As the New York City Charter Revision Commission meets to rewrite the document that governs New York City, the Pratt Center has been the city's leading advocate for reform to the city's land use process.
NEW: Tell the City Charter Commission fair share must be fixed this year.
Read the Pratt Center's June 24 testimony to the City Charter Revision Commission.
Comprehensive, Inclusive City Planning: What NYC Needs Now
Since the 1930s, charter review commissions have recognized that New York City needs to map out the course of its future growth, through an impartial body and transparent process. Under the current charter, the City Planning Commission (CPC) must detail its zoning and planning policies and describe proposals for implementing them.
But while the City Planning Commission was created to guide comprehensive city planning in the public interest, it is not fulfilling this basic part of its job description. Instead, the mayorally controlled Department of City Planning (DCP) calls the shots on land use, and redraws the city’s map at will. While CPC sometimes modifies DCP’s zoning proposals, it invariably approves them. Under the current charter, the two bodies work hand in hand, in structual alignment.
The result is that unlike other major U.S. cities, New York lacks a road map for future development. The city is inadequately prepared for growth – and neighborhoods pay the price when development overloads their streets, schools and services. Too often, developers drive the land use process for their own benefit. In the absence of a forward-looking, publicly developed plan, government agencies do not know where their resources will be needed. And 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. Opposition to land use proposals frequently arises out of fear impacts won’t adequately be addressed.
The City Planning Commission should create and enforce a planning framework, to make sure that rezonings promoted by the Department of City Planning serve neighborhoods and the city as a whole.