Testimony of the Real Estate Board of New York in Opposition to Intro 1685 to Exempt Certain Government Entities From Pre-application Requirements for Zoning Text Amendments

Subject: Exempt certain government entities from pre-application requirements for zoning text amendments.

Sponsors: Margaret S. Chin, Vincent J. Gentile, Ben Kallos, Corey Johnson, Rafael L. Espinal, Jr.

 

Introduction

The Real Estate Board of New York is a trade association of 17,000 owners, builders, residential and commercial brokers and managers active in New York. 

Intro. 1685 which would exempt certain elected officials from pre-application requirements for zoning text amendments is practically ineffective, and potentially undermines what has made New York a thriving, vibrant world class city—as of right development and an orderly pre-referral process.

Intro. 1685 is bad public policy and REBNY strongly opposes it.

 

Practically Ineffective

The practical impact of this bill appears to be to grant elected officials the ability to use a text amendment to leap frog the public review process with the goal of overriding proposals in the queue or projects about to start construction.

A few years ago rules were adopted for the pre-referral process.  These formalized this process by having DCP advise applicants and assist the City Planning Commission in referring out an application.  The aim of these rules was “to organize the information and material necessary to prepare complete and accurate land use applications and application for environmental review materials”. 

These rules provide a series of good government actions that has served the City Planning Commission, the City Council and the City well.  To permit an elected official to avoid the carefully constructed steps in the rules will defeat their purpose of ensuring that applications are accurate, complete, address the relevant issues and are sufficient to inform the public in the review process.

In addition, any proposed text amendments initiated under this provision would still be subject to the requirements of the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), the City Environmental Quality Rules (CEQR) Rules of Procedure and the State and City implementing regulations.   In short, a text amendment proposed under this provision may circumvent the pre-referral process, but it must comply with the environmental requirements which could thwart  the effort to expedite such an action.

 

Potentially Undermines Investment

New York’s physical and economic growth and it success as a global capital relies on as of right development and an orderly process to introduce new planning proposals.  As our city’s needs changed, from an industrial economy to a service economy, from a city with seven million residents to nine million in another decade, our zoning resolution has needed to change to accommodate this growth in a reasonable and rational manner in accordance with well-considered plan.  This process has given builders and investors an opportunity to make prudent, rational decisions about their investment. 

Intro. 1685 is intended to disrupt this process and would instill uncertainty into our land use process and into capital investment decisions.  The result of this uncertainty would be less capital investment and new development required to meet our city’s evolving needs.

 

Conclusion

The legislation would degrade the fairness and integrity of the planning process.  It would create a class of applicants who could assert privileged status over civic organizations, industry associations, the general public, other elected officials and, it appears, the Department of City Planning itself in the application process for zoning text changes.  It could allow those applicants to press ahead with zoning initiatives that are not consistent with a well-considered plan without themselves having engaged in a rigorous planning process and without a clear procedure to ensure that they can be properly vetted by the Department of City Planning.

Intro. 1685 attempts to thwart plans and projects with questionable means and ultimately undermines a fundamental aspect of the city’s Zoning Resolution and land use process, namely as of right development and an orderly an rational planning process. This bill appears to be an attempt to achieve some short term political gain by doing an end run around the City’s planning process.

DCP’s rules adopted a couple of years ago were an important reform and play an important role in ensuring that land use applications are accurate and complete. The public and the participants in the land use process have benefited from their adoption.

The local law would seek to circumvent these requirements, with a goal of allowing land use reviews to proceed hastily without satisfying the City’s standards. This would degrade the process and promote ill-considered ad hoc decision making.

This bill is bad public policy and we strongly oppose it.

 

Contact: Michael Slattery

Senior Vice President

REBNY          

212-616-5207

mslattery@rebny.com