The City Charter’s land use provisions center on one fundamental principle: New York City needs to map out the course of its future growth, through an impartial and transparent process. However, under the current version of the charter such long-term planning for the city as a whole has not taken place. The charter puts the City Planning Commission in charge of long-term comprehensive planning, but that commission has come to narrow its focus to reviews of individual proposals for zoning map changes put forth by property holders and the Department of City Planning.
The absence of comprehensive planning leaves New York City without the foundation for sound future growth. Neighborhoods pay the price when development overloads their streets, schools and services. Government agencies do not know where their resources will be needed. When communities attempt their own planning, under charter Sec, 197-a, they have no way to connect their efforts with the city’s own plans. And developers themselves have little certainty that infrastructure and services will be adequate to support their projects.
Meanwhile other major cities in the U.S. and around the world engage in comprehensive planning, with strong public involvement. For example, civic, community, labor, business and other groups in partnership with government are currently revising the London plan, deciding the principles for Greater London’s growth.
New York City has taken an important preliminary step through the establishment of the Mayor’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability, which through PlaNYC has set ambitious objectives for improving the city’s environment and reducing its carbon footprint. But PlaNYC is a vision, not a plan. Problematically, it has been developed without either meaningful public participation or a way to ensure city agencies follow through to achieve PlaNYC’s important goals.
The Pratt Center would like to ask the Charter Revision Commission to step up to this historic opportunity and bring inclusive, comprehensive planning to New York City.