Support Planning that Centers Local Knowledge Within a True Citywide Framework
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In the last seven years, the de Blasio administration completed neighborhood rezonings in six low-income communities of color – East New York in Brooklyn, Inwood and East Harlem in Manhattan, Far Rockaway in Queens, the Jerome Avenue corridor in the Bronx, and the Bay Street corridor in Staten Island. Residents in all these neighborhoods struggled to make their voices meaningfully heard in the process, some even creating their own alternative plans, which the administration ignored. The administration provided no clear rationale as to how they chose these neighborhoods to be rezoned over others, and top officials have even admitted on record that the decision can often be more political than reasoned.43 Meanwhile, the administration has rejected outright community-driven proposals to guide development in Bushwick, Brooklyn and Manhattan’s Chinatown.
As mentioned above, years of disinvestment in public housing has fostered mistrust between residents and NYCHA leadership. A recent survey from CSS showed residents divided in their opinions about NYCHA’s various proposals to generate revenue and preserve units.44 At a recent State Assembly hearing on the Blueprint for Change, public housing resident leadership testified that residents felt left out of the plan’s development and called for the agency to improve its communication and engagement with residents.
It is clear that our City’s current approach to planning is broken, and it is time to move away from our reactive and transactional model, to a proactive and advocacy-oriented model that gives residents a real voice in decision-making about the city’s future. Yet we must also consider that some communities may not have the whole city’s best interests at heart – the recent opposition from residents of the Upper West Side to placement of homeless residents at the Lucerne hotel, for example, demonstrates how the wealthy and powerful’s “not in my backyard” attitude can assert undue influence.
Planning must be a key part of the Integrated Housing Plan to ensure that residents’ voices are meaningfully incorporated, and to create an equitable approach that centers fair housing and neighborhood priorities so that no single community can stand in the way of critical city- wide needs, such as affordable housing development and homeless housing.
Priority 6: Support Planning that Centers Local Knowledge Within a True Citywide Framework
- Create a Citywide Comprehensive Planning Framework. To be truly effective, planning must not be piecemeal, must meaningfully include communities in an effort to achieve racial and economic justice, and must be coordinated directly with budgeting and policy-making. A Comprehensive Planning Framework would ensure that both benefits and burdens are distributed fairly and that resource allocation is based on need, rather than traded with a community in exchange for approval of a rezoning.
- The Framework should be designed to meet explicit goals of reducing racial and economic disparities and addressing the needs of the city’s most vulnerable populations. Community-district-level needs assessments should analyze opportunities, unmet needs, and displacement risk, with a focus on access to opportunity in the areas of affordable housing and housing for the homeless, jobs (including preservation of manufacturing zones), education, transportation, health, and sustainability.
- Its implementation should be based on a collaborative process that allows local residents and stakeholders to create and steward local land use plans based on the Framework.
- Any rezonings and public facility sitings should be guided by the Framework and the associated local land use plans. These decisions should be made in conjunction with an associated policy framework and future plans for the City’s expense and capital budgets.
- Require a Racial Impact Study as part of the environmental review for rezonings and proposed development projects. Along with other environmental analysis, the Racial Impact Study would inform decision-making about how and where development should take place.47 The City Council can require this immediately by passing Intro 1572-2019.
- Require analysis of community-based plans on par with City- and developer-driven proposals. Another component of environmental review for large-scale projects is analysis of alternatives. However, in cases such as East New York and Jerome Avenue, where communities created their own alternatives, the City refused to analyze those plans as an alternative to its own. And in cases such as Bushwick and Chinatown, where communities proactively advanced their own plans, the City has refused to consider them and move them forward. Community-created plans should have an equal opportunity for consideration as developer- or agency-led plans, and when two opposing plans exist for the same area, the “lead agency” (either the City or a developer) should be required to analyze both so that decision-makers can compare potential impacts and use this information to inform their choices.
- Create more resident control in NYCHA.
- NYCHA must engage in good faith and ensure that important decisions about its future are made by the people who live there – resident leaders and tenants, with the support of advocates and independent technical assistance providers. Any decisions about future preservation or development strategies must require a resident ballot for approval.
- Give NYCHA residents a role in management. NYCHA should provide training, education, and resources for NYCHA residents regarding formation of Resident Management Corporations (RMCs).