In the world of land use and real estate development here in New York City – even to those of us who work in (or are students of) it – it can sometimes feel like a foreign language is being spoken, with all the jargon, acronyms and bureaucratic titles involved.
Today’s entry provides a primer on some of the key players in local government who share some responsibility for writing, interpreting and applying the myriad rules and regulations one must navigate long before – and sometimes long after – the proverbial “first shovel” goes into the ground. In a future post we’ll explain some of the frequently heard terms that describe the rules and issues that we as planners deal with on a daily basis.
After the jump, in alphabetical order (by acronym, as that’s how they we typically refer to them), are just some of the city agencies with a role in the land use process. If you’re considering any kind of development within the five boroughs, you’ll be getting to know one or more of these entities along the way. (And for further information on the responsibilities of each, click on the name to visit the official Web site.)
Earlier this year, the Department of City Planning unveiled the launch of their new Business Process Reform (i.e. BluePRint). Over the past 18 months, the Department worked with dozens of practitioners and stakeholders in the public review process to improve the way the private sector does business with City Planning. (Full Disclosure: several authors of this blog contributed to the effort.)
With the goal of improving the land use and environmental application review processes, the Department has standardized applications and the drawings, maps, attachments, and all other documentation associated with these applications. This is a huge step forward and will remove the second-guessing and seemingly endless revisions previously necessary to bring an application to the point of certification. Additionally, BluePRint aims to streamline the actual review of these documents to create a predictable and efficient pre-certification process. Again, bringing clarity to a previously unpredictable process will go a long way to improving the development process in New York City.
For a complete description of BluePRint, please see the Department’s explanation here.
In concept and in execution, we are optimistic about the all-around benefits anticipated from BluePRint. We believe in the Department’s sincerity at fixing what has been a long-standing problem. If the reforms are implemented and carried out as planned, all stakeholders – both in the public and private sector – will be better off.
That said, it appears that BluePRint has two major holes. (more…)
Last week, at a meeting of Community Board 5, City Planning finally released details of a much anticipated zoning proposal for East Midtown. The proposal, which could be the last major rezoning initiative of the Bloomberg administration, concentrates on the blocks around and north of Grand Central (the boundaries stretch roughly from Fifth Avenue to Second Avenue and from 39th to 57th Streets), which are already home to a number of high density office buildings.
The rezoning looks to incentivize property owners and developers to upgrade the area’s office building stock by permitting new development at a significantly higher density than is currently allowed. The new regulations may also incorporate a “district improvement fund” type program, similar to what already exists in Hudson Yards. As part of this program, developers could contribute to a fund, intended to finance the construction of a pedestrian plaza on what is now Vanderbilt Avenue, in exchange for even more floor area. Under today’s zoning, a limited number of property owners are permitted to purchase excess development rights from Grand Central, and that program might also be expanded under the new proposal. (more…)
Yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn formally announced the release of the New York City Comprehensive Waterfront Plan, Vision 2020. The new plan is very ambitious in its scope, envisioning the waterfront as an integral part of the city, or the “Sixth Borough,” as Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden describes it.
As we discussed in October, New York City’s Vision 2020 plan is indeed comprehensive. The 192-page plan offers a wide range of strategies the City could employ to take better advantage of its waterfront, for both recreational and economic purposes. It proposes new waterfront open spaces, as well as improvements to the waterways themselves and related infrastructure, such as dredging to accommodate more container ships and upgrades to the city’s sewer system. In addition, the plan aims to address environmental concerns by making recommendations aimed at protecting wetlands, improving water quality, and addressing sea level rise and other climate change concerns.
Covering the entire report in one post would be ambitious, so ZONE instead plans to do a series of updates on the topic. In the next few weeks, we’ll be looking at several of these issues in depth and exploring their potential effect on local land use and other issues relevant to you, our readers.
Until then, you can read more about the plan, or download a copy of the entire 192 page document, here.
Earlier today, the Municipal Arts Society, as part of their Summit for New York City, held a conference on Sustainable Housing.
The panelists each had a few minutes to share their experiences. (more…)
Almost 10 years ago, I was honored to be retained by Manhattan Community Board 11 and Civitas (a local community advocacy group dedicated to improving neighborhood quality of life) to study East Harlem and work with CB11. The result was the first neighborhood-wide rezoning action of the Bloomberg Administration, rezoning more than 50% of East Harlem. (more…)
The Department of City Planning is currently in the process of updating the City’s Comprehensive Waterfront Plan, which was originally published in 1992. Local law requires that this update, which City Planning has entitled “Vision 2020,” be completed by the end of the year. The Waterfront Plan is not to be confused with City Planning’s update to its waterfront zoning, which occurred last year and focused primarily on the design of the open spaces required when a private waterfront property is developed. (more…)
So many sites are vacant or partially built – so many sites in trouble financially; so much to consider when considering seizing the distressed asset…
Zoning too? Of course: (more…)
photo courtesy of streetsblog.org
Of course, we all know that the Big Apple is bigger than LA. We are presently at just about 8.4 million, the highest population ever seen in the City’s history! We also all know that we are more diverse and more dense than any other place in the nation. The City’s Planning Department (a.k.a. New York’s Smartest) has a great wealth of population statistics http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/census/popdiv.shtml on the 5 boroughs.
We at ZONE are fascinated by several key facts: (more…)
Two quick updates on the City’s two major subway projects – one positive, one less so:
#7 – Tunnel excavation has completed mining! The extension of the #7 subway line from its current terminus, 42nd Street and 7th Avenue, to its new end point, 34th Street and 11th Avenue, is well on its way thanks to a completed tunnel excavation.
2nd Ave – 2nd Avenue Subway excavation is reported to have technical difficulties that may result in additional delay to the projected 12/2016 completion date for the East 63rd to 96th Street Phase
These two subway projects are expected to significantly alter land use and development in their respective neighborhoods. We will keep you posted as these projects progress.