Friday, January 02, 2009

IS ULURP on the way out when the City Charter is revised?

The Courier-Life chain reported last week, in an article headlined Community input may be on the outs - City looking to re-examine uniform land-usage guidelines that revisions to city's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) will be looked at by a City Charter revision panel Mayor Mike Bloomberg is expected to establish next year.

Such a change has been talked about for months, including in a 5/11/08 Daily News column, as I reported.

The Courier-Life article quoted an anonymous "informed source, who attended a discussion of the issue at a meeting held by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, the goal may be to shorten the lengthy ULURP process." The goal: to move development much faster.

Stringer's office is likely not in favor of such a change. At a panel last May, as I reported, Anthony Borelli, Stringer's Director of Land Use, called the 7.5-month timeline in New York “not that burdensome,” noting that 99% of projects don’t go through ULURP because they’re not large enough.

Some large projects, like Atlantic Yards, have been exempted from ULURP because the city agreed to let the state take the lead. Even though former Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff has acknowledged that Atlantic Yards should have gone through ULRUP, note that a city housing official has observed that ULURP doesn’t work for large projects.

CBs outraged

Community Board officials and district managers contacted by the Courier-Life were uniformly outraged. The newspaper reported:
Craig Hammerman, the district manager of Community Board 6... pointed out that, “Community boards are often targeted because it is their job to represent the community and at times take positions that are unpopular with elected officials. Our positions are very local ones, and I think we are able to contribute a great deal to government, adding value to it because of our local knowledge.”

Yet, the review of community boards by a charter revision commission could be the first step toward the total elimination of community boards, Hammerman noted. “They can cripple community boards through budget cuts, but if the unstated goal is to eliminate community boards, they would have to go through the charter revision process,” he pointed out.

Such an eventuality, he said, would be devastating. “It would effectively remove the non-partisan local voice of government,” Hammerman emphasized. “It would mean that, from Red Hook to Melrose, people would have to go to City Hall to conduct local government business.”


Then again, the status quo isn't exactly working. As Richard Wells wrote in the December/January issue of the Brooklyn Rail:
The city would then have to once and for all beef up its Uniform Land Review Process. For this to work, existing public institutions like Community Boards would have to be restructured, so that they have real, as opposed to advisory, power to decide what gets built where. They will also need to be staffed up with trained men and women, with real commitment, to work with residents on their plans. This would require more money in the form of targeted grants.

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