As highlighted by Mayor Bloomberg when he announced the Commission, the challenges and opportunities in New York City today are vastly different from those in 1989. We believe that this shift is most acute in the areas in which CHPC specializes – housing preservation and development, land use policy, and long-term planning – and this must be reflected in the City Charter. PlaNYC, launched in 2007, was the articulation of this new era for New York City. It set out the key goals for a sustainable 21st-century city, and showed the world that New York continues to be forward-thinking and constantly evolving.

The CHPC board stands in full support of PlaNYCs central message: that New York has become a vibrant and prosperous city and, as a result, we will have to accommodate a million more New Yorkers by 2030. Such a population increase will require both an expansion of affordable housing opportunities as well as the need to plan for the Citys growth on a long-term, citywide basis. This will ensure that the needs of the growing population are met, the Citys hard-won gains in quality of life in our neighborhoods are preserved, and that NYC sets the standard for cities seeking a reduction in global warming emissions.

However, despite many gains, much of the NYC government has continued to carry out its responsibilities without regard to the goals of PlaNYC. NYC currently has no long-term, citywide planning process or other means to advance PlaNYCs objectives effectively. The work of the Department of City Planning and the City Planning Commission is now focused almost solely on the Zoning Resolution, which has become a substitute for long-term planning. Yet, the New York City of the 21st century faces challenging long-term issues of a complexity that far outpaces the confines of a zoning policy alone.

CHPC Charter Revision Sub-committee

In 2007, the Mayor set up the Office of Long-term Planning and Sustainability to coordinate and oversee efforts to develop and implement PlaNYCs strategic vision for the Citys future. Yet, its decision-making powers, its influence on other government agencies, and its role in the land use review process are not established under the City Charter or effectively established otherwise. For example, the objectives reflected in PlaNYC receive no required or consistent consideration in Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) decisions. We believe that one of the results of this lack of incorporation is that the Citys long-term needs and objectives are not well represented in land use decisions, the public review process, and other government decision-making processes.

Therefore, we believe that the City Charter Revision Commission should focus on this central question:How can the long-term, citywide planning objectives of PlaNYC be integrated within the structure and the processes of New York City government?

  1. We believe that the City Charter Revision Commission should explore the means to achieve a consolidated, institutional authority responsible for long-term, citywide planning.

Ideas to achieve this may include:

  • Elevating the role of PlaNYC so that its strategic vision can be transformed into an operational framework for all actions of NYC government. This would require going beyond the agencies that are responsible for implementing some aspect of the plan, and rather would require all NYC agencies to determine the impact of their decision-making and actions on the plans objectives;
  • Reviewing the role of the Office of Long-term Planning and Sustainability and its relationship with the operations of the agencies involved in long-term citywide infrastructureespecially the Office of Management and Budget, Department of Buildings, Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Economic Development Corporation, and the Department of City Planning;
  • Examining how long-term, citywide planning can more effectively and more transparently be reflected in the capital budget.

2. We believe that the City Charter Revision Commission should re-examine the land use review process so that proposals can be assessed using the framework of the long-term, citywide planning goals of PlaNYC;

Ideas to achieve this may include:

  • Creating a distinct part of the review process that assesses land use and development proposals using the criteria of PlaNYC;
  • Creating incentives that encourage applicants in the land use review process to meet the objectives of PlaNYC, which in turn would be reflected in the review process;
  • Maintaining but not expanding the role of Community Boards in the land use review process to avoid further localizing land use decisions and avoid making the incorporation of long-term, citywide goals potentially more difficult. However, to help ensure that all Community Boards can more effectively evaluate and analyze proposals which are increasing in their complexity, we would also be in support of the City Charter requiring the necessary funding for every Community Board to hire a professional urban planner;
  • Exploring how different land use review processes can be better unified and coordinated (such as ULURP, actions of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, and environmental reviews) so that all processes facilitate land use actions that support the Citys goals. For example, consideration should be given to establishing a more explicit framework for decisions by the Landmarks Preservation Commission so that it acts in tandem with the goals of PlaNYC;
  • Exploring how the whole land use review process, including pre-certification, can be streamlined and clarified. This should include updating and clarifying, after appropriate review and analysis, the identification of actions that are subject to and exempt from ULURP.

3. We believe that the City Charter Revision Commission should consider establishing procedures for improved public reporting on the work of agencies and departments of municipal government, so that their accomplishments can be assessed through the lens of PlaNYCs long-term, citywide goals.

Ideas to achieve this may include:

  • Improve the Mayors Management Report, so that the metrics of reporting from government agencies reflect how well they meet publically stated goals and objectives. For example, the Department of City Planning should not just be reporting on the number of rezonings it has approved, but rather should also report on the extent to which such rezonings have met their stated goals and objectives;
  • While the tasks outlined in PlaNYC are reported on in the Mayors Management Report, all agency reporting should also describe the extent to which agency work and actions advance PlaNYCs goals and objective.