To the editor:
(re: “Neighbors fight to shield their backyards,” April 8)
If there’s anything we’ve learned from the de Blasio years, it’s that when upzoning is imposed on our communities, private developers get richer, and local residents are hurt in the process.
Yet here we are, less than nine months from the next mayoral administration, debating whether to hand over all authority on land use decisions to an unelected city agency that will give private developers everything they’ve dreamed of, and sideline communities in the process.
In December, city council Speaker and city comptroller candidate Corey Johnson unveiled proposed legislation that, if passed, would impose his version of comprehensive planning on the city.
The centerpiece of Johnson’s plan is to put the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability in a position where they — not local communities, and not even the city council — will have final say on development decisions across all five boroughs.
Although Johnson’s plan calls for community input, this is mostly for show. Under the plan, the long-term planning office will present each community board with three land use scenarios for future development, including housing targets aimed at increasing local housing density.
Each community board is free to vote on which plan they prefer, and members of the public are free to submit comments. But ultimately, the long-term planning office director decides which plan they want, regardless of what the community says.
Worse yet, if the city council fails to adopt a preferred land use scenario under Johnson’s plan, the long-term planning office director will still choose whichever plan they wish.
In short, the input of community members, civic organizations and elected officials could all be ignored, and there isn’t anything we would all be able to do about it.
Three years ago, our neighbors just to our south in Inwood fought hard against a plan to upzone their community. This upzoning was part of the de Blasio administration’s efforts to cram more density into every corner of the city, no matter what effect it would have on the people currently living there.
The local community board voted against it, and activist groups warned that it would displace thousands of residents — especially those of low incomes — all while enriching private developers.
After a long fight, the Inwood upzoning is now moving forward despite the efforts of the local community to have their voices heard, and to help shape the future of their community.
If Corey Johnson’s plan is passed, the same thing will happen here as is happening in Inwood. Residents of the northwest Bronx and neighborhoods throughout the city will wake up one day and realize that when it comes to deciding the future of their local community, they are now voiceless.
Make no mistake — our city needs comprehensive planning. Decisions affecting transportation, sustainability, zoning, affordable housing, and an infinite number of other issues in any part of the five boroughs affects us all. But that does not mean a team of unelected city officials should be able to impose their vision of how our communities grow.
Any effort to decide our future must start — and end — with us.
The author is a candidate for city council