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Beginning March 9, the Department of Buildings will begin posting diagrams of new buildings or major building enlargements on its website for public review.  The public will have 30 days to comment on these drawings, which will depict the size and scale of new building projects.

“The reforms we are detailing today will inject a much-needed dose of transparency and accountability into a critical area of construction and development – zoning compliance,” said Mayor Bloomberg in a statement. “The reforms center on the public’s right to challenge any approved development if they think it violates local zoning regulations.”

The full challenge process will be as follows:

New Formal Public Challenge Process

  • Initial Public Challenge Period: When DOB approves plans for any new building or major enlargement, the building diagrams, called ZD1 forms, and other associated documents will be uploaded to the DOB website. In addition, once a permit is issued builders will be required to post the permit at the location within three days so the public is aware of the proposed development. New Yorkers will have 30 calendar days to review and challenge the development approval.
  • Initial Zoning Challenge Review: After the initial public challenge period ends, the DOB Borough Commissioner will address every challenge by conducting a full review of the construction plans and rendering decisions that will be posted online. If a challenge is determined to be valid, appropriate enforcement action will be taken, including issuing Stop Work Orders, revoking of permits, and requiring redesigns of the proposed construction.
  • Community Appeals Period: If the Borough Commissioner determines that a challenge is invalid, the public will be given an additional 15 calendar days to appeal to the First Deputy Commissioner.
  • Final Zoning Challenge Review: Once the First Deputy Commissioner issues a determination, the decision may be appealed to the Board of Standards and Appeals for a final determination.

What do you think?  Will this be an effective tool for communities to monitor development projects?

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Mark Gorton of the Open Planning Project is working on ways to connect community planning initiatives and open-source techology.  (Check out this Wired article for more info).  Toward this end, the Open Planning Project hopes to create an online toolset that makes community organizing and grassroots activism easier and more effective.  So, the site is asking for your input about what tech tools you currently use and what tools you would find most helpful.  Help them out by filling out their quick online survey.

Have you recently been involved in a community-based planning initiative in your neighborhood?  If so, we want to hear about it.

Last year, the Municipal Art Society Planning Center and the Community-Based Planning Task Force launched Planning for All New Yorkers: an Atlas of Community-Based Plans in New York City. The Atlas is an interactive, online, map-based tool that allows users to search plans by type and download summaries in PDF form.  It is the only resource in NYC that brings together community planning initiatives of all types, including 197-a comprehensive plans, waterfront access plans, economic development plans, transportation plans, and more.

The 87 plans currently in the Atlas represent countless hours of work by grassroots organizations, community boards, and New Yorkers from all five boroughs since 1989.  As community planning in NYC continues, the Atlas is always growing.  If you know about a planning process that has taken place in your neighborhood and you don’t see it included in the Atlas, please let us know!

In the Inbox today:

In partnership with the Newtown Creek Alliance, HabitatMap invites you to participate in a community mapping workshop at LaGuardia Community College on the evening of Monday, October 20th. Space but you can RSVP here to reserve your spot.

At the Newtown Creek Neighborhoods Community Mapping Workshop participants will:
— discover how web-based tools can magnify the impact of community organizing campaigns;
— hear from experienced organizers who have been active in the Newtown Creek Neighborhoods for decades; and
— learn how to navigate and mine city, state, and federal databases for information relevant to their own personal health and the health of their families and communities.

Participants should come prepared to begin mapping their neighborhoods so bring any relevant documents and photos but most importantly, bring your ideas. Contact Michael Heimbinder at mheimbinder(at)habitatmap(dot)org.

The Newtown Creek Neighborhoods Community Mapping Workshop will be held at LaGuardia Community College, building E, room 228 on the evening of Monday, October 20th from 6:30-8:30pm. The entrance to building E is located at 31-10 Thomson Ave. between 31st St. and Van Dam St. For a map and directions click here.

Gotham Gazette has launched a new “Tech” feature, and this month, they explore access to City Data. The conclusion? It’s messy out there on the City-run internet:

“The city puts out a lot of information that residents can use to monitor the performance of local government – so much information that, unless you know exactly what you’re looking for, you will quickly drown in it,” they wrote. The authors go on to address many issues: map data is generally presented in too many different formats to allow easy comparisons; the most common data distribution format, the PDF, cannot be edited and is a nightmare for those collecting data for entry/analysis; and the City isn’t keeping up with its data distribution in a timely manner.

While third-party sites such as Everyblock.com are addressing some of these issues by distributing data in more user-friendly formats, even one of that site’s employees says it’s “absurd” that city agencies leave this up to third parties: “It’s unethical for cities to say that some external service is going to be essential to displaying city service requests,” he said.

The authors suggest some changes, including, “The Bloomberg administration could go further by adopting the best practices from other cities and using open standards across all agencies. That would help residents conduct their own analysis or convert it into the format that works best for them.” Council Member Gale Brewer also recommends a “carrot” to encourage agencies to comply with the local law that requires online information distribution.

We first told you about Habitatmap back in April, and now they’re back with the official launch of their online mapping and community networking site.

From their materials:”Habitatmap makes it easy to share neighborhood information, organize events and actions, and recruit supporters to your cause. Once you’ve established a profile page you’ll be able to: create and share thematic maps, use the forums to plan an event or discuss neighborhood issues, attract and retain supporters by recruiting them to your ‘action alert network’, and much much more.”

They have created an example of how this can work along with the Newtown Creek Alliance:

“Utilizing Habitatmap’s community mapping platform, the Newtown Creek Alliance – an organization dedicated to restoring community health, water quality, habitat, access, and vibrant water-dependent commerce along Newtown Creek – assembled several thematic maps in support of their work.”

If you are an existing organization or community group and would like to collaborate with Habitatmap to map your neighborhood and organize your community, please contact them at info(at)habitatmap(dot)org.

UPDATE: Links now working!

Please take a moment to visit Task Force Members Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice’s new blog, In Our Backyard. YMPJ is a faith-based activist organization in the South Bronx, whose Executive Director, Alexie Torres-Fleming, was awarded the Jane Jacobs Medal for New Ideas and Activism this week.  The blog will cover the work of the organization’s Center for Community Development and Planning (CDAP), including history, updates and an opportunity to give input on projects that they work on in the Bronx River/ Soundview/Bruckner (CD 9) area.  Add it to your blogroll!

The West Side Neighborhood Alliance is a group organized by the Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen-based affordable housing advocates Housing Conservation Coordinators. In conjunction with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, they are hosting a zoning training for West Side residents on Thursday, May 15. According to their email, “We’ll go over some zoning basics, with a focus on how community members can make their voices heard during the land use review process.”

Zoning Action training!
Thursday, May 15th
6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Hartley House, 413 W. 46th Street (btw. 9th and 10th Aves.)

RSVP to Lucas at HCC: LShapiro@hcc-nyc.org or 212-716-1664.

Today is the deadline to register for Saturday’s Livable Neighborhood’s Program, a project of the Municipal Art Society‘s Planning Center. The program’s goal is to provide communities with the knowledge, tools, and training needed to transform local vision into effective plans. The program provides participants with in person training, a take home comprehensive community planning toolkit and access to a web-based network for ongoing to discussion.

After the jump, a list of workshops and more info about how to register.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Municipal Art Society Planning Center, with assistance from the Community-Based Planning Task Force, has developed an interactive, online tool that compiles community-based plans in New York City. Planning for All New Yorkers: An Atlas of Community-Based Plans in New York City contains 87 individual plans, created since 1989, the year that the City responded to pressure from communities to simplify and strengthen provisions in the City Charter for 197-a planning (197-a plans are officially-recognized, community-initiated local plans).

The plans in the Atlas represent countless hours of work by community-based organizations, community boards, and New Yorkers from all five boroughs. The interactive map depicts the borders of each plan, and allows users to search plans by type. Users can then download a PDF summary of each plan.

The Atlas has several uses. It is the only publicly-accessible compilation of community-based plans in New York City. It was originally created to provide local candidates running for office with an overview of the creative planning work already being done by local communities, and has now become an educational tool for the public as well.

It is a resource for communities that wish to create a plan, but do not know where to start. By highlighting other communities that have already undertaken similar planning activities, the Atlas can point to groups and individuals with whom they can consult and collaborate. It can also be used to develop background on community-based planning and to elicit ideas from other community-based plans. The Atlas is also a resource for city agencies, developers, or anyone wishing to initiate a land use action that accords with a community vision.

The Atlas is a living tool—it will be updated and upgraded regularly, so if you know of a plan that you feel should be included, let us know.

To use the Atlas, simply click on the image above.

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.

This blog intends to connect our Task Force and the public with opportunities to participate in shaping the city's future, and to inform about issues related to planning, decision-making, equity, social justice, and public participation.

Visit our About page for more information.

Upcoming Meetings and Events

We are currently taking a break from updating this calendar. For more information on upcoming opportunities for civic participation, please visit the links in our Blogroll.

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