Skip to main content

Columbia vote (35-5-6) vs. AY vote (4-0), newspaper coverage, and the value left in ULURP

What a difference the city's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) makes, at least in terms of public awareness. The City Council's contentious approval of Columbia University's West Harlem development plan merited front-page, above-the-fold coverage in the New York Times yesterday (albeit attached to graphics regarding Governor's Island plans; click to enlarge), as the vote was 35-5, with 6 abstentions. (Gotham Gazette called it divisive, and highlighted those not toeing the line.)

By contrast, on 12/6/06, when the Empire State Development Corporation board voted 4-0 to approve the Atlantic Yards project after perfunctory and uninformed discussion, the Times placed the article, headlined A Nod for Atlantic Yards, and Then a Lawsuit, on page 3 of the Metro section. The ESDC meeting lasted 15 minutes; the City Council hearing Wednesday elapsed over five hours, including breaks.

There wasn't any contentiousness; as I noted, the press release had already been prepared when the 3:30 pm board meeting began. Still, as an example of how business gets done in New York, it was worth a closer look, and the Times article, which did look skeptically at some statements by then-ESDC Chairman Charles Gargano, simply described the board meeting as "largely anticlimactic."

AY via ULURP?

Consider what might have occurred had the Atlantic Yards project gone through ULURP. It likely would have passed the City Council, thanks to the city's and Forest City Ratner's political muscle, but the criticism voiced by the three affected community boards would have gotten much more airing. And, at the City Council vote, critics like Council Members Letitia James and Charles Barron would have had a platform for their views.

An Atlantic Yards critic on the ESDC board might have flayed fellow board member Charles Dorkey for his uninformed question about the location of Atlantic Yards: “What are the cross streets for (Site) 5”). That critic might have said that it was time to start rather than conclude examination of the project.

And even if ULURP is a "complete sham," as Municipal Art Society Kent Barwick has said, it is superior to the ESDC process, not just because it provides a greater opportunity for a democratic vote but because, as shown yesterday, it provides more of a platform for public scrutiny. And Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff now acknowledges Atlantic Yards probably should've gone through ULURP.

PACB approval

When the three-member Public Authorities Control Board approved the project two weeks later, on 12/20/06, the Times did run the story on the front page the next day. (Here's No Land Grab on the anniversary.)

But the coverage, headlined State Approves Major Complex For Brooklyn, was about inside political maneuvering, and then outside reaction from project critics. The approval votes by Republican Gov. George Pataki, who owed little fealty to Brooklyn voters, and Republican Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, were in the can.

The real drama revolved around Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver of Lower Manhattan, again not elected by Brooklynites but deeply engaged in city dealmaking. The Times reported: Yesterday's vote followed days of intense negotiation between officials at the Empire State Development Corporation, which is overseeing the project, and aides to Sheldon Silver, the speaker of the State Assembly, who has one of three votes on the control board.

None of those voting, however, got a chance to express any dissent. The approval vote took just five minutes.

Comments

  1. When is a ULURP hearing (and process) not a ULURP hearing (and process)? When the public officials before whom the hearing is held say that isn’t within their purview to do anything concerning the public action issues about which the public testifies at the hearing.

    Before we get too enthusiastic about the beneficial result of the fuller ULURP process that applied to Columbia’s rezoning and takeover of West Harlem, let’s remind ourselves that, though it was a fuller process, what is being proposed by Columbia was not treated to a full ULURP process.

    Yes, Columbia ‘s expansion will not integrate or share space with the neighborhood, involves a great deal of rezoning principally for the special benefit of Columbia, will wipe out a swath of older buildings, including historic ones, and does not look to designate as landmark old buildings that might actually be saved. Yes, all of this was subject to ULURP review and hearings, but one of the most highly objectionable aspects where the Columbia plan diverges from the plan wanted by the Community Board is Columbia’s strategic use of eminent domain to acquire property. The eminent domain is to be exercised by the Empire State Development Corporation and this was not treated as being subject to ULURP.

    The City Planning Commission held hearings but the Planning Commissioners voting for Columbia’s plan pointedly put it on record that eminent domain was not something they were deciding upon and that this was instead the State’s responsibility. They side-stepped the issue which is to say they gave the public testimony against eminent domain no effect (and also ignored CB9's position on this). Similarly, there were City Council Members last week who excoriated as abysmal the situation with eminent domain, complained about the lack of local and City Council control and called for the state legislature to pass remedial legislation to fix it. Then, they voted for Columbia’s plan since they said they could only be voting on something other than eminent domain as it was so entirely out of their control that it was, perforce, outside their preview. This is again to say that they gave the public testimony against eminent domain no effect while also ignoring the Community Board on this.

    It was all of course an exercise in political buck passing. The idea of ULURP is political accountability. So long as eminent domain is done with the distortion of a State agency acting outside the ULURP process (which it needn’t be) there has not been a full ULURP process.

    Had there been a full ULURP process where it was absolutely clear that it was the responsibility of public officials to consider and act on eminent domain based upon the public’s testimony and community board input the vote tallies might have been different. Yes, if the public and community board had been treated with greater deference results might have been different.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

No, security guards can't ban photos. Questions remain about visibility of ID/sticker system.

The bi-monthly Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Community Update meeting June 14, held at 55 Hanson Place, addressed multiple issues, including delays in the project, a new detente with project neighbors,concerns about traffic congestion, upcoming sewer work and demolitions, and an explanation of how high winds caused debris to fly off the under-construction 38 Sixth Avenue building. I'll have more coverage.
Security issues came up several times at the meeting.
Wayne Bailey, a resident who regularly takes photos and videos (that I often use) of construction/operations issues that impact residents, asked representatives of Tishman Construction if the security guard at the sites they're building works for them.
After Tishman Senior VP Eric Reid said yes, Bailey asked why a guard told him not to shoot video of the site, even though he was on a public street.

"I will address it with principals for that security firm," Reid said.
Forest City Ratner executive Ashley Cotton, the …

Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website Matzav.com explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park graphic: what's built/what might be coming (post-dated pinned post)

Click on graphic to enlarge. This is post-dated to stay at the top of the blog. It will be updated as announced configurations change and buildings launch. The August 2014 tentative configurations proposed by developer Greenland Forest City Partners will change, and the project is already well behind that tentative timetable.


Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

Not quite the pattern: Greenland selling development sites, not completed condos

Real Estate Weekly, reporting on trends in Chinese investment in New York City, on 11/18/15 quoted Jim Costello, a senior vice president at research firm Real Capital Analytics:
“They’re typically building high-end condos, build it and sell it. Capital return is in a few years. That’s something that is ingrained in the companies that have been coming here because that’s how they’ve grown in the last 35 years. It’s always been a development game for them. So they’re just repeating their business model here,” he said. When I read that last November, I didn't think it necessarily applied to Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, now 70% owned (outside of the Barclays Center and B2 modular apartment tower), by the Greenland Group, owned significantly by the Shanghai government.
A majority of the buildings will be rentals, some 100% market, some 100% affordable, and several--the last several built--are supposed to be 50% market/50% subsidized. (See tentative timetable below.)

Selling development …