in LTCP, Politics and Plans

Planning Together – Part VI

Political people, perhaps more than many others, live in a dichotomous world.  They run for office, care about issues, and have a political ideology. They are required to express instinctive and emotional thoughts. Still, when it comes to making decisions, we expect them to be more deliberative and logical. They are ordinary people, and we are all subject to these two needs of behavior. The objective is to define the dichotomy. Do we trust in their emotion and their science?  Is there a gap between them or a chasm?  Remember this exercise on the Flushing zoning change is using the Long Term Comprehensive Plan (LTCP) to see how it might work. The implementation schedule is roughly the same period. Flushing zoning will get changed, but will it be in a good way or a bad way?

RLC – OCCUPY

Doublespeak?

Are the announcements made in the Planning Together legislation deliberately understated? Somewhat ambiguous language is used to describe an administrative mess. The descriptions of the problems may not fit the complete definition of doublespeak, but it is close. One aspect remains. It implies but avoids saying the confusion is the fault of Department City Planning and the City Planning Commission’s decisions. Enter the New York City Council’s one and only hearing on February 23, 2021.

“I reminded [the soldiers] and their families that the war in Iraq is really about peace.”

President George W. Bush, April 2003 classic doublespeak


The Department of City Planning and “the community” relationship has never been worse and continues to deteriorate. The two parties, “the community” and the DCP, have severe communication vs. actions-taken gap. The question is who is available and what skills are needed to define its size and seriousness?

The effort to remove the participation of ordinary people is continuous, as it is too expensive. The people tend not to be well informed but resist change for the sake of it. It is difficult for administrative leaders to get their heads around the difference between political representation and ordinary citizen concern. Here is a story of a time when the Bloomberg administration (2008) wanted to remove Community Boards from the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). See the story here.

The community, especially residents with a high percentage of low- and moderate-income, is fully immersed in averting loss of a home, income to rent, or just the quality of their neighborhood experience. Here, the judgment is quick and decisive.  On the other hand, the Department of City Planning is framing what they see can be produced based on the tools and options available for action. That description fits in the nutshell that everyone can hold as true, at least somewhat.

The recruitment of a few influential social scientists, psychologists, and cultural anthropologists is needed to help in this situation. (know any – seven degrees?) Urban planners recognize severe gaps but need recommendations on how to close them in a language that ordinary people, organizations, and agencies can use. Psychologists can prove a loss is more significant than the equivalent or probabilistic offer of benefit. What planners need to know now and with some urgency is whether implementing a long-term comprehensive plan in a ten-year process in February 2022 will provide relief or make things worse?

New York City is a place stuffed with progressive community planners and professionals who routinely challenge the megaplans of big developers and global investors. The appropriate response has been to outline demands for exactions, benefits agreement, and related considerations.  Confirmation bias is a good thing in many ways. Critical conditions in the City’s development improve for some but worsen for many. It does not look good. The remedies are weak, transparency is flawed if not opaque. The old cries of “the people united….” “hell no,” and my favorite “BOHICA” for bend over here it comes again have not been enough. Two old things are needed in a new way.

The Legislation

The proposed law is a multidisciplinary approach to research and decision-making. It fails to build in the resources for that approach. There is a need to get a communications psychology of the law obvious reduction of participation into the token Sherry Arnstein described in 1969 (here)

A look at the quality of the law’s inception is needed from the original idea to the legislation’s flawed structure.  There are twenty-five changes to the City Charter in one bill. Does that seem like a lot, so how many changes would it take to trigger a Charter Commission hearing? Is there a law?  So you get the drift. Halfway up the ladder is failing us all.

All of that is null now. The real first step is where this analysis began. There is the dichotomous nature of the elected officials involved. I do not believe anyone can get emotional about a 10-year planning cycle, which means the technical, deliberative question is important.

“Political language . . . is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language,” 1946

So who wants to dig into the following and get into the “what-ups,” “who’s whos,” and where votes are for “out of committee and on to passage?” If it does get out of committee in its current disagreeable form, where might the rest of the City Council be on the issue? The list of City Council decision-makers that may or may not like to amend or mess with the LTCP and commit to a significant upgrade in the funding for the OLTOS is below.

Step One: Get on a Constituents List

If you do not already know, use the City Council’s Map Widget and pick your geography as a constituent. Organizations can make positions known. It is equally important to make one personally in the district of your residence (or work). New races and the rush for campaign matching dollars have begun. Communication supporting an organization as well as a personal statement of a constituent is appropriate.

The Committee on Government etc. is the other hearing participant. I don’t know why the Finance Committee list (below) was made here. Did they bow out? I think Finance was part of it initially; maybe they don’t want to answer, “how much is going to cost? I’m working on it, but with absolutely zero interest in tracking down the relevant/nonrelevant City Council politics. Still, if a political scientist out there can take a Machiavellian look, it would be advantageous.  Because why?

Reason One: Two-Year Terms!

Council members are elected every four years, except for two consecutive two-year terms every twenty years, to redistrict between the terms. This is due to the national census (starting in 2021 and 2023 for the 2020 Census)

Reason Two: Ranked Choice

The primaries will use ranked-choice voting for the first time as approved by a ballot question in 2019. Whoever wins gets two years, twice if re-elected. Four-year terms will resume in the 2025 election.  Wow, so if the person in the second spot can remain relevant in Flushing, it could significantly impact the re-election try.  Here is the ‘why’ for that “wow.”

Scenario One: Pocket Books

Sandra Ung will win (promising jobs), and John Choe will lose (promising justice).  A pocketbook win on the coattails of the post-pandemic recovery is a good bet.  Suppose the capital for developing the project has not evaporated post BOA. In that case, a ULURP app will show up during her first term (or sooner) because they will be projecting a second term and four years in 2025, essentially to the end of the decade. Bang, the people have spoken. Developers have leverage.

Scenario Two: The Benjamins

John Choe could win (promising jobs with justice) Sandra Ung could lose (proven corrupt while promising jobs). Not knowing either person, it becomes an identity politics race, friendliest face, smile, and all-around charisma. Proof of corruption by association is a tough one, unlikely from a progressive candidate, and Ung’s endorsements (here) are the type that brings the votes to the booth.

Accepting Scenario One is prudent. Therefore, activate a plan that argues for an equitable solution to the project’s callous greed and avarice. And, it works with a Scenario Two miracle.  Also, six other people have filed, so a wild-card is added to the thrill of ranked-choice voting.  

The ULURP and the LTCP

The image below is a lesson in rapid change and the vast amount of global capital seeking refuge in a democracy while driving a Lexus to sit under an olive tree and argue with zombies. (Sorry, that was uncalled for and rude, well so is the image, I guess, but I would say ULURP is the Owl and LTCP is the seasick pussycat.

I call your attention to the Zoning Application Portal. The data provided is solely for informational purposes. The City makes no representation regarding the accuracy of the information or its suitability for any purpose. But, you have to love our democracy. First, for the reasonable evidence of ongoing capital development throughout NYC, but it gets better.  Second, the public is asked to help DCP be aware of data errors using the “Report Data Issue” button on each project page.

The LTCP changes to the Charter alter the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). Every change is oddly obscure, but all of it is aimed at a new agency. Section 20 of the New York Cty Charter establishes The Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability. This office’s role and responsibility are extensive and do not at this time have more than two staff members. It replaces PLAN2030.

Committee on Land Use

The Committee on Land Use has jurisdiction over New York City’s land use and landmarks review process and the City Planning Commission, Department of City Planning, Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, and Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Sitings, and Dispositions The Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Sitings, and Dispositions reviews and makes recommendations on New York City’s designations of property as landmarks or historic districts, as well as decisions to site public facilities and decisions regarding the use of maritime facilities such as piers.

  1. Kevin Riley (Chair)
  2. Peter Koo 20
  3. I. Daneek Miller
  4. Inez Barron
  5. Mark Treyger

Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises The Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises reviews and makes recommendations on modifications to New York City zoning regulations, changes in zoning districts, applications for sidewalk cafes, and resolutions authorizing the City to make franchise agreements.

  1. Francisco Moya (Chair)
  2. Carlina Rivera
  3. Diana Ayala
  4. Barry Grodenchik
  5. Stephen T. Levin
  6. Antonio Reynoso
  7. Joseph C. Borelli

Committee on Finance

The Committee on Finance has jurisdiction over New York City’s Banking Commission, Department of Design and Construction, Department of Finance, Independent Budget Office, and Office of the Comptroller and reviewing and modifying the City Budget and municipal fiscal policy revenue from any additional sources.

Subcommittee on Capital Budget / Finance

Step Two — February 23 Hearing

In this space and the hundreds of other blogs that might be read on this issue. What are they, where are they? Will it be worth it to update the committee membership and track this legislation?

The proof that communication has been successful when aimed at anyone is if there has been a persuasion to act. I was persuaded to write up my impressions at the link above. Corrections with added perceptions are requested, cross-linked on any insight possible regarding the lame-duck City Council

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