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On Friday, the State Senate Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions (chaired by Sen. Bill Perkins) held a hearing on the Atlantic Yards project.  The scene was hectic, with both pro- and anti-development factions representing in large numbers.  Norman Oder has a thorough recap at Atlantic Yards Report.

The Community-Based Planning Task Force prepared testimony, to be delivered by Executive Committee member Molly Rouzie of the Red Hook Civic Association.  While she was not able to deliver oral testimony because of the chaotic nature of the hearing, the following testimony was submitted in writing to the State Senators present:

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Do you have thoughts you would like to share about the proposed Atlantic Yards development?  If you’re like us, you definitely do!  Now you finally have a chance to weigh in on this proposed $4 billion Brooklyn mega-project.

The Community-Based Planning Task Force will join City and State agencies, environmentalists, planners, and other community members and advocates to give testimony at a public hearing on Atlantic Yards on Friday, held by State Senators Bill Perkins and Velmanette Montgomery.  Oral testimony on Friday is invite-only, but the public may submit testimony via email.

According to an email announcement about the hearing, it’s purpose is the following: “This hearing will trace the history of the Atlantic Yards project to determine its current status. The Committee’s intent is to examine the process by which decisions are made, to understand where the project is now, and to envision where this project might lead. Issues involved include but are not limited to whether this is the best possible deal for taxpayers and the local community; whether the use of eminent domain is necessary and is it being exercised responsibly; the meaning and use of the concept of ‘blight’ in condemnations; what is a ‘public benefit’ sufficient to justify massive state action; and what are the financials?”

The Task Force’s testimony, which we will post online soon, will focus on three main points:

1) The ongoing debate over Atlantic Yards shows the need for a comprehensive plan to precede major land use actions;

2) the public should have a strong voice in the use of eminent domain; and

3) community-initiated alternative plans should be given more weight in the decision-making process.

Although they cannot testify, members of the public may attend the hearing:

Friday, May 29
1PM – 5 PM
Pratt Institute, Higgins Hall
61 St. James Place (corner Lafayette Ave.)
Brooklyn, NY 11238

For some great background on the issues, check out Atlantic Yards Report’s extensive overview of questions that should arise at the hearing.

This morning, State Senators Bill Perkins and Efraim Gonzales held a public hearing on eminent domain at the Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. State Office Building on 125th Street.

Perkins issued a statement reading, “In many instances, eminent domain is an instrument used by government, not in the context of their independently created economic development plans, but at the behest of private developers who wish for the state and city to use its powers of eminent domain to aggregate parcels of land for commercial benefit. This methodology has strained the relationship between government and communities affected by these development plans, that have at best, a vague purpose and at worst create the impression of a corporatocracy instead of true democratic governance. It will be critical to examine the original procedural structure in place to justify and exercise eminent domain.” The hearing’s intention was to gather ideas for potential legislation that would govern eminent domain at the state level.

Many familiar faces from eminent domain battles in NYC were present this morning, including: Nick Sprayregen, a property owner in Columbia University’s expansion footprint (who blogs here); Daniel Goldstein, a property owner in the Atlantic Yards footprint and member of Develop, Don’t Destroy Brooklyn; and Dan Feinstein of the Willets Point Industry and Realty Association, among many others. Julie Lawrence, a member of Brooklyn Community Board 1, delivered testimony on behalf of the Community-Based Planning Task Force, which you can read after the jump.

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Yesterday, the Municipal Art Society Planning Center (which staffs the Campaign for Community-Based Planning), submitted testimony at a City Council Executive Budget Hearing on the issue of the City’s proposed community board budget cuts. As we noted this week, community boards have not received a budget increase since 1986, and now face a new proposal by the administration to reduce each board’s budget by $16,000. This cut to the boards’ already meager budgets would greatly impede their ability to perform their City Charter-mandated responsibilities, including planning and other service delivery duties.

The full testimony is after the jump; We encourage you to use this information and contact your Council Member in support of community boards and against the budget cuts.

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Have you seen the website? It’s a simple (but brilliant) concept that enables the public to submit video questions for the 2008 presidential candidates and then (bottom up!) allows the public to decide which of the thousands of submitted questions were the most salient 10 questions.10

Using what’s called a mashup (combining info from different sites onto one screen), we should be able to do a much better one for next year’s city elections. [Not only 10 questions, but finance reports, press reports, candidate statements… all on one page per race.]

Someone needs to take the lead on this. Tech President, the New York Times, and MSNBC sponsored the 2008 10Questions. Who is going to spearhead and sponsor the 2009 (See this poster’s plug for why next time around it will be

In past elections the Campaign for Community-Based Planning fought to get our questions inserted into someone else’s one-night public forum seen by perhaps a few hundred. The times have changed and next year’s election is going to be held on the web. Especially the local primaries.

In my council district, 6 good people are already sniffing at the soon-to-be-term-limited-seat of Helen Sears. How can we determine and highlight the issues of importance in each district? How can we tell one candidate from another? It’s got to be (See this poster’s project plug for why next time around it will be

Let’s begin the effort by inviting Andrew Rasiej of Tech President (and former Public Advocate candidate) to explain its workings and determine their desire / intentions to reformat for NYC 2009. If they are not doing this, we should find a good civic organization to approach the Sunlight Foundation for a grant – see their Insane Useful Websites for examples of other things we need to build locally. (Creative Commons photo courtesy of David Gallagher.)

What do you think?

Plans have been in the works for some time for a very large office tower at 125th Street and Park Avenue in Harlem, known as “Harlem Park.” More recently, news broke that Major League Baseball has plans to become an anchor tenant.

According to Good Jobs NY, under the proposal, CV Harlem LLC (care of Vornado Realty), would receive almost $9 million in tax breaks for the project, and the New York City Industrial Development Agency proposes to provide Major League Baseball with $2.4 million in Sales tax exemptions for the development.

GJNY delivered testimony at an IDA public hearing on the project today, calling into question the strategy of providing subsidies to a project that seeks a dramatic zoning change ahead of a proposed rezoning. (As our readers know, 125th Street is about to get a major zoning makeover). More from their testimony on this issue, and the lack of community process, after the jump.

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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.

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An update in the ongoing discussion about the AIA’s proposed zoning text amendments: Historic Districts Council, which previously held a meeting to explain these very technical changes to the public, has released its

official statement of opposition to the amendments.

An excerpt: “In addition to objections to individual parts of this proposal, HDC objects to the way in which these amendments have been proposed, which sought to circumvent the public review process which allows communities to have a voice in guiding development in their own neighborhoods.”

Their suggestion for the next step is as follows: “In the best possible scenario, this proposal would be withdrawn and the City Planning Commission would embark on a study of these amendments, which, if deemed desirable, could be introduced individually by the agency to all its community partners. Anything less would a betrayal of New Yorkers’ faith in our planning commission and an enormous and unnecessary concession to those who wish to spur development at any cost to the welfare and continued health of our city.”

Currently, a City Planning Commission public hearing on the amendments is scheduled for February 27.

Apologies for the late notice…you may have noticed we had some technical difficulties yesterday. Tonight is chock full of events however: the informational session about the AIA’s proposed zoning changes, and this event in Harlem, which comes to us from the Harlem Tenants Council:

What’s happening on 125th Street?

The proposed rezoning of 125th St. will drastically and permanently alter the character of Harlem’s main commercial street. It will also drive out more Black residents. The community has to be prepared to voice its opposition at the upcoming public hearing of the City Planning Commission that will take place on Jan 30th. Come to the “What’s Up on 125th St.” Community Forum to learn about the rezoning proposal that might well be the nail in the coffin that seals Central Harlem’s fate unless the community fights back! KNOWLEDGE IS POWER!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

6 to 9 PM
St. Ambrose Church
9 West 130th Street
(Between Fifth Avenue & Malcolm X Blvd)
Guest panelists will include opponents of Columbia University
expansion in West Harlem.

HTC also provides some background on the rezoning, after the jump:

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For anyone who missed yesterday’s City Council Hearing about the Manhattan CB9 197-a Plan and the Columbia Expansion, our testimony follows after the jump.  Did you attend?  What were your thoughts? 


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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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