Pratt Center

October 11, 2018

Reforming City Charter is crucial to overcoming legacy of racist planning policies in NYC


Two distinct Charter Revision Commissions got underway in New York City in 2018, one formed by the Mayor and another by the City Council. While operating on/with different timelines, each group’s task is the same: to review the city charter, hold public hearings and, potentially, place initiatives on the ballot.

Pratt Center has been providing expert testimony to both comissions in support of more equitable and comprehensive planning processes, building on lessons learned in our technical assistance and capacity building work in neighborhoods targeted for rezonings. In July, Pratt Center’s Director of Policy, Elena Conte accepted an invitation from the Mayor’s 2018 Commission to speak on the topics of Community Board reform and Land Use – advocating for greater representation on boards, including term limits, and greater assistance to Community Boards on not just land use applications but broad based planning, and a comprehensive planning framework.

Gotham Gazette quoted her as saying,  

“Planning is more than land use. It properly considers the systems and the structures into which land use fits. It’s about the social, environmental, and economic wellbeing, and land use is not planning. And so I think we are asking the wrong questions of our land use procedures, right? Both government, stakeholders, developers, and communities feel as though too much is being lumped onto the process unfairly.”

On September 27, Pratt Center’s Senior Planner, Paula Crespo, presented testimony before the 2019 City Council Commission, arguing for a more comprehensive approach to planning in NYC and the potential for such planning to address issues like residential displacement and the implementation of fair share requirements. She stated,

"The land use review process has become one of the few places where unaddressed planning needs can be publicly debated, but if and when communities are equipped to engage, their concerns are often dismissed as 'out of scope.' Other meaningful avenues for addressing these concerns don’t currently exist, frustrating those trying to make positive neighborhood change and address the underlying causes of inequality."

Read the full testimony here.

The 2018 commission wrapped up its work in September with the release of three proposed amendments related to campaign finance, civic engagement and community boards. The proposals will appear on the November ballot, and can be viewed here. The 2019 Commission will conclude its work next year, with any potential proposals appearing on the November 2019 ballot.