CB 8 votes against Planning Together 1

A comprehensive planning proposal by City Council Speaker Corey Johnson is sending some community boards, including CB 8, into panic that it would take away its members’ voices.

For its second meeting in a row, Community Board 8 voted against City Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s (D-Manhattan) Planning Together initiative.

The board unanimously voted its disapproval for the land use reform plan Feb. 10 and members stated their intent to write a resolution sharing their numerous concerns.

“I really don’t feel that this plan benefits the members, the residents within Community Board 8,” said board member Marc Haken, reiterating a collective worry that the initiative would strip community boards of their sway in land use procedures. State Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) hopped on the call moments earlier to throw his support behind the proposal, but Haken was unsure they could trust his judgement.

The comprehensive planning proposal is intended to “fix” the “broken” land use and budget process, according to Johnson’s office, by identifying community needs, from parks and open space to hospitals and social services to support for small businesses, in addition to housing needs, and then prioritizing those in future budget and planning processes.

The 54-page report, called Planning Together, includes a framework to correct neighborhood disparities and disinvestment in communities of color.

City planner Paul Graziano has been visiting community boards throughout the city to warn that the plan, while great in theory, could have adverse affects. He said that, though not explicitly stated, the plan could potentially eliminate single-family zoning.

“This is not planning together. They’re trying to push this through without very much consultation,” board member Kevin Forrestal said, noting his disappointment in the lack of communication between the Speaker’s Office and community boards. A representative from the City Council Office of Strategic Planning met with the board’s zoning committee two days earlier, but several of the members felt the connection was only made after the board vocally opposed the plan — at their Jan. 20 meeting, 33 out of 34 present members voted against the initiative in a “consensus vote.”

CB 11 submitted a resolution of opposition on Feb. 10, stating the bill would remove rather than enhance community input, would require upzoning each decade to increase high-density housing, and has the potential to eliminate single-family zoning and off-street parking requirements. CB 8 plans to borrow from its neighboring board’s language.

An online petition against the plan has reached about 2,500 signatures as of Feb. 17.

Johnson, however, stands behind his plan despite the growing concern.

“Community Boards and neighborhood residents across New York City do not have enough opportunity to plan proactively for what they want to see in their neighborhood, and that is exactly what comprehensive planning attempts to fix,” a spokesperson from his office told the Chronicle in an email. “Comprehensive planning would empower communities to plan the futures of their own neighborhoods, rather than react to individual rezoning requests put forward by developers. Speaker Johnson looks forward to Community Board members and all New York City residents learning more about the idea, as comprehensive planning seeks to address the very concerns that they are raising now.”

Johnson’s spokesperson pointed to a section embedded in the proposal: Planning Process and Key Stakeholders. The section states that community boards and borough presidents would continue to play an important role in the planning process through participation in public charettes and public meetings. According to the proposal, community board input would still be accepted through a formal vote and in an advisory capacity, similarly to how they operate now. Those advisory votes would then inform the Council’s deliberations.

“It’s a stupid idea,” said board member Mary Maggio.

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