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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On the Municipal Art Society website, Sideya Sherman of MAS talks with former Yolanda Garcia Community Planner Award recipient Elizabeth Yeampierre (shown at left receiving the award in 2007) about her organization UPROSE, how and why she became involved in community activism and environmental justice, and why global climate change is a major issue in this field.

To highlight community-based planning in New York ahead of this year’s YCGP award, this podcast is the second in a series of three interviews with previous award recipients. If you would like to nominate someone for this year’s award, visit www.mas.org/awards by June 6!

This monthly feature profiles a plan included in Planning for All New Yorkers: An Atlas of Community- Based Plans in New York City, an interactive, online tool created by the Municipal Art Society and the Community-Based Planning Task Force.

May is Labor History Month, and given the current economic climate and the national push toward a sustainability agenda, the talk of the town is creating jobs in the sustainability industry.  A New York Times article last year described the national attraction to these “green jobs”: “Labor unions view these new jobs as replacements for positions lost to overseas manufacturing and outsourcing. Urban groups view training in green jobs as a route out of poverty. And environmentalists say they are crucial to combating climate change.”

Last year, Bronx environmental organizations Sustainable South Bronx (SSBX) and Green Worker Cooperatives released a plan for an Eco-Industrial Park at Oak Point. This plan explores the feasibility of developing a $36 million dollar eco-industrial park on an approximately 28-acre, waterfront brownfield site in Hunts Point, in the South Bronx. The site is located in the western corner of the Oak Point rail yard next to Bruckner Boulevard, across the river from Rikers Island.
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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.

Hope everyone had a restful holiday! Here are some stories we’ve been following recently:

  • Mayor Bloomberg said that the City will not provide any more public subsidies for Atlantic Yards (above the $230 million already pledged). (Brooklyn Paper)
  • Mayor Mike also allegedly removed Brooklyn Community Board 1 District Manager Gerry Esposito from an event for planning a protest of community board budget cuts. (Greenpoint Gazette)
  • “This is a good time for the city to rethink its approach to both community planning and citywide planning, starting with the real needs and priorities of its residents and workers instead of the amount of floor area that can be built.” (Tom Angotti explores “Zoning Without Planning” in Gotham Gazette)

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).

Tomorrow afternoon the New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division will consider the use of eminent domain against one of the last remaining business owners in West Harlem, Nick Sprayregen.  Sprayregen’s property lies in the footprint of Columbia University’s campus expansion project area. Those interested are encouraged to observe:

TOMORROW, May 21; arrive at 1:45pm
27 Madison Avenue (Cross St. 25th)
New York, New York 10010
(212) 340-0400
Presiding Justice: Luis A. Gonzalez

Apologies for the late notice on this one, but this meeting was just brought to our attention this morning — Tonight the Department of City Planning will present its preliminary plans for the West Harlem Special District.

Proposed by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer in 2007, the special district is based in part on Manhattan Community Board 9’s 197-a plan (which was our Community-Based Plan of the Month in April).

According to Stringer, the Special District will include:

  • Contextual Zoning, with density and height limits, to preserve the physical character of the neighborhoods and quell displacement pressures.
  • Community Facility reforms, which would stop grossly out-of-scale developments and discourage dorms and university uses in residential areas.
  • Inclusionary Housing in certain areas, to channel new development toward the creation of housing that is affordable to West Harlem residents.
  • Density bonuses for “business incubators,” to provide incentives for developers to provide affordably priced retail or commercial space to local businesses.
  • Anti-Harassment Provisions and Demolition Restrictions, which would penalize property owners who harass their tenants, and discourage the demolition of occupied sound housing.
  • Special Off-street Parking Regulations, to ensure that parking in the area serves the needs of residents and encourages transit-based development instead of causing traffic congestion and pollution.

Tonight’s meeting is hosted by Manhattan CB9 and will take place at 6:30 pm at Broadway Housing, 583 Riverside Dr.@ 135th Street.

If you are interested in community advocacy on this issue, contact the West Harlem Community Preservation Organization (CPO) at hh-westharlemcpo@msn.com.

Beginning next week, New York City Transit and the Department of Transportation are holding a series of workshops across the city to get feedback on where new bus rapid transit (BRT) routes should be established and how they should operate.

BRT provides dedicated lanes for buses, and creates an integrated system designed to reduce travel time, improve reliability, and increase the level of comfort for bus customers. In June 2008, NYCT and DOT launched the City’s first BRT Phase I route, the Bx12 Select Bus Service (SBS) on Fordham Road in the Bronx.  Now they are looking to add 8-10 new corridors throughout the city. Read more here.

The meeting schedule is as follows:

Workshop Date Location
Bronx Thursday, May 28 College of New Rochelle
332 East 149th Street (bet. Morris and Courtlandt Avenues)
Queens Tuesday, June 2 P.S. 69, Jackson Heights
77-02 37th Avenue (bet. 77th St. and 78th Street)
Queens Wednesday, June 3 Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning (JCAL)
161-04 Jamaica Avenue (at 161st Street)
Brooklyn Tuesday, June 9 Polytechnic University
6 Metrotech Center (entrance on Jay Street bet. Myrtle Avenue and Johnson Street)
Brooklyn Wednesday, June 10 Brooklyn College
2900 Bedford Avenue (at Campus Road)
Staten Island Tuesday, June 16 New Dorp High School
465 New Dorp Lane (bet. Hylan Boulevard and Mill Road)
Manhattan Thursday, June 18 Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) (Bldg A – entrance on West 27th Street between Seventh and Eight Avenues)
7th Avenue and West 27th Street

Over on the Municipal Art Society’s website, I sit down with last year’s Yolanda Garcia Community Planner Award winner Jeanne DuPont, Executive Director of the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance. Stream the interview on the site, or download it for your mp3 player.

The YGCP Award honors the unsung heroes of grassroots, community-based planning.  Nominations for the 2009 are open until the end of this month.  Read more and nominate someone online here.

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.

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