Friday, May 22, 2009

End of public review?

The NYC.Gov questionnaire on Environmental Review ("environment" here includes all impacts of a development on communities and includes public review) invites developers to provide reasons for dismantling ("streamlining") the review process. Once again, I urge you to go to the NYC.Gov Environmental Review questionnaire and explain why public review is important and should be strengthened.

Here's what I posted on the questionnaire (for an explanation of Environmental Review see the post below)

In answer to the question, "What contributes to the length and cost of the environmental review?":
What contributes to the length and cost of the environmental review is the government's essential responsibility to protect the public good, the indispensable need for public oversight, the public's need for protection from harmful development, and the responsibility of government to ensure that the public is not only protected, but informed and empowered against private interests that are not concerned at all with the public good or with sound urban planning.

In answer to the question, "How can City agencies communicate more effectively with the public concerning public hearings and meetings?" (the only well-meaning question there):

Community Boards and the city administration should provide the means for local organizing, with neighborhood websites and street-by-street blogs devoted to community issues where local residents and business owners can read press releases and post on issues of concern.
Community Boards should be required to publicize hearings at least one month in advance.
Developers should be required to post their building plans on the construction site as soon as they apply for plan approval.

And in answer to the question, "We want to know where you see opportunities for improvement. Which aspects of the process are successful and could be used as models to improve more problematic areas? Why?":

1) Including alternatives in the review enhances the value of the process and takes best advantage of resources. More alternatives should be included to afford the process greater flexibility and allow better planning directions and ideas a chance to be considered.
2) The independent research firm that conducts the reviews should be assessed and vetted by independent public interest urban planning groups including The Municipal Arts Society and the Historic Districts Council.
Currently, zoning EIS's have the uniform look of a rubber stamp for DCP. a) The independence of the public review must be ensured. It should not respond to developers' needs, but to the public's needs. b) The objectivity of the process must be protected. The Environmental Review must not become a rubber stamp for development.
3) The comprehensiveness, detail and thoroughness of the Review must be ensured and expanded. All aspects of impact on the community and surrounding communities must be carefully and objectively assessed by an independent party.
4) Public hearings and public outreach must be expanded.
5) Means of informing and educating the public must be enhanced.

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