Thursday, June 26, 2008

City Council Members propose bill that would require EIS-like reports for subsidized projects

A group of City Council members and advocacy groups yesterday announced the introduction of legislation designed to ensure that projects eased by tax breaks and bond financing are accompanied by economic impact reports. Whether such reports, which would resemble mini environmental impact statements (EIS’s), could make a major difference is an inevitable question, but proponents said it’s a start.

Such data would include housing cost impacts; anticipated resident and business displacement; number of jobs to be generated; types of jobs to be generated; wage and salary data; number of employees with health benefits; impact on community infrastructure including the provision of police, fire and emergency medical services, sanitation, water supply, waste water treatment, services provided by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Health and Hospitals Corporation Corp and privately owned hospitals, public schools and public transportation services.

Yes, it sounds a lot like the EIS’s required of certain large projects; indeed, City Council Member Charles Barron, one of the sponsors, explicitly made reference to them, saying that “this can stop things like gentrification.” He spoke at a press conference on City Hall steps that was attended, as far as I can tell, by just one reporter.

Enforcement questions

Easier said than done, given that EIS’s don’t necessarily do that (see: Atlantic Yards, which Barron has condemned). Still, it represents an effort by communities to get ahead of top-down development. “This represents grassroots planning,” said City Council Member Letitia James. “A first step toward performance-based subsidies,” added Brad Lander of the Pratt Center for Community Development (and a City Council hopeful himself).

What if the numbers are fuzzy? “We can’t prevent people from lying,” acknowledged City Council Member Al Vann, the lead sponsor, “but there has to be some truth.”

What if the expected impacts don’t come true—could there be penalties? Such provisions, Vann allowed, could be discussed at a public hearing. For now, it seemed, getting on the agenda in the first place is their goal.

On the DMI Blog, Mark Winston Griffith raised some of the same concerns:
The greatest danger in this legislation is, instead of making it more difficult for developers to usher in toxic projects, it would simply facilitate a public relations opportunity for the developers to make rosy projections and claims that they have no intention of honoring.


Still, he said it could be a positive step. One example of a state that’s gone father is Minnesota, where, as State Sen. John Hottinger described it in September 2006, subsidies in excess of $100,000 must to be subject to public hearings and a “clawback” clause requires businesses that fail to reach stated job creation goals to repay a portion of the subsidy.

Besides the Pratt Center, other organizations backing the bill include the National Employment Law Project, and New York Jobs with Justice.

1 comment:

  1. How about a bill to create a private right of action in the nature of fraud when outdated and inaccurate information from the way-back past is used to promote the abuse of eminent domain to take private property?

    Michael D. D. White
    Noticing New York

    ReplyDelete