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Tomorrow, the City Council will face its first major land use decisions since it extended its own term limits. Two controversial Queens plans proposed by the NYC Economic Development Corporation, Willets Point and Hunters Point South, are up for vote. Whether many council members’ change in political aspirations will affect their votes remains to be seen.

The City has been lobbying hard for its Willets Point plan, which faces opposition for a number of reasons, particularly the City’s proposed use of eminent domain to acquire property. Curbed has a good wrap-up of recent press coverage. The City has been busily negotiating with Council Member Hiram Monserrate, who represents the district and has long opposed the project, in the last few days. The most recent word is that Moserrate may support the project thanks to an “unprecedented” affordable housing offering from the City.

Affordable housing is also at issue in the Hunters Point South plan, which includes a 10-acre park, a school and towers containing 5,000 apartments. The project is billed as a “middle-income” development, in which 60 percent of units would be set aside for households with incomes between $55,000 and $158,000/year. Local organizations such as Queens for Affordable Housing and the Pratt Center for Community Development argue that, given that the median income in Queens is around $45,000, the plan does not address the housing needs of a majority of Queens residents. Read more in the NY Times.

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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.

Council Member Gale A. Brewer, the Urban Justice Center, and the West Side SRO Law Project are sponsoring a free housing clinic (and the last one this spring) from 6:00 – 8:00 PM on Wednesday, June 18 at Goddard Riverside Community Center, 647 Columbus Avenue, Manhattan at 92 Street. It will provide a presentation on personal use (or other housing questions), followed by a question and answer session. At least one staff attorney will meet with individuals who are seeking specific legal advice. For questions, contact the Urban Justice Center at 646-459-3017 or the office of Council Member Brewer at 212-873-0282.

As the first class of City Council members elected under the term limits law in 2001 prepares to leave office next year, the New York Times notes that 20 of the 35 Council members who are being term-limited out have filed with the Campaign Finance Board to run for another position.  Meanwhile, “at least a dozen” people who are planning to run for open Council seats, “have budding or established political careers.”

So has the term-limits law “take(n) the power away from the politicians and return(ed) it to the people,” as originally intended?  The article has politicians and advocates from both sides of the issue weighing in.  This is definitely an important read considering that speculation is rampant that Mayor Bloomberg’s upcoming Charter Revision Commission will look into changing Mayoral term limits.  Since the Commission will be examining the entire City Charter, a change to Council term limits could be on the table for discussion as well.

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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As noted earlier this week, the City certified the environmental impact statement for its Willets Point Redevelopment Plan, beginning the ULURP process, which will eventually bring the plan before the City Council for approval.  Yesterday, Crain’s reported that 29 Council Members sent a letter to Deputy Mayor of Economic Development Robert Leiber, which stated, “This plan is unacceptable, and we wish to inform you that without significant modifications, we will strongly oppose it, leaving no chance of it moving forward.”

During the seven-month ULURP process, the City Planning Commission and the Council will have the opportunity to make modifications.  It will be interesting to watch this project to see whether it will change enough during ULURP to garner the Council’s approval.

Yesterday was a big day for public hearings in NYC, with the City Council Zoning Committee taking on the 125th St. Rezoning, and the Landmarks Preservation Commission braving the wrath of Villagers over the proposed St. Vincent’s/Rudin’s development within the Greenwich Village Historic District. (Note check out the video renderings of the proposal at the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation’s YouTube page).

At the City Council Zoning Committee hearing, over 100 people turned out to speak, including a group that hopes to invoke an obscure provision of the City Charter to kill the plan. Opponents received good news from the district’s Council Member Inez Dickens, who said she will not vote for the rezoning as currently planned, however she is willing to negotiate with the City Planning Commission and other groups. According to City Room, she said, “Displacement, overdevelopment and gentrification are serious concerns. There will be no rezoning plan signed into law if I do not get the protection for my community.” The full Council has until the end of April to vote on the plan.

Meanwhile, at the Landmarks Commission hearing, hundreds of people came to testify. Andrew Berman of GVSHP reports that more than 90% of speakers opposed the current plans, and that after six hours of testimony, so many had yet to speak that LPC decided to continue the hearing in two weeks. A tentative date/time has been set for Tuesday April 15 at 9:30 am at the LPC, One Centre Street (at Chambers Street), 9th floor.

Info from our friends at Brooklyn Community Board 1:

Today, NYC Council Transportation Committee Chair John Liu announced that he has organized an oversight hearing on G train service. Witnesses from the MTA will be asked to speak about ridership data, plans for the future, conditions, and other issues regarding G line service, and the public is also encouraged to testify about their own experiences.

Time/Date: Tuesday, April 8 at 1:00pm
Location: Council Chambers, City Hall

Oversight: What is the MTA doing to improve service on the G line?
Resolution #1262 Calling upon MTA to immediately improve service on the G line and to not implement any service cuts.

Please forward this information widely, as so far there has been no mention of this hearing on the Council’s calendar. The Council is required to provide “public notice” of such a hearing at least five days in advance. However, the written notice available in hard copy at City Hall is insufficient to get the word out to those members of the public interested in participating, especially since this is such a controversial proposal. Our information on the time and location comes from the office of Council Member Tony Avella, Chair of the Council’s Zoning Committee.

UPDATE: Check out this Columbia Spectator article on the Harlem community’s preparations for Tuesday’s hearing.

Back in February, we reported that the City Council passed a bill to end housing discrimination based on the use of Section 8 vouchers.  Shortly after, Mayor Bloomberg vetoed it, telling the New York Times, that the bill, “fails to recognize that the onus should be on government to make the program more attractive for private sector participation, not the other way around.”

This week, the City Council overturned the Mayor’s veto, ensuring that landlords can no longer refuse Section 8 vouchers or advertise that such vouches will not be accepted.  “We understand there is an affordability crisis, and this is one of the ways to respond to it,” Council Member Bill de Blasio, who introduced the bill, told the Times.

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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