, AAFE has some harsh words. This PDF, titled “East Village/LES Rezoning: Responding to Myths” counters: “The accusations of racism not only oversimplifies and throws a smoke screen over the real issues of neighborhood preservation, it polarizes against each other the shared vested interests of two allied neighborhoods with long historical ties. The loosely-substantiated claims of racism amount to dangerous race-baiting, and is an impediment to the common goal of affordable housing preservation for our low-income residents in Lower Manhattan.”

Tomorrow’s hearing is sure to be an emotionally-charged event. The East Village/LES rezoning is the first item on the agenda, and doors open at NYU’s Tishman Auditorium at 8:30am for speaker sign-up.

According to an agreement signed in 2005, the Department of Sanitation was required to move its salt storage and truck parking facility off the Gansevoort Peninsula by May 1 of this year, so that the site may be incorporated into Hudson River Park. That has yet to happen, but DOS has drafted plans for two new facilities. Under the DOS plan, the current District 1 Garage at 297 West Street would be replaced with a salt shed to hold 4,000 tons of salt, and a new garage for districts 1, 2, and 5 would be constructed at West and Spring Streets. These plans have faced longstanding community opposition.

Earlier this month, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer recommended disapproval of the salt shed site, saying that the City should find an alternate place for the salt shed and instead work with the community to turn the current site into publicly accessible open space. He also recommended conditional disapproval of the new garage facility, saying that while a new garage for districts 1 and 2 made sense, the Department should find an alternate site for trucks that serve District 5 in midtown.

The City Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on DOS’s plans at 10am on Wednesday, August 27 at 22 Reade St. The link to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement on DOS’s website seems to be broken, but a summary is available online here. (PDF)

Last week, the City Planning Commission certified a text amendment to the recently-approved and hotly contested rezoning of 125th Street in Harlem. According to DCP, the proposed change, “responds to concerns expressed by the community and elected officials throughout the 125th Street Rezoning public review process.”

The amendment focuses on FAR and hight regulations, lowering the maximum allowable FAR from 12 to 8.65 and the maximum allowable building height from 290 ft. to 195 ft. Check out all the details here. The proposal has been sent to Community Board 10 for review.

On Wednesday, July 23, the City Planning Commission will take public testimony on four of its proposed rezonings at it stated meeting, which begins at 10am at 22 Reade Street. The four projects are:

1) St. George Special District, Staten Island – This rezoning of Staten Island’s transit hub covers four main areas: new retail regulations to encourage pedestrian-friendly shopping streets; allowing easy conversion of vacant office space to residential; regulating building height/bulk to maintain waterfront views; and regulating parking to encourage an active streetscape.

2) Laurelton Rezoning, Queens – This plan seeks to downzone much of this residential neighborhood in southeast Queens, while providing for some modest housing development along Merrick and Springfield boulevards.

3) Waldheim Rezoning, Queens – This plan is primarily a downzoning for a residential area near Downtown Flushing.

4) Dutch Kills Rezoning, Queens – This plan is an extension of the existing Special Long Island City Mixed-Use District, and seeks to encourage a mixed-use environment and the creation of affordable housing.

In 2004, the City approved an extensive rezoning of Downtown Brooklyn. The Pratt Center for Community Development has now released a study titled, “Downtown Brooklyn’s Detour: The Unanticipated Impacts of Rezoning and Development on Residents and Businesses,” (PDF) which it prepared for the advocacy group Families United for Racial and Economy Equality (FUREE).

Pratt Center Director Brad Lander told the Village Voice, “What we mostly found is what members of FUREE already know: The unanticipated impacts of development have not been good for low- and moderate-income people.” As the Voice reports, the study finds that, “100 businesses have already been displaced, as many as projected by the city for the entire rezoning area. And because the new development has been residential and not commercial, there hasn’t even been a corresponding growth in jobs for local residents.”

FUREE staged a protest in Downtown Brooklyn today to correspond with the study’s release. The goal of the protest was to call out developer (and Mayoral candidate) John Castimatidis for failing to deliver on a promised, much-needed supermarket on his Downtown Brooklyn condo development site.

Blogger Flatbush Gardener attended the Department of City Planning’s preliminary public hearing on Thursday regarding the rezoning of the northern section of Brooklyn Community District 14, which includes part of Flatbush, Prospect Park South, Ditmas Park, Fiske Terrace, South Midwood, etc. The goal of the plans is four-fold:

1) Preserve the existing free-standing (detached) single- and two-family houses.

2) Match new zoning to existing buildings as closely as possible without “under zoning.”

3) Encourage creation of affordable housing through incentives.

4) Create opportunities for commercial growth.

Flatbush Gardener has a thorough overview of the hearing, and goes into detail with case studies explaining how the rezoning will affect certain areas. A main concern in the neighborhood seems to be that the rezoning could threaten the area’s historic Victorian homes. The proposal has not been certified yet, so ULURP has yet to begin.

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Meanwhile, DCP has certified, and begun the ULURP process, for a contextual rezoning of Waldheim, Queens, located southeast of downtown Flushing. According to DCP, the rezoning would,

“-preserve the predominantly lower-density character of the Waldheim neighborhood;

-ensure that future development be consistent with existing development patterns;

-reformulate commercial zoning to be more reflective of existing development patterns;

-and provide limited opportunities for new housing development in areas most able to support it.”

Queens Community Board 7 has until August 11 to hold a public hearing and issue a recommendation.

What do YOU think? Considering that PlaNYC 2030 posits that New York City will have a million more people by 2030, are downzonings like these good for the City’s future? How can the Administration balance the need for growth with the preservation of neighborhood character?

Tonight, Manhattan Community Board 3 holds a public hearing on the proposed East Village/Lower East Side Rezoning, which was certified by the Department of City Planning on May 5, beginning the official public review process.

Time: 6:30 (Those interested in speaking should arrive by 6 to sign up)

Where: Public School 20 @ 166 Essex Street (Btwn. Houston and Stanton Streets)

After the jump is much more information from Manhattan Community Board 3 about the creation of this plan and its current status.

Read the rest of this entry »

Since 2000, The Community-Based Planning Task Force has been leading the effort to create a more meaningful role for communities in New York City’s planning and decision-making processes.

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