Ballot Question #5: Land Use

This proposal would amend the City Charter to:

For projects subject to the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), require the Department of City Planning (DCP) to transmit a detailed project summary to the affected Borough President, Borough Board, and Community Board at least 30 days before the application is certified for public review, and to post that summary on its website; and

Provide Community Boards with additional time to review ULURP applications certified for public review by DCP between June 1 and July 15, from the current 60-day review period to 90 days for applications certified in June, and to 75 days for applications certified between July 1 and July 15.

Shall this proposal be adopted?

The Way Things Are Now

ULURP Pre-Certification Notice Period. There are rules that govern what sorts of buildings may be built on every block of city land, how high those buildings may go, and how they may be used. The city has a procedure for reviewing and approving “land use applications,” which are required when builders or developers seek exceptions to these rules, such as seeking to change the zoning of a specific area from residential to commercial, or getting approval to build structures that don’t strictly conform to current zoning regulations. They are also required when the city sells, buys, or leases property. This review procedure is known as ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure), and it is meant to allow community boards, borough presidents, the City Planning Commission, the City Council, and the public a chance to review and weigh in on these requests. Currently, this public approval process does not begin until the Department of City Planning (DCP) has reviewed, possibly changed, and finally certified that the land use application is complete. During the period the application is being reviewed by the DCP, the developer is not required to notify or seek any input from the borough president, community board, or the public in the neighborhood that will be affected.

Additional ULURP Review Time for Community Boards. When a community board receives a land use application that has been certified to be complete by DCP, it has 60 days to notify the community, hold a public hearing, draft and vote on its recommendations about the project, and submit them to the relevant borough president and the City Planning Commission. Some community boards do not meet in July and August because a significant number of their members are on vacation, so they cannot hold hearings, draft recommendations, or gather a majority of their members to vote during those months.

If Ballot Question #5 Passes

ULURP Pre-Certification Notice Period. DCP will be required to send a detailed project summary of each land use application, including the proposed location and purpose of the proposed development or action, to the relevant borough president, borough board, and community board at least 30 days before DCP certifies that the application is complete, and must publish the summary on its website no more than five days later. The land use applications that are certified by DCP must be consistent with these detailed summaries.

Additional ULURP Review Time for Community Boards. Community boards will have 90 days to review the certified land use applications that are sent to them in June, and 75 days to review applications that are sent to them between July 1 and July 15.

Statements Supporting Proposal

Betty Diana Arce

This proposition is very important to the work of community boards in dealing with land use and zoning issues. It is difficult to get a quorum over the summer months to review a ULURP application. This proposal would allow timely review of the ULURP application and opportunity to submit comments.

Peg Breen, President, The New York Landmarks Conservancy

Proposal #5 would give Borough Presidents, Community Boards and the public advanced notice of development proposed for their neighborhoods and the ability to engage developers in possibly reshaping plans. Projects are often firmly set, and more difficult to change, once the ULURP clock begins. Allowing volunteer Community Boards additional review time during the summer is just common sense.

Citizens Union

Citizens Union recommends a yes vote on Question 5, while also wishing the Charter Revision Commission had gone further with its land use reform proposals. Question 5 requires the Department of City Planning to transmit a project summary to the borough president, borough board and community board at least 30 days before a Uniform Land Use Review Procedure application is certified. It also provides more time during the summer for community boards to review ULURP applications.

Eric Dinowitz, Special Education Teacher

I fully support the proposed changes to ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure). ULURP is intended to allow communities to review projects and have a meaningful say in any changes to zoning within our communities. Zoning laws should protect our communities and our environment from overzealous developers, and new projects that seek to build outside of current zoning regulations need input from the community to ensure that these projects meet the needs of the area in which they are built.
The charter change would give neighborhoods additional information on proposed projects and allow community boards more time to review projects. This would give communities more of a voice in future development to meet a community's growing need. The power should be with our communities, not real estate developers, and the proposed additional time for evaluation would give more of that power back to our communities.

Ben Kallos, New York City Council Member

Neighborhoods only get to weigh in on the city planning process at the very end. Currently, Community Boards are only given 60 days to hear and vote to approve or disapprove zoning proposals without the ability to make meaningful changes. In their final report, the Commission noted my testimony, along with that of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Community Board 8 Manhattan, calling for Community Boards to be included earlier in the city planning process. This question would do that by giving the Community Boards at least 30 days to engage with zoning proposals before they are certified so that meaningful changes from the neighborhood can be included.
For Question 5 on Land Use to begin community engagement at the start of city planning, vote YES.

Susan Lerner, Executive Director, Common Cause/NY

In New York City, all proposals relating to potential rezonings and real estate projects are required to go through a land review process called ULURP. CCNY supports a top-to-bottom reworking of the ULURP process, one that meaningfully incorporates public input. The current process however, often leaves insufficient time for substantive community engagement on decisions that can have sweeping ramifications for neighborhoods across New York City.
Question 5 gives communities and elected officials more time to evaluate potential changes to their neighborhoods before the review process begins. After all, if developers have plans to dramatically alter the makeup and character of neighborhoods across the City, communities and city representatives deserve to have adequate time to assess and scrutinize their proposals.

Emmanuel Martinez, Banking

Proposition 5:
As Chair of Community Board 7, and whose community is seeing first hand the various residential developments, having extended time to review new ULURP applications would greatly increase community engagement on the structure of our neighborhood. It is understood developers do not like road blocks or limitations on their projects, but by extending the time for community boards to deliberate on the specific project will, overtime, change residents perception of real estate developments to a positive of one.. Furthermore, as demographics continue to change and the population becomes younger, it’ll allow our younger working class demographic to join in the conversation.

Janie Medina, Librarian

Yes, extra time is important.

Elizabeth Mooney, Retired Journalist

A good improvement on current policy.

New York Immigration Coalition

New York Immigration Coalition Position: Support
Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) specifies a timeframe and sequence for public review and approval of land use applications by community boards, borough presidents, the City Planning Commission, and ultimately, the City Council. These proposals help the city and communities make decisions and weigh in on complicated land use projects by requiring the Department of City Planning to send detailed project summaries of land use items to the affected community board(s), borough president, and borough board earlier; and giving community boards more time to review projects, hold public hearings, and issue recommendations.

Cyrille Njikeng, Executive Director, CUNY USS

5 is very important for Community Boards. It is difficult to get quorum over the summer months to approve/disprove a ULURP. This provision would give us more time to review the ULURP and submit comments in the event an application comes to us during such time.

Denise Relf, Consultant

It can be challenging to meet and discuss matters as a board during summer months. The extra time would help us make decisions that would best serve our community as a whole.

Chad Royer

The community-at-large has been often left out of this process. It isn't fair for the residents to be notified of a building or structure whose theme of occupancy can create more problems and hardship to the community. The community board needs an opportunity and adequate time to review any proposed structure so that both sides have a fair opportunity in stating their position and raising issues that the occupancy can create. Adding a public residence in an overcrowded neighborhood where parking is already difficult where its neighborhood residence do not get priority is not right. Hiring vendors from outside the neighborhood to help build something that may not be favorable to the neighborhood is wrong. Our community deserves answers and fair treatment.

Barbara Stronczer, Community Activist

As a member of a community board, I am in favor of extending the time period for review of a ULURP issue during the summer months. It is important for both community boards and local residents to have the opportunity to comment on these issues which often have a major impact on local neighborhoods.

Bella Wang, Board of Directors, League of Women Voters of the City of New York

We recommend a “yes” vote on this ballot item. These ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Plan) amendments don't come even close to achieving the type of reforms that planning advocates have promoted over the years. However, they are both small steps that extend community involvement in land use planning.
The Borough Presidents and Community Boards have long complained that they have inadequate time to thoroughly review applications or consider a development project once the ULURP clock begins to run. This is particularly critical in the summer months when community boards may not meet, or are unable to secure a quorum to vote on projects.

Statements Opposing Proposal

Tom Angotti, Professor Emeritus of Urban Policy & Planning

This proposal falls far short of the major changes needed to equip community boards to engage meaningfully in the land use review process, including the critical period before certification. "Tweaking" the Charter is not enough. Without requiring comprehensive planning as a framework for land use decision-making, without insuring that all community boards have professional planners and adequate financing, such minor adjustments would force them to stretch their limited resources even further. The community board vote has to be weighted equally with the other levels of government and that requires a meaningful charter revision.

Jeffrey Geary, Architect

this item doesn't leave enough time for comment, the way the Community Boards typically meet, they break for the summer, as well as civic staff, so if a proposal from DCP comes to a board/office at the end of June, the members might not look at it till September and 30 days is already over, and I have seen the Department take advantage of this little logistical nugget time and time again, the timeframe should be 90 days, Agency projects are typically years in the making and anything that important to require comment by a CB or other agency, can wait 90 days

Michael Lewyn, Law Professor, Touro Law Center

Ballot Question 5 will give community boards even more time than they currently have to delay attempts to create new housing for our apartment-starved city. As a result, it will be even harder than it is now to build more apartments. Housing delayed is housing denied!

Manhattan Libertarian Party

We oppose any further delays and obstacles to development such as these proposed Charter amendments.
Property owners have a fundamental right to use and develop their property that should not be arbitrarily suppressed because of community opposition and the veto of a single elected councilmember, as often occurs under the current ULURP process.
Partly because of our current restrictive zoning and our nearly impossible processes to navigate it, NYC has built relatively few new buildings over the past two decades despite a huge increase in demand to live and work in NYC. We cannot allow this crisis to continue, much less make it worse, as these proposed amendments would.

Open New York

Open New York strongly opposes Ballot Question #5 for Land Use. The provision would cause needless delays to much needed housing. At a time when New Yorkers struggle with a severe housing shortage and rents peak at all-time highs, extended delays rub salt into the wound. The question intends to extend the delay that projects have to go through from 60 days to 90 days.
Housing delayed is housing denied. ULURP is already one of the longest review processes in the US, taking up to eight months in the best of circumstances. The result: higher development costs, cancelled projects, and increased rents. Instead of holding projects hostage to their vacations, community boards should act promptly and maintain their schedules.
Community boards have often served to amplify the voices of people who want to freeze the city in amber, rather than confronting an affordability crisis that is creating new rent burdened and homeless households every day. They have attempted to sabotage and derail projects that would help address these issues. Giving them a head start and guaranteeing delays every summer would only exacerbate a housing crisis that threatens to make our city even more unequal.

William Thomas, Marketing Analyst

New York is currently in the midst of a crippling housing shortage that has caused rents to skyrocket and resulted in historic levels of homelessness. Adding more systemic delays to our land use processes, as Question 5 proposes, will only make it harder to build new homes and ultimately make the problem worse. New Yorkers should vote no on Question 5.

Jay Weiser, Law Professor

Every new ULURP requirement creates opportunities for delay. It makes housing even more difficult to build in a city whose approval process already generates obscene delays. ULURP is already one of the longest review processes in the US, taking up to eight months in the best of circumstances. The result: New York City has some of the highest housing costs in the country.
Ballot Question #5 would add up to 30 days before an application can be certified for public review, and 60-75 days for community board review over the summer. Every additional requirement becomes an opportunity for additional Not-In-My-Back-Yard (NIMBY) litigation, compounding the delay and expense.
More delay and higher costs mean more cancelled projects and less new housing. Less housing means higher rents. Community boards should expedite projects, not delay them, and advocate for the future of the city instead of freezing it in place.
Community boards should maintain their schedules through the summer, so that they can act promptly and approve more housing. That means voting No on Question #5.