SNAD hits major snag with Staten Island subtraction

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As Community Board 8 members considered proposed changes to the Special Natural Area District that encompasses a good portion of its territory, one desire kept coming up: Split the Bronx from Staten Island, and develop two unique sets of rules for the two unique areas.

Last week, CB8 got its wish — but the karmic forces of city planning have a twisted sense of humor. After one Staten Island community board voted against the changes in May, the borough’s council members came out against the proposal with such force, city planners backed away from the plan, announcing they were going back to the drawing board.

But the story is different in the Bronx. Here, Councilman Andrew Cohen told city planners that while he has reservations with some of the rule changes, he was confident they’d be able to work something out ahead of the city council vote this fall.

That has now stuck CB8 with rule changes it doesn’t like, and didn’t ask for.

“This is really destructive from a planning standpoint, and destructive in the sense of having absolutely no regard for what the community wants or needs,” said CB8 land use committee chair Charles Moerdler. “It’s really very troublesome.”

Despite city planning’s decision to remove Staten Island from the equation, CB8 is still expected to vote on the 216-page text amendment in its current form during its June 27 regular board meeting. At some point down the road, Staten Island will be officially removed. But for now, the city expects CB8 to fulfill its role in the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure process and vote yea or nay.

“The proposal will be revised in a future update to remove” references to Staten Island, wrote senior city planner Juton Horstman in a June 14 email obtained by The Riverdale Press. “We are looking forward to (CB8’s) recommendations that will be voted on at the June 27 full board meeting.”

The revisions to SNAD — which include changing the name to the Special Natural Resources District — was originally scheduled for a vote at June 3’s land use meeting, but the committee fell two members short of a quorum needed for an official vote.

CB8 chair Rosemary Ginty said she was frustrated by the news and was unsure how the board would proceed. Legally, she believed, they were still required to hold a vote June 27, but the last-minute subtraction of Staten Island left her flustered and confounded.

Ginty hopes she and other CB8 members will have a chance to meet with city planning director Marisa Lago before the vote.

“I’ve been dealing with planning issues all my professional life,” said Ginty, who helped author the original SNAD rules more than four decades ago when she worked at the city. “I have never seen this.”

With Staten Island out of the picture, some are concerned CB8 will vote on revisions that will change drastically between now and the city council’s final vote in October. Bob Fanuzzi, a former CB8 chair who now leads the group’s environment and sanitation committee, said he took issue with city planning forcing a vote without changing the legal language, while simply verbally confirming sizable changes are coming. 

“We’re going into something that politically has already happened, but legally has not happened,” Fanuzzi said. “I’m uncomfortable with that.”

But the lone councilman still standing behind the process, Cohen, is unconcerned.

“I’ve told city planning that I’m willing to continue to engage,” Cohen said. “They know that I want changes, they know that the community board wants changes … and I’m going to give city planning the opportunity to see if they can make everybody happy.”

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