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Conflicting Interests and a Broken Planning System

A scathing critique of city planning, and the special interests that hold the system in thrall, in New York City.
August 6, 2019, 9am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Stuart Monk

Brad Lander and Antonio Reynoso write a strong critique of planning in New York City, arguing that the current system is ill-equipped to face the most pressing challenges of the contemporary city.

It’s clear that we need a better way to make infrastructure and land-use decisions that take climate change, affordability, and the challenges of growth seriously. Our piece-meal planning system is not up to the task. 

Currently, the process of developing a capital plan to invest in our infrastructure constitutes just making a big list – a list that is in no way informed by plans for rezoning or development. How can we plan which neighborhoods should get resilient infrastructure like levees and seawalls when land-use and growth decisions are happening elsewhere? Shouldn’t we include capital budgeting for infrastructure like transit and schools as part of the process of planning for the new residential growth that will require it?

Meanwhile, New York City’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) is a reactive, project-by-project process for considering changes – bereft of strategic vision, shared values, or a connection to long-term infrastructure planning.

The article also coins a new term for characterizing planning in the city, calling it a "REBNY vs. NIMBY Doom Loop." REBNY standing for Real Estate Board of New York, "who profit on each development, and therefore rarely worry about which ones make long-term sense for the public good," and NIMBY standing for Not In MY Back Yard, described as advocacy that "leaves no way to figure out where and how the growth we need to address the scale of the housing crisis should take place."

Full Story:
Published on Wednesday, July 31, 2019 in Gotham Gazette
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