When Mayor de Blasio opposes something that would centralize planning, create reams of paperwork and require the hiring of more people to produce it, all in the name of addressing community needs and historical racial disparities, you know it’s problematic. And that’s the case with City Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s new comprehensive land-use bill, Intro. 2186-2020, and its accompanying report, Planning Together.
It’s the kind of thing you’d expect the mayor to call “transformational,” something that would create “new realities” to repair past injustices in land-use policy. But what he instead has to say about it is that it’s too expensive. And he’s right. It would cost $500 million over 10 years to do the nearly 180 neighborhood planning studies the bill calls for, a city official testified Tuesday before the City Council — and that’s today’s estimate. You know darn well the cost would balloon well beyond that. It always does. And, according to the official, City Planning Director Marisa Lago, the effort it would take to implement the proposal is “almost inconceivable.”
The concern here in Queens is that the plan would take away what little land-use authority our community boards have. One board after another has been voting it down, often unanimously. They don’t want the city to draft a “comprehensive long-term plan” for land use, to create a new Office of Long-Term Planning or to “help correct neighborhood disparities and decades of disinvestment in communities of color” by upzoning. They don’t want to replace more houses with apartment blocks and they don’t want Manhattan bossing Queens around any more than it already does.
Credit goes to urban planner and political activist Paul Graziano for making the rounds of community boards to inform them about the proposal. It got panned here, it got panned at Tuesday’s hearing, it’s unaffordable and it should be dropped. Back to the drawing board.