A Comprehensive Overhaul of Planning Considered in New York City

The New York City Council this week released a report that suggest the city do away with its "piecemeal" approach to planning in favor of a new comprehensive planning framework.

3 minute read

December 18, 2020, 5:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Manhattan Municipal Building

Leonid Andronov / Shutterstock

The New York City Council is proposing reforms of the city's planning process that would be nothing short of revolutionary.

Here is entire the Executive Summary of the "Planning Together: A New Comprehensive Planning Framework for New York City" report, published on December 16, which makes the case for a new approach to planning to respond to the city's historical and current challenges:

For over 100 years, New York City has taken a piecemeal approach to development and capital spending. As a result, our City has fundamentally failed to plan for its current and future challenges. Underlying inequities in the City’s economy, housing market, and environment have produced disparate health outcomes for Black and brown communities who are suffering and dying at double the rates of white New Yorkers as a result of the coronavirus. Our housing and homelessness crisis will only continue to worsen as we confront the highest rates of unemployment in this country’s history since the Great Depression. As the City faces a period of significant budget constraints as a result of COVID-19, a backlog of capital needs continues to grow by billions of dollars as our 19th and 20th century infrastructure degrades. And by 2100, many neighborhoods including Coney Island, Jamaica Bay, the Rockaway Peninsula, the South Shore of Staten Island, Red Hook, and parts of Lower Manhattan, are expected to flood every day at high tide due to sea level rise.

These challenges are big and extremely complex—but we did not get here overnight. It has become increasingly clear that the process by which the City makes its land use, policy, and budget decisions is ill equipped to address the existential threats that face our City today and over the next several decades.

New York City is now faced with a choice. We can continue to ignore how our increasingly contentious and insufficient planning regime undermines New York City’s ability to equitably respond to crises, adapt, and grow. Or we can adopt a new approach—a cyclical, integrated comprehensive planning process that cities all across the globe use to center equity and inclusion as they balance citywide and community needs to confront challenges together.

This report reviews the history of planning in New York City, explores the failures of our current planning framework, and identifies trends and national best practices in comprehensive planning. The report concludes with a proposal for a new comprehensive planning framework for New York City designed specifically to help correct neighborhood disparities and decades of disinvestment in communities of color and support equitable growth to create a more resilient and inclusive City.

According to the report, the current approach to planning and zoning in the city exacerbates socio-economic inequality in the city, while also allowing for all numerous varieties of inefficiencies and waste.

The report is supplemented by legislation sponsored by Council Speaker Corey Johnson that would "amend the Charter to create a new ten-year comprehensive planning cycle for New York City consistent with the recommendations of the report," according to a press release. The legislation was introduced to the City Council on December 17.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020 in New York City Council

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