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As the above flyer indicates, Brooklyn Community Board 6 holds an informational meeting tonight with the Environmental Protection Agency.  They will discuss the EPA’s plans to designate the Gowanus Canal as a federal Superfund site.  The meeting will be at 6:30pm at the P.S. 32 Auditorium, 317 Hoyt St.

Also Gowanus-related, the Fifth Avenue Committee’s Accountable Development Working Group meets tomorrow, and will discuss the formation of a Gowanus Tenants’ Union.  This meeting will be from  6-8pm, at Fifth Avenue Committee, 621 DeGraw St. near Fourth Avenue (R train to Union).

According to the New York Observer, City Planning Commission Chair Amanda Burden announced last week that the Department of City Planning will soon release new zoning incentives for supermarkets.  Based on a citywide study that DCP conducted last year, the goal of these incentives will be to encourage supermarkets to locate in underserved neighborhoods.  The Observer reports:

“The proposal… encourages developers to build grocery stores by not counting the store as part of a larger building’s development rights (i.e. if a developer is allowed to build a 50,000-square-foot apartment building with retail, if they put in a 15,000 square foot supermarket, it wouldn’t be counted toward that 50,000 square feet), among other inducements.”

Burden said to expect certification this month.

As  the New York Times reported last week, the federal Environmental Protection Agency has proposed to add the Gowanus Canal to its list of Superfund sites.  If the canal, one of the most polluted bodies of water in New York, does get Superfund designation, the EPA will attempt to track down polluters and force them to pay for the cleanup.  If said polluters can’t be found (a likely scenario since many companies that polluted the canal with everything from pesticides, to coal tar, metals, oil, and even gonorrhea left the area long ago), the federal government will fund the cleanup.

According to an EPA representative who spoke to the Times, most proposed Superfund sites are eventually listed, depending on the results of the 60-day public comment period, which began for the canal on Thursday.  The potential listing has already sparked controversy in the neighborhood, with developer Toll Brothers stating that they would not move forward with their planned development in Gowanus if the canal is officially designated.

Tomorrow night, Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez and Congresswoman Yvette Clarke will host a Public Information Forum on the Gowanus Canal Superfund nomination:

When: 7pm, Tuesday April 14

Where: PS 32 Auditorium 317 Hoyt Street (between Union & President Streets)

You may also submit your comments online (note: this was incredibly difficult to find!) or via email. (Note Docket #EPA-HQ-SFUND-2009-0063).

Newtown Creek, a tributary of the East River, provides a natural border between Brooklyn and Queens.  Because of contamination from a major oil spill, as well as other metals, volatile organic compounds, and pathogens, Newtown Creek is sometimes called the most polluted body of water in North America.

On Friday morning, Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez and other elected officials, along with national organization the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, State organization Riverkeeper, and local group the Newtown Creek Alliance held a press conference to release a national report by CHEJ, Superfund: In the Eye of the Storm, and advocate for a Superfund designation for Newtown Creek. (Watch a video here).

In addition, the Urban Public Health Department of Hunter College/CUNY, HabitatMap, and the Newtown Creek Alliance are undertaking a major public health study that aims to document the concerns of individuals living along Newtown Creek. They are hosting an information session this Tuesday, March 31 at 7pm at the Metropolitan Houses, 609 Metropolitan Avenue (between Lorimer & Leonard), Brooklyn.

For more information, contact the Newtown Creek Community Health & Harm Narratives Project (CHHNP)
Email: newtowncreekstudy@gmail.com
Phone: (718) 577-1359

In November of last year, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer held a conference at Columbia Univeristy called “The Politics of Food: A Conference on New York’s Next Policy Challenge.”  This month, Stringer’s office followed up on that conference with a report, Food in the Public Interest (PDF).  In addition to addressing hunger, the availability of healthy food in schools, and the need for nutrition education, the report also has many implications for planning.

Among his recommendations dealing specifically with planning issues are:

  • Explore options to discourage the number of unhealthy fast food options in certain areas by eliminating their eligibility for certain funding, placing a cap on the number of outlets, and restricting the development by new fast food establishments.
  • Identify land in the five boroughs and in the foodshed (an area surrounding NYC where food is produced) that can be used for agriculture, including suitable public properties (e.g. right of ways, easements, parks), private land (e.g. rooftops, backyard gardens), and underused land. Create policies to streamline the process for agricultural land use that benefits the public.
  • Promote local agriculture in neighborhoods with limited access to fresh foods through new farmers markets, food cooperatives, CSA’s and local building clubs, as well as community gardens in parks, schools, NYCHA, and other city-owned land.
  • Designate “food enterprise zones” in areas that the Department of City Planning has identified as “food deserts” for their lack of healthy food retailers.
  • Explore new land use and zoning incentives for developers who include food markets in new developments, such as a floor area bonus or exemption for projects which contribute to healthy food outlets.
  • Explore revisions to City and State Environmental Quality Review (CEQR and SEQR, respectively) standards that would require studying the potential impact that development proposals and other discretionary actions may have on the food system.

Check out a full summary of the report here.

Also of note, tonight is Stringer’s State of the Borough Address.

Last night’s Obama win is truly a victory for community organizing. As he mentioned in his victory speech, his win can be traced, at least in part, to grassroots organizing tactics. Our congratulations go out to all the volunteers who worked tirelessly on his campaign.

Under an Obama administration, community-based planners and other city advocates have much to gain. His urban policy shows that our President-elect truly cares about creating and maintaining livable, sustainable cities. Here are a few highlights:

  • Obama has pledged to fully fund the community development block grant program. Recipients of CDBGs “must develop and follow a detailed plan that provides for and encourages citizen participation.” In New York City, CDBG funds are used to create affordable housing; provide public services such as day care and senior centers; fund improvements to local businesses; and support many other initiatives, from local arts projects to community gardens.
  • Obama is dedicated to improving infrastructure, but with sustainability in mind. His policy states: “Our communities will better serve all of their residents if we are able to leave our cars, to walk, bicycle and access other transportation alternatives. As president, Barack Obama will re-evaluate the transportation funding process to ensure that smart growth considerations are taken into account.”
  • Obama understands that planning and health are inextricably linked. The policy says: “How a community is designed – including the layout of its roads, buildings and parks – has a huge impact on the health of its residents.” In 2007, he introduced the Healthy Places Act, which would, among other mandates, create “an interagency working group to discuss environmental health concerns, particularly concerns disproportionately affecting disadvantaged populations,” and require the Director of the Centers for Disease control to create, “guidance for the assessment of potential health effects of land use, housing, and transportation policy and plans.”

What do you think Obama’s urban policy priorities should be in his first 100 days?

In the Inbox today, from our friends at the Center for Urban Pedagogy:

“In the Bronx, bodegas are a way of life. But who chooses what the bodegas sell? And where do all those chips come from?

This semester, students from New Settlement’s Bronx Helpers and CUP teaching artist Jonathan Bogarín have been investigating bodegas in the Bronx. The group interviewed bodegueros, visited their suppliers, and met with congressional representatives, health professionals, and alternative Bronx food establishments. They’ve made a documentary to pass along what they’ve learned.

Join us at The Point for the world premiere screening of Bodega Down Bronx. Bronx food distribution luminaries and delights fresh from the bodega shelves will be on hand.”

Bodega Down Bronx
Tuesday, June 3, 7 pm
The Point
940 Garrison Avenue, Bronx, NY
6 to Hunts Point Avenue
Free and open to the public. Seating is limited, please RSVP

Check out the trailer after the jump.

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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