Presented By: Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP
The Charter Proposals That Could Reshape NYC Land Use
By Ross F. Moskowitz, E. Gail Suchman, John B. Egnatios-Beene, Ashley E. Doukas, Eva C. Schneider January 14, 2019 8:11 amreprints
In April of last year, the New York City Council approved Local Law 91, establishing the Charter Revision Commission 2019 (“the Commission”). The Commission’s mandate is to conduct a comprehensive review of the New York City Charter.
Just last week, after a series of public hearings that took place from September to December, the Commission released a summary of the proposals that it received. These proposals cover a wide range of topics, from elections to land use. Ultimately, the Commission will draft ballot measures based on these proposals to be voted on by the public in November 2019.
This bulletin summarizes some of the proposals that most directly affect land use and zoning, specifically the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (“ULURP”) and the City Environmental Quality Review (“CEQR”).
There are a number of proposals that, if enacted, would substantially change the ULURP process. Several focus on changes at the “pre-ULURP” stage, such as:
- • Allowing Council members and Community Boards to review land use applications at earlier stages in the process.
- • Requiring the Department of City Planning (“DCP”) to release a “notice of intent to consider zoning changes” as a first step.
A considerable number of proposals focus on the ULURP process itself. For example, the public has suggested:
- • Eliminating City Council review.
- • Enacting a public petition process to replace the Community Board role.
- • Removing the Borough Board vote requirement for land use applications that “do not have a borough-wide impact.”
- • Conferring Community Boards with binding power and requiring more notice or longer periods of time to respond.
- • Requiring a supermajority vote by the City Planning Commission (“CPC”) or alternatively prohibiting approval entirely if the Community Board and/or Borough President and/or Borough Board do not approve a land use application.
Other proposals suggest requiring ULURP for large residential or commercial projects in excess of 100,000 square feet or 100 units, zoning text changes and buildings that will be “significantly taller than surrounding buildings.” One proposal even suggests ending as-of-right development altogether, subjecting all projects to the ULURP process.
Another category of proposals focuses on Community Boards, the CPC and the Board of Standards and Appeals (“BSA”).
As for Community Boards, proposals include granting Community Boards subpoena powers, imposing enhanced conflict of interest rules, automatically removing members who do not attend meetings regularly, electing Community Board members and imposing training requirements.
With respect to the CPC, proposals suggest increased representation from elected officials and/or removal of mayoral control, and requiring the CPC to study displacement risk in New York City.
Regarding the BSA, proposals have focused on the BSA composition (for example, including representation from elected officials), scaling back the BSA’s power by allowing the City Council to review and veto variances approved by the BSA, and creating a BSA review time frame.
Several proposals may also significantly change both the process and objectives of CEQR review. These proposals are as varied as:
- • Including other categories of impacts such as displacement and neighborhood demographic changes.
- • Releasing draft environmental impact statements at or before ULURP certification.
- • Tracking and publishing mitigation measures for both private and public projects that relate to environmental impact statements.
None of these proposals is final. As for what is to come, there will be another round of public hearings to solicit additional proposals and feedback from January to March 2019.
The Commission will then adopt draft proposals in April. From May to June, the Commission will conduct public borough hearings, and it will adopt final proposals sometime between July and August. The adopted proposals will go to a vote in November 2019.
Jerry Goldfeder, counsel at Stroock, is the chair of the New York City Bar Association Task Force on the Charter Revision Commission and will provide further updates through the New York City Bar Association.
The Stroock land use team will continue to monitor the Commission’s proposals and provide updates. In the interim, please let us know if you have any questions.