Planning bill’s critics grow across Queens 1

Land use advocate Paul Graziano presented his case against the City Council’s comprehensive planning bill to Community Board 9.

Land use advocate Paul Graziano continued his Queens lobbying crusade against the City Council speaker’s proposed comprehensive planning bill in Community Board 9 on Tuesday night.

Graziano, a zoning specialist and staunch opponent of the ambitious land use legislation created by Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan), presented at a special meeting of the board’s Executive and Land Use committees.

Graziano has been making the rounds of community boards arguing against the plan. So far boards 8, 11 and 13 have all voted against the proposal. On Tuesday, CB 9 nearly unanimously joined the group of boards opposing the bill.

Johnson has described that the city’s zoning, land use and development as beeing bureaucratically scattered across different mandates and guidelines in the City Charter. His legislation, which was introduced with a report called “Planning Together” that describes failures of the current land use process, would attempt to reform those processes into one centralized plan, with a focus on racial and economic equity.

The community board framed the meeting as a means of exploring the legislation, but in its invitation to members, it raised fears that the bill would effectively exclude participation by community boards in the land use process and bring on the “demise of one family homes in Queens.”

The Speaker’s Office has maintained that the comprehensive planning proposal does not directly make any changes to the city’s zoning code, and does not take a negative view of single-family zoning.

It also asserted that community boards would be better supported in their existing budget and land-use decision-making processes under the new citywide planning framework.

“In essence, this bill will upend land use in the City of New York,” Graziano said.

Though the Speaker’s Office has maintained his report is focused on uneven application of zoning tools, Graziano has argued that he sees it as a way of spurring housing starts and upzonings across the city.

“This primarily looks at population and housing. It’s a comprehensive housing and it’s a comprehensive upzoning program,” Graziano told the board members.

One of Graziano’s sticking points is the “Planning Together” report’s analysis of racial trends in the city’s rezoning.

Graziano has called into question the research cited in Johnson’s report that the upzonings by the Bloomberg administration tended to be in predominantly black and Latino neighborhoods and that downzonings of that time period were more likely to be located in neighborhoods with a higher share of white residents.

One of his fears, shared by some members of the board, is that a plan that is based on that analysis would disfavor low-density neighborhoods.

The board also raised the political timing of the bill as a cause for alarm.

The plan is set to be voted on by a City Council, of which the majority will be term-limited out in 2021, which the board members worried would limit their input through the election cycle.

At the end of the meeting the 21 members who had convened voted to pass a resolution against the bill, even though no resolution had been formally drafted yet.

Land Use Chairwoman Sylvia Hack said she wanted to formalize the board’s opposition prior to the City Council hearing on the legislation later this month.

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