Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/city-charter 2017-12-17T21:16:29+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Hope Knight to Join City Planning Commission at 'Exciting Time' 2015-12-15T23:40:35+00:00 2015-12-15T23:40:35+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6040:hope-knight-to-join-city-planning-commission-at-exciting-time Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/Hope-Knight-via-Rory-Lancman-on-Twitter1.jpg" alt="hope knight city planning" height="527" width="600" /></p> <p>Hope Knight (photo via @rorylancman)</p> <hr /> <p>"It's an exciting time to be joining the City Planning Commission," City Council Member Brad Lander said Tuesday to Hope Knight, a mayoral nominee to the commission at the nexus of controversial housing-related policy being pursued by the de Blasio administration.</p> <p>"It's a tough time to be joining," Knight said during her appearance in front of Lander's committee, which is tasked with vetting potential appointees to several commissions. Knight, who is all but sure to be approved Wednesday by the Rules, Elections, and Privileges Committee, then the full City Council, will fill a vacant seat on the 13-member City Planning Commission, which plays a key role in city land use decisions.</p> <p>The commission is about to hold a major public hearing on de Blasio's zoning plans, then make recommendations for changes before the plans go to the City Council for hearings and, likely, further tweaks before a vote. The plans, which are aimed at spurring more affordable housing development and improving neighborhoods, have received major pushback from local community boards, advocacy groups, and borough presidents. They have also received some support from labor unions, advocacy groups, and others.</p> <p>Acknowledging the intense circumstances, Knight said of land use planning, "the issue is so important to this city, it's critical to the future. There is this affordability crisis that we've got here. Our local land-use tools are available to us to help address this. And so, I hope that I am able to bring [my] community planning and economic development background and perspective to this position and this process, and be able to consider these issues in a very thoughtful way."</p> <p>Knight is currently the CEO and President of the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, a position she will retain while creating the necessary "firewall" so that she does not deal with issues before the city, she said Tuesday. Knight explained that she has received guidance from the city Conflicts of Interest Board and will follow it. Previously, Knight was Chief Operating Officer of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone for about 12 years after several positions in finance.</p> <p>In her pre-hearing questionnaire, Knight wrote to the City Council that the City Planning Commission "must be sensitive to the needs of communities and establish many channels of communication."</p> <p>Knight also wrote that "The strategy of zoning changes to allow residential buildings with additional density, provided that affordable housing is included, is one of the few land use tools that the City has access to in order to greater leverage the development of more affordable housing units."</p> <p>While <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/about/plancom.shtml" target="_blank">the City Planning Commission</a> does much more than zoning amendments, that is the focus of the work right now.</p> <p>With Knight there to observe, the City Planning Commission will hold a much-anticipated <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/luproc/calbeg.shtml" target="_blank">public hearing Wednesday</a> on two proposals by Mayor Bill de Blasio that are essential pieces of his affordable housing plan. Both proposals are changes to the city's land use rules by way of zoning language and have been the source of a great deal of recent debate.</p> <p>Many community boards and all five borough boards have voted against de Blasio's Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning and Zoning for Quality and Affordability proposals. These votes are only advisory, though, and the future of the plans, known as MIH and ZQA, will come down to a City Council vote in early-to-mid 2016. Reasons for opposition and desired tweaks to the plans vary by borough and neighborhood, but some include thresholds for affordability, changes in parking requirements, and increased density or allowable building heights.</p> <p>Between the advice of the community and borough boards and the City Council getting its shot at tweaking the plans, the City Planning Commission will issue its recommended changes. These recommendations will be based, in part, on Wednesday's hearing, which is expected to be long and contentious.</p> <p>On Tuesday, Knight appeared to grasp what she is signing up for, discussing her long career in community planning and advocacy, as well as her outlook on land use decision-making. Lander and his fellow committee members were impressed by Knight's candidacy and appear ready to vote her through to the full Council for approval.</p> <p>Knight will join six other mayoral appointees on the City Planning Commission, as well as one appointee from each borough president, and one appointee by the public advocate. The commission is under the leadership of Chair Carl Weisbrod, who is also the commissioner of the city's Department of City Planning and serves at the discretion of the mayor. Other commission members serve alternating five-year terms. Knight will fill the seat vacated by Bomee Jung, who took a position within the de Blasio administration earlier this year, and will serve the rest of Jung's term, until June 30, 2018. She can be reappointed after that.</p> <p>According to the City Council, the City Charter says that members of the City Planning Commission "are to be chosen for their independence, integrity, and civic commitment."</p> <p>On Tuesday, Council members including Lander, Dan Garodnick, and Margaret Chin, praised Knight for her dedication to community planning and neighborhood advocacy. Council members also wanted to make sure that Knight would hear community feedback around land use policy. Council Member Steven Matteo asked Knight how much weight she puts on community concerns. "I would put tremendous weight on what the community has to say," Knight responded of her approach if she is indeed approved, adding that she has been "at the table" representing communities in land use negotiatons in the past.</p> <p>Repeatedly citing the city's "affordability crisis," Knight also explained that she understands fear of gentrification and that the city must be cognizant of an "aging population."</p> <p>Knight was not questioned about her independence from de Blasio, who nominated her to the commission after his appointments office identified her as a strong candidate.</p> <p>"[I]n order to create more affordable units," Knight said, "we have to look at various land-use tools to implement the possibility of creating units. So, I think that MIH, ZQA, they're all components of the mayor's...housing plan and will have to be more greatly considered to support the growth of new housing."</p> <p>During a Tuesday <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/housing-and-city-planning-officials-talk-mayors-rezoning-plan/" target="_blank">appearance</a> on WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show, de Blasio's planning chief, Weisbrod, said of Wednesday's City Planning Commission hearing and the zoning plans, "We expect to hear a lot of comments on all sides of this issue." The controversy around MIH and ZQA, he said, "Won't get fully resolved until the City Council decides this early next year."</p> <p>***<br />by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank">@tweetBenMax</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/Hope-Knight-via-Rory-Lancman-on-Twitter1.jpg" alt="hope knight city planning" height="527" width="600" /></p> <p>Hope Knight (photo via @rorylancman)</p> <hr /> <p>"It's an exciting time to be joining the City Planning Commission," City Council Member Brad Lander said Tuesday to Hope Knight, a mayoral nominee to the commission at the nexus of controversial housing-related policy being pursued by the de Blasio administration.</p> <p>"It's a tough time to be joining," Knight said during her appearance in front of Lander's committee, which is tasked with vetting potential appointees to several commissions. Knight, who is all but sure to be approved Wednesday by the Rules, Elections, and Privileges Committee, then the full City Council, will fill a vacant seat on the 13-member City Planning Commission, which plays a key role in city land use decisions.</p> <p>The commission is about to hold a major public hearing on de Blasio's zoning plans, then make recommendations for changes before the plans go to the City Council for hearings and, likely, further tweaks before a vote. The plans, which are aimed at spurring more affordable housing development and improving neighborhoods, have received major pushback from local community boards, advocacy groups, and borough presidents. They have also received some support from labor unions, advocacy groups, and others.</p> <p>Acknowledging the intense circumstances, Knight said of land use planning, "the issue is so important to this city, it's critical to the future. There is this affordability crisis that we've got here. Our local land-use tools are available to us to help address this. And so, I hope that I am able to bring [my] community planning and economic development background and perspective to this position and this process, and be able to consider these issues in a very thoughtful way."</p> <p>Knight is currently the CEO and President of the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, a position she will retain while creating the necessary "firewall" so that she does not deal with issues before the city, she said Tuesday. Knight explained that she has received guidance from the city Conflicts of Interest Board and will follow it. Previously, Knight was Chief Operating Officer of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone for about 12 years after several positions in finance.</p> <p>In her pre-hearing questionnaire, Knight wrote to the City Council that the City Planning Commission "must be sensitive to the needs of communities and establish many channels of communication."</p> <p>Knight also wrote that "The strategy of zoning changes to allow residential buildings with additional density, provided that affordable housing is included, is one of the few land use tools that the City has access to in order to greater leverage the development of more affordable housing units."</p> <p>While <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/about/plancom.shtml" target="_blank">the City Planning Commission</a> does much more than zoning amendments, that is the focus of the work right now.</p> <p>With Knight there to observe, the City Planning Commission will hold a much-anticipated <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/luproc/calbeg.shtml" target="_blank">public hearing Wednesday</a> on two proposals by Mayor Bill de Blasio that are essential pieces of his affordable housing plan. Both proposals are changes to the city's land use rules by way of zoning language and have been the source of a great deal of recent debate.</p> <p>Many community boards and all five borough boards have voted against de Blasio's Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning and Zoning for Quality and Affordability proposals. These votes are only advisory, though, and the future of the plans, known as MIH and ZQA, will come down to a City Council vote in early-to-mid 2016. Reasons for opposition and desired tweaks to the plans vary by borough and neighborhood, but some include thresholds for affordability, changes in parking requirements, and increased density or allowable building heights.</p> <p>Between the advice of the community and borough boards and the City Council getting its shot at tweaking the plans, the City Planning Commission will issue its recommended changes. These recommendations will be based, in part, on Wednesday's hearing, which is expected to be long and contentious.</p> <p>On Tuesday, Knight appeared to grasp what she is signing up for, discussing her long career in community planning and advocacy, as well as her outlook on land use decision-making. Lander and his fellow committee members were impressed by Knight's candidacy and appear ready to vote her through to the full Council for approval.</p> <p>Knight will join six other mayoral appointees on the City Planning Commission, as well as one appointee from each borough president, and one appointee by the public advocate. The commission is under the leadership of Chair Carl Weisbrod, who is also the commissioner of the city's Department of City Planning and serves at the discretion of the mayor. Other commission members serve alternating five-year terms. Knight will fill the seat vacated by Bomee Jung, who took a position within the de Blasio administration earlier this year, and will serve the rest of Jung's term, until June 30, 2018. She can be reappointed after that.</p> <p>According to the City Council, the City Charter says that members of the City Planning Commission "are to be chosen for their independence, integrity, and civic commitment."</p> <p>On Tuesday, Council members including Lander, Dan Garodnick, and Margaret Chin, praised Knight for her dedication to community planning and neighborhood advocacy. Council members also wanted to make sure that Knight would hear community feedback around land use policy. Council Member Steven Matteo asked Knight how much weight she puts on community concerns. "I would put tremendous weight on what the community has to say," Knight responded of her approach if she is indeed approved, adding that she has been "at the table" representing communities in land use negotiatons in the past.</p> <p>Repeatedly citing the city's "affordability crisis," Knight also explained that she understands fear of gentrification and that the city must be cognizant of an "aging population."</p> <p>Knight was not questioned about her independence from de Blasio, who nominated her to the commission after his appointments office identified her as a strong candidate.</p> <p>"[I]n order to create more affordable units," Knight said, "we have to look at various land-use tools to implement the possibility of creating units. So, I think that MIH, ZQA, they're all components of the mayor's...housing plan and will have to be more greatly considered to support the growth of new housing."</p> <p>During a Tuesday <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/housing-and-city-planning-officials-talk-mayors-rezoning-plan/" target="_blank">appearance</a> on WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show, de Blasio's planning chief, Weisbrod, said of Wednesday's City Planning Commission hearing and the zoning plans, "We expect to hear a lot of comments on all sides of this issue." The controversy around MIH and ZQA, he said, "Won't get fully resolved until the City Council decides this early next year."</p> <p>***<br />by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank">@tweetBenMax</a></p> At Initial Hearing, Council Members Question Budget Transparency 2015-03-04T21:16:23+00:00 2015-03-04T21:16:23+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5615:at-initial-hearing-council-members-question-budget-transparency Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/ferreras.jpg" alt="ferreras" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">CM Ferreras questions administration officials (photo: @JulissaFerreras)</span></p> <hr /> <p>NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio calls his budget fiscally responsible, progressive, and honest. But is it transparent? According to members of the City Council, it needs some improvement in that regard.</p> <p>On Wednesday, the Council held its first in a series of hearings on the mayor's fiscal year 2016 preliminary budget. Gone were <a href="http://observer.com/2014/03/de-blasio-budget-director-gets-praise-muffins-at-first-council-hearing/" target="_blank">the muffins</a> and soft lines of questioning from the initial council budget hearing last year, the first budget cycle for the new mayor and largely revamped council. Instead, Council Member Julissa Ferreras, chair of the Finance Committee, and her colleagues came armed with pointed questions, particularly related to transparency.</p> <p>Ferreras cited the continued use of broad units of appropriations, lack of detail about key proposals, such as the City's housing plan, the council receiving delayed access to information, such as the Education Five Year Capital Plan, and the lack of clarity around how the administration will find savings without the use of mandated cuts across agencies.</p> <p>"The lack of transparency in the budget and the administration's failure to timely provide budgetary information to the Council impedes the Council's ability to make informed decisions about the City's current fiscal condition, properly assess past and current proposals, and adequately make long-term planning decisions," Ferreras said at the budget hearing on Wednesday.</p> <p>In its budget response last April, the Council demanded large units of appropriation, particularly around education funding, be broken up into specifics to better track spending and progress on initiatives.</p> <p>"We are greatly concerned with the lack of transparency in units of appropriation in the Executive Budget," the April 2014 response <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/html/pr/050814eb.shtml" target="_blank">reads</a>. "Dividing funding for Universal Pre-Kindergarten, Elementary and Middle Schools and High Schools into smaller units of appropriation would increase accountability and transparency in a massive budget, making it easier to track categories of spending and ensure that all school funding is scheduled in the appropriate budget code."</p> <p>Council members were hoping to curb the transparency issues that had plagued the Bloomberg administration, where including overly broad units of appropriation was common place. The Council asked the de Blasio administration to expand units of appropriations (U of A) in six areas. As of the preliminary budget, the de Blasio administration has complied with three of the six: renaming the U of A in the Miscellaneous Budget to "Reserve for Collective Bargaining," moving networks and clusters from the Schools to Regional Administration, and moving charter support costs to the Charter U of A.</p> <p>The request to clean up U of As for Disease Control and Epidemiology is expected by the executive budget, but a new U of A for Early Intervention and a new U of A for Universal Pre-Kindergarten has not been complete.</p> <p>Ferreras asked de Blasio's Budget Director, Dean Fuleihan, what is causing the delay, to which he responded that the City is committed to releasing the fourth detailed U of A by the executive budget, due in April.</p> <p>"That's still not six. And that is still in fiscal year 16, as opposed to fiscal year 15 as we had discussed," Ferreras fired back, exemplary of a somewhat surprisingly tense session, even as the Council is largely supportive of the mayor's policy and budget plans.</p> <p>Ferreras added the expanded U of A for universal pre-K, a $340 million state-funded program, was very important to the Council.</p> <p>"We made a commitment and we will make sure that we keep that," Fuleihan said.</p> <p>Ferreras noted that the Council is expected to make more requests related to U of A, and Fuleihan said that his team would work to make it happen.</p> <p><strong>PEGs</strong><br />When de Blasio released his first budget in early 2014, he did away with Programs to Eliminate the Gap (PEG), which had become infamous during the Bloomberg years, when the mayor required agencies to identify ways to cut spending. The Council would expend enormous energy to restore proposed PEG cuts to things like firehouses and libraries, cuts which rarely made it into the executive budget.</p> <p>Instead of PEG programs, de Blasio decided to use agency efficiency programs, asking each agency to take a look at their departments and propose cuts. But that process has not been made public and the agency efficiency proposals for FY16 are not in the preliminary budget.</p> <p>"We want to make sure when we are here in FY17, we can follow whether the efficiency failed or not," Ferreras said.</p> <p>Fuleihan noted the administration will be presenting that information soon and is open to discussing the format in which the Council would like to receive it. When presenting his preliminary budget, de Blasio told reporters that the cost savings identified by agency commissioners would be made clear in the April executive budget.</p> <p><strong>Capital Plans</strong><br />The City Charter requires the administration to release a 10-year capital plan every two years. The plan allows the administration to showcase its vision for building things like schools and parks. This document is typically filled with dense narratives, charts, and graphs.</p> <p>But this year, the first in which a 10-year capital plan is due for the de Blasio administration, the plan was not as detailed as it has been in the past, at least according to Ferreras, whose opinion was challenged by Fuleihan. He argued the administration included major agency zeroes and significant reductions in the Department of Education for the second five-year period, something not done in the prior administration.</p> <p>"I would argue what we presented you was much more detailed," Fuleihan said. "We are happy to work with you and discuss the merit, but we believe this was a more realistic plan than the last 10-year capital plan that was presented."</p> <p>Fuleihan noted it was a preliminary plan and several items would be affecting it that had not come down the pike yet, including the new PLaNYC, which is due in April, as well as state education funding, also due in April, and federal funding for the Highway Trust Fund, which is set to expire in May.</p> <p>"They would like more transparency," Fuleihan said following the hearing. "We agreed to additional provisions last year in the adopted budget and we will continue to work with them. There is no reason not to work with them."</p> <p>***<br />by Kristen Meriwether, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/MeriwetherK" target="_blank">@MeriwetherK</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/ferreras.jpg" alt="ferreras" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">CM Ferreras questions administration officials (photo: @JulissaFerreras)</span></p> <hr /> <p>NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio calls his budget fiscally responsible, progressive, and honest. But is it transparent? According to members of the City Council, it needs some improvement in that regard.</p> <p>On Wednesday, the Council held its first in a series of hearings on the mayor's fiscal year 2016 preliminary budget. Gone were <a href="http://observer.com/2014/03/de-blasio-budget-director-gets-praise-muffins-at-first-council-hearing/" target="_blank">the muffins</a> and soft lines of questioning from the initial council budget hearing last year, the first budget cycle for the new mayor and largely revamped council. Instead, Council Member Julissa Ferreras, chair of the Finance Committee, and her colleagues came armed with pointed questions, particularly related to transparency.</p> <p>Ferreras cited the continued use of broad units of appropriations, lack of detail about key proposals, such as the City's housing plan, the council receiving delayed access to information, such as the Education Five Year Capital Plan, and the lack of clarity around how the administration will find savings without the use of mandated cuts across agencies.</p> <p>"The lack of transparency in the budget and the administration's failure to timely provide budgetary information to the Council impedes the Council's ability to make informed decisions about the City's current fiscal condition, properly assess past and current proposals, and adequately make long-term planning decisions," Ferreras said at the budget hearing on Wednesday.</p> <p>In its budget response last April, the Council demanded large units of appropriation, particularly around education funding, be broken up into specifics to better track spending and progress on initiatives.</p> <p>"We are greatly concerned with the lack of transparency in units of appropriation in the Executive Budget," the April 2014 response <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/html/pr/050814eb.shtml" target="_blank">reads</a>. "Dividing funding for Universal Pre-Kindergarten, Elementary and Middle Schools and High Schools into smaller units of appropriation would increase accountability and transparency in a massive budget, making it easier to track categories of spending and ensure that all school funding is scheduled in the appropriate budget code."</p> <p>Council members were hoping to curb the transparency issues that had plagued the Bloomberg administration, where including overly broad units of appropriation was common place. The Council asked the de Blasio administration to expand units of appropriations (U of A) in six areas. As of the preliminary budget, the de Blasio administration has complied with three of the six: renaming the U of A in the Miscellaneous Budget to "Reserve for Collective Bargaining," moving networks and clusters from the Schools to Regional Administration, and moving charter support costs to the Charter U of A.</p> <p>The request to clean up U of As for Disease Control and Epidemiology is expected by the executive budget, but a new U of A for Early Intervention and a new U of A for Universal Pre-Kindergarten has not been complete.</p> <p>Ferreras asked de Blasio's Budget Director, Dean Fuleihan, what is causing the delay, to which he responded that the City is committed to releasing the fourth detailed U of A by the executive budget, due in April.</p> <p>"That's still not six. And that is still in fiscal year 16, as opposed to fiscal year 15 as we had discussed," Ferreras fired back, exemplary of a somewhat surprisingly tense session, even as the Council is largely supportive of the mayor's policy and budget plans.</p> <p>Ferreras added the expanded U of A for universal pre-K, a $340 million state-funded program, was very important to the Council.</p> <p>"We made a commitment and we will make sure that we keep that," Fuleihan said.</p> <p>Ferreras noted that the Council is expected to make more requests related to U of A, and Fuleihan said that his team would work to make it happen.</p> <p><strong>PEGs</strong><br />When de Blasio released his first budget in early 2014, he did away with Programs to Eliminate the Gap (PEG), which had become infamous during the Bloomberg years, when the mayor required agencies to identify ways to cut spending. The Council would expend enormous energy to restore proposed PEG cuts to things like firehouses and libraries, cuts which rarely made it into the executive budget.</p> <p>Instead of PEG programs, de Blasio decided to use agency efficiency programs, asking each agency to take a look at their departments and propose cuts. But that process has not been made public and the agency efficiency proposals for FY16 are not in the preliminary budget.</p> <p>"We want to make sure when we are here in FY17, we can follow whether the efficiency failed or not," Ferreras said.</p> <p>Fuleihan noted the administration will be presenting that information soon and is open to discussing the format in which the Council would like to receive it. When presenting his preliminary budget, de Blasio told reporters that the cost savings identified by agency commissioners would be made clear in the April executive budget.</p> <p><strong>Capital Plans</strong><br />The City Charter requires the administration to release a 10-year capital plan every two years. The plan allows the administration to showcase its vision for building things like schools and parks. This document is typically filled with dense narratives, charts, and graphs.</p> <p>But this year, the first in which a 10-year capital plan is due for the de Blasio administration, the plan was not as detailed as it has been in the past, at least according to Ferreras, whose opinion was challenged by Fuleihan. He argued the administration included major agency zeroes and significant reductions in the Department of Education for the second five-year period, something not done in the prior administration.</p> <p>"I would argue what we presented you was much more detailed," Fuleihan said. "We are happy to work with you and discuss the merit, but we believe this was a more realistic plan than the last 10-year capital plan that was presented."</p> <p>Fuleihan noted it was a preliminary plan and several items would be affecting it that had not come down the pike yet, including the new PLaNYC, which is due in April, as well as state education funding, also due in April, and federal funding for the Highway Trust Fund, which is set to expire in May.</p> <p>"They would like more transparency," Fuleihan said following the hearing. "We agreed to additional provisions last year in the adopted budget and we will continue to work with them. There is no reason not to work with them."</p> <p>***<br />by Kristen Meriwether, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/MeriwetherK" target="_blank">@MeriwetherK</a></p>