One of the central responsibilities of the Manhattan Borough President’s office is its charter-mandated role in the city’s land-use process. The City Charter requires the Borough President to have a planning office to plan for the growth, improvement and development of the borough and to review and make recommendations on applications and proposals for the use and development of land.
In the ULURP process, the Borough President’s recommendation comes after the Community Board and before final approval by the City Planning Commission and the City Council. This gives the Borough President the opportunity to review the land use and environmental impacts of projects in light of community concerns and work to mediate between developers and communities if those concerns conflict.
As Borough President, Gale Brewer’s key principles for land use planning are:
Any effective planning process needs to have an open dialogue between all parties involved. As Chair of the City Council’s Government Operations Committee, Gale Brewer proposed a Charter Revision proposal that would have required a pre-certification meeting between City Planning, the Borough President and the Community Board to discuss possible alternatives to the application. Though this has not been included in the City Charter, the Borough President plans to work with communities and applicants on all projects to attain this level of communication as early on in the pre-Application process as possible.
Closely tied to the principle of Open Communication is the principle of Early Planning. The Borough President is a bridge between Community Boards and City Planning – between community concerns and the administration. There needs to be a pro-active/pre-ULURP approach toward forming a development blueprint so that community priorities and development alternatives can be included in projects before it is too late.
In order to develop Manhattan “smartly,” the Borough President’s Office looks closely at the impact of the multiple projects that are being proposed in the same communities at the same time. Development tends to move in waves through the city, where one neighborhood can see a lot of development all at once and it is important to consider these in aggregate. For example, three or four buildings may open up in the same school district in the same year, creating an increase in the children population and in passengers for public transit. More people can equal more impacts on schools, transporation, sanitation and safety, and these cumulative effects are not always analyzed.
Maintaining Diverse Communities
The Borough President works to maintain diverse communities by promoting affordable housing, protecting small mom and pop businesses, and by preserving the architectural and historical diversity of communities by advocating for contextually sensitive development and through the promotion of landmarking.