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/eddie-bautista 2017-10-20T14:10:40+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Fair Share: Design Flaws, Flashpoints & Possible Updates 2016-11-20T05:00:00+00:00 2016-11-20T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6633:fair-share-design-flaws-flashpoints-possible-updates Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/27449795996_b13ffb1f6f_z.jpg" alt="garbage trucks" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Trucks (photo: Sofie Hecht/Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p><em><strong>This is part two of a two-part series on the city’s Fair Share rules. Read part one: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6630-city-may-soon-have-more-formal-fair-share-discussion" target="_blank">City May Soon Have More Formal ‘Fair Share’ Discussion</a></strong></em></p> <p><strong>Fair Share Flawed from the Beginning, Some Say</strong><br />Ronald Shiffman, now professor emeritus at the Pratt Institute and co-founder of Pratt’s Center for Community Development, was appointed to the newly-expanded City Planning Commission in 1990, and was present for the adoption of the Fair Share Criteria. He told Gotham Gazette that the creation of the criteria was compelled in large part by increasing concern over the then-nascent homelessness crisis and the early power of the emerging environmental justice movement.</p> <p>“The criteria came out of the need to house populations that were more difficult to house at that time: the homeless, people just released from mental hospitals, people with AIDS,” Shiffman said. “Because of statewide deinstitutionalization policies, the city had to find a way to house these people. The criteria were meant in part to prevent communities from discriminating against those populations.”</p> <p>Shiffman also said that the criteria were kept intentionally vague, so as not to “tie the city’s hands” when shelters and other facilities needed to be sited quickly, and noted the difficulty of achieving an equal distribution of burdens.</p> <p>“How do you make sure that no area is getting over-concentration due to having more city-owned property or being less powerful than other communities?” Shiffman said. “There is a difficult line between preventing communities from excluding populations in dire need of housing and giving communities tools to protest an over-concentration of ‘burdensome’ facilities. It was a goal, to find a balance, and for everyone to carry their fair share of residential facilities.”</p> <p>According to Shiffman, the Fair Share Criteria began to lose power as more city services and facilities were taken over by not-for-profit and private entities, because the accountability and mapping requirements set forth by the criteria apply to only city-owned and operated facilities.</p> <p>“With the privatization of those facilities, city control kind of evaporated,” Shiffman said. “Devolving so much authority to the private sector allowed service providers and the city to do things that were far more inequitable than when we were dealing only with city-owned lots.”</p> <p>At the same time that the newly-created criteria sought to compel communities to do their part to shelter fellow New Yorkers, the environmental justice movement saw the criteria as a tool to help protect low-income communities of color from becoming dumping grounds for waste processing stations.</p> <p>Eddie Bautista is the director of the New York Environmental Justice Alliance; in 1990, when the criteria were enacted, he was the Director of Community Planning with the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI). Bautista said that the criteria emerged at the same time that the environmental justice movement in New York was ramping up.</p> <p>“Environmental activists saw Fair Share as an organizing opportunity,” Bautista told Gotham Gazette. “We developed a citywide coalition with groups doing different environmental organizing in low-income neighborhoods of color.” Those neighborhoods, Bautista said, had “too much of the bad stuff and not enough of the good stuff.”</p> <p>Bautista and others in the environmental justice movement at the time hoped that the criteria would increase transparency of the city facility-siting process, and provide an “early warning” to communities whose neighborhoods had been selected for waste processing stations so that they might intervene.</p> <p>“The Charter Revision in ‘89 put land use in the hands of the City Council,” Bautista said.</p> <p>While NYLPI was able to prevent the construction of two sludge treatment facilities using the criteria as an argument, Bautista says that, overall, the criteria are too superficial in nature and too opaque in execution to be impactful.</p> <p>“Fair Share was never designed to get at the root causes of inequity in neighborhoods,” Bautista said. “It was made to look at the symptoms of the problem; it wasn’t going to change the siting dynamic.”</p> <p>Bautista also points to the lack of penalties levied upon city agencies that do not submit upcoming facilities to the Citywide Statement of Needs; noting that there are no consequences for an agency that does not include plans to open a new facility in a neighborhood. For instance, the Fire Department submitted a site relocation proposal in the Statement of Needs for <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/planning/download/pdf/about/publications/son_16_17.pdf" target="_blank">Fiscal Years 2016/2017</a> but did not do so for <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/planning/download/pdf/about/publications/son_17_18.pdf" target="_blank">Fiscal Years 2017/2018</a>. At the same time, in 2016/2017, Department of Homeless Services and the Administration of Child Services had no site proposals, but in the next statement, both agencies put forward multiple projects. Not enforcing a complete picture of new facilities in neighborhoods means that communities “never get an accurate view of what’s happening in their areas,” Bautista said.</p> <p>“We had three administrations where Fair Share was meaningless because the regulatory framework made it so toothless,” Bautista said, referring to Mayors Dinkins, Giuliani, and Bloomberg.</p> <p>A representative for the City Planning Commission confirmed that there are no punitive measures taken against agencies that fail to participate in the annual statement, but that checks and balances on siting decisions occur throughout the ULURP and public comment process. Often, it is left to City Council oversight and public pushback to a Council member or at a Council hearing to hold sway over these types of omissions.</p> <p>Despite high hopes at the outset, there is no doubt that the Fair Share Criteria have not proved as useful as early proponents had hoped. But, their influence is starting to be felt again in conversations around distribution of facilities. The perception and reality of inequitable distribution are a constant in headlines across New York, as evidenced by the defeated proposal for the homeless shelter in Wakefield, which would have oversaturated the neighborhood, and the agitation over the conversion of the hotel into a homeless shelter in Maspeth, Queens, where the city has limited such facilities. In both situations, the city has had to navigate local concerns while attempting to install services and infrastructure for a growing population. In the case of Wakefield, Council Member Andy Cohen believes Fair Share was definitely a contributing factor in the administration’s final decision. In an interview outside City Hall, he told Gotham Gazette that there is a tension between the city’s need to house the homeless and the needs of communities.</p> <p>“I think in order to maintain quality of life there just has to be balance,” he said, “and having a disproportionate number of homeless people being serviced out of one community, I think taxes the NYPD.” He cited as an example one of the shelters in the Wakefield neighborhood that he said had generated more than 500 911 calls within the first six months of opening. “The precinct is not able to service the rest of the...precinct if they’re answering all of these calls so that’s the kind of example of why I think it’s important that these facilities are spread out in a proportional and representative way,” Council Member Cohen said.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Fair Share Flashpoints</strong><br />Council Speaker Mark-Viverito ignited a firestorm of protest and earned quite a few applause when she spoke hopefully in her <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/12/nyregion/melissa-mark-viverito-council-speaker-vows-to-pursue-new-criminal-justice-reforms.html?_r=0" target="_blank">2016 State of the City address</a> of reducing the jail population of Rikers Island so significantly “that the dream of shutting it down becomes a reality,” and announced the creation of a special commission to be led by Jonathan Lippman, former Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals. The commission is reviewing the city’s entire criminal justice system, including the possibility of closing the island’s jails and relocating the detainees and inmates.</p> <p><a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20160331/college-point/city-quietly-eying-sites-for-new-jails-replace-rikers-island-sources" target="_blank">DNAinfo reported in March</a> that, contrary to earlier claims from the mayor’s office that the closure proposal was a “noble” but “unworkable” concept, city officials had begun examining several locations for new and expanded jails that might house the thousands displaced by shuttering Rikers complexes. As of October 20, Rikers held about 7,500 inmates, many awaiting trial, and other city jails off the island held about 2,200, for a Department of Correction headcount of 9,764, according to a DOC spokesperson.</p> <p>According to DNAinfo, officials identified possible locations in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and on Staten Island, “where two new jails — each housing as many as 2,000 inmates — could be built.” According to several proposals that have been around for years, existing detention centers could and should be expanded to also accommodate detainees if Rikers were to be closed -- something Mayor de Blasio has called a long-shot and a many years, multi-billion dollar project if it were to ever come to fruition.</p> <p>Perhaps even more daunting to the prospect of closing Rikers jails than several billion dollars in costs are the roadblocks thrown up by the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, or ULURP. In the event that the city would need to site small jails to take on the incarcerated population, each site would be subject to a lengthy, complicated, and controversial process that also requires the application of the Fair Share Criteria. Pushback from several City Council members was quick and fierce when DNAinfo reported on potential <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20160404/east-new-york/more-neighborhoods-surface-as-possible-new-jail-sites-for-rikers-shutdown" target="_blank">communities</a> being targeted. No one wants a jail in their district - or “back yard.”</p> <p>One site on the short list for a hypothetical new jail is Hunt’s Point, where a jail barge holding 800 prisoners is currently moored - and the very neighborhood Mark-Viverito held up as an example of an area already saturated with more than its fair share of burdensome facilities.</p> <p>“While I understand that we need to make strides in improving corrections infrastructure, primarily Rikers Island, the solution is not building a new facility in the South Bronx,” City Council Member Rafael Salamanca, recently elected to represent the area, said in an April <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/jeffrey-d-klein/klein-salamanca-city-no-mini-rikers-hunts-point-community" target="_blank">press release</a>, released in collaboration with State Senator Jeff Klein.</p> <p>City Council Member Antonio Reynoso, who represents Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Ridgewood, said in a statement that while he has not been able to verify that the city is considering using a National Grid site in his district as a jail location, “...if it were true, the proposal would need to go through public land use review, and I would never allow it to pass.” The Council is known to defer to the local representative on land use decisions.</p> <p>City Council Member Joseph Borelli, of Staten Island’s south shore, has advocated for addressing conditions at Rikers in lieu of shutting it down. He put his response plainly in <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2016/02/staten_island_jail.html" target="_blank">his letter</a> to Mark-Viverito: “No one wants a jail next to their house.”&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Homeless Shelters</strong><br />In 2013, then-Comptroller John Liu <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/wp-content/uploads/documents/20130509_NYC_ShelterSiteReport_v24_May.pdf" target="_blank">released a report</a> that set out to examine the way the city chooses sites for homeless shelters, and to “determine if the City’s goal of transparency is being effectively achieved by implementation of the Fair Share Criteria.” The answer, in short, was “no,” but the report dove deep into the ways the complex process of siting city facilities is made even more convoluted and opaque when different kinds of shelters and shelter operators are in play.</p> <p>“Shelters are undoubtedly clustered in low-income neighborhoods,” the report stated. Using data from 2011, the comptroller’s office showed that “family and adult shelters were unevenly dispersed across the city,” with the greatest concentrations found in the Bronx, followed by Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. Staten Island was not included, because its six shelters made the borough an outlier that skewed citywide results. The analysis is never as simple as being borough-based, of course, and there are specific communities that are at the heart of fair share issues.</p> <p>Though the unequal distribution of shelters was stark, the report was more an indictment of the failure of the Fair Share Criteria to ensure transparency in the shelter siting process. The criteria, the report said, should “set the framework for dialogue between communities and government in an effort to achieve optimal levels of efficiency, utility, and fairness in the siting of public facilities,” and were developed “to provide communities with a transparent decision-making process that facilitates adequate planning and takes communities’ needs into account.”</p> <p>To this end, the report pointed out a litany of shortcomings, chief among them that a large number of homeless shelters are regularly not included on the annual Citywide Statement of Needs. Many DHS shelters are excluded, as are emergency shelters, which by nature are not anticipated, though potential sites could be identified earlier; as well as per diem shelters, “which are not City facilities” and therefore skirt a real public input process. Those exclusions, the report says, prevent communities from offering comment or intervening once a site has been chosen.</p> <p>The lengthy report contains a thorough critique of and suggestions for improvement to the transparency aspects of the Fair Share Criteria, but the driving conclusions were that “there is poor notification and limited community participation in decisions about siting family and adult homeless shelters” and that “clustering is occurring and that certain neighborhoods across the City have a higher proportion of family and adult shelters than others” - namely, low-income neighborhoods such as Bedford-Stuyvesant and Brownsville in Brooklyn, Fordham, Morris Heights, Belmont, and East Tremont in the Bronx, and Central Harlem in Manhattan.</p> <p>If the public notification and input process were improved, the report says, a more transparent process might create a more equitable distribution of facilities.</p> <p>The problems of transparency and clustering don’t seem to have improved significantly since that data was collected in 2011.</p> <p>In 2015, the Department of Homeless Services <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20150824/belmont/map-10-community-districts-carry-bulk-of-citys-homeless-shelters" target="_blank">released data</a> showing that the ten community districts with the most homeless shelters contain more shelters than the other 49 districts combined. Of those top ten districts, four were located in the Bronx.</p> <p>The other areas with the highest concentration of shelters were almost all low-income and predominantly non-white, including Manhattan Community Boards 10 and 3 in Harlem and the Lower East Side, respectively; Brooklyn CB3 in Bed-Stuy; and Manhattan CB11 in East Harlem.</p> <p>“New York City is legally obligated to provide shelter to any New Yorker who would otherwise be on the streets,” said a Department of Homeless Services spokesperson in an email. “Mayor de Blasio charged the administration with evaluating the breadth of human services located in each community district citywide to identify areas to locate new shelter facilities. We are committed to engaging communities on these issues, listening to feedback and working to address community concerns.”</p> <p>DHS takes a number of factors into consideration when selecting a new site for a homeless shelter -- rating the bid made for the site, whether the building has the appropriate documentation, including a Certificate of Occupancy, whether it complies with requirements of the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA), timeframe of availability, potential capacity and saturation, among others. The OTDA also has to approve the expansion of an existing shelter. In non-emergency circumstances, the city ensures that elected officials are informed of a shelter opening at least 45 days in advance. DHS now also creates a Community Advisory Board for every new shelter. These boards, comprised of appointees of local elected officials and community members, hold monthly meetings with DHS staff, the shelter operator, and NYPD to discuss any pertinent issues.</p> <p>However, the regulatory void in which homeless shelter siting operates became apparent in 2014, when DHS successfully opened a new homeless shelter for adult families without children at 56-66 Clay St. in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, despite protests from local officials and community members that a public review process had not taken place.</p> <p>Assembly Member Joseph Lentol pushed back, citing the four existing shelters in his district, and asking city officials to consider the Fair Share Criteria before making a final decision.</p> <p>"For more than 40 years we have been our brother’s keeper, and we continue to accept that responsibility on the condition that we are not being unfairly singled out to carry this burden," Lentol said in a letter to Department of Homeless Services about the conflict. "Other communities are not carrying this same burden because Community Board 1 is unfairly carrying this load."</p> <p>But the shelter on Clay Street was not subject to the Fair Share Criteria, or to any lengthy public review process. It was instated as an emergency shelter, for which DHS must only give seven days notice. While DHS acted legally, the shelter felt as though it had been “smuggled in by the dead of night,” Board 1 chair Dealice Fuller said in a letter to Mayor de Blasio last year.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Waste Management</strong><br />On August 17, Mayor de Blasio announced major planned reforms to the city’s commercial sanitation industry, which would seek to reduce truck traffic and emissions, increase recycling and promote environmental justice by creating commercial waste zones that are each served by one private sanitation company. The plan was praised by the Transform Don’t Trash NYC coalition, an environmental justice community group that has long advocated against the problem of waste facility clustering in the city.</p> <p>While city officials are making and eyeing significant strides toward reducing the amount of waste New York residents and businesses produce, processing and transfer stations are concentrated in a handful of low-income communities populated predominantly by people of color.</p> <p>Transform Don’t Trash NYC <a href="http://transformdonttrashnyc.org/resources/dirty-wasteful-unsustainable-the-urgent-need-to-reform-new-york-citys-commercial-waste-system/" target="_blank">released a report in 2015</a> indicting the city’s “inefficient and ad-hoc arrangement” for waste processing that allows hundreds of private hauling companies to collect waste from restaurants, stores, and other businesses each night and “truck it to dozens of transfer stations and recycling facilities concentrated in a handful of low-income communities of color.”</p> <p>After collecting data for both city-run and privately-owned waste collectors, the report authors found that 75% of all waste handled in New York City is trucked to transfer stations in <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5589-the-bronx-is-breathing-waste-transfer-station-city-council" target="_blank">just three outer-borough neighborhoods</a> in North Brooklyn, the South Bronx, and Northeast Queens.</p> <p>The 4,000-plus diesel trucks that transport waste to those facilities each day emit exhaust, increase traffic congestion, and add wear and tear to roads, according to the report. The study found that the trucks’ emissions alone have a significant negative impact of <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5111-while-improving-quiet-crisis-air-quality-persists-new-york-city-asthma-air-pollution" target="_blank">air quality in neighborhoods</a> where waste facilities are clustered.</p> <p>While de Blasio’s new commercial sanitation plan will address these issues, there is no indication if it will also look at the Fair Share Criteria to site new waste management facilities. In March, the New Harlem East Merchants Association wrote a letter to the Department of Sanitation, demanding that the department reconsider its <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20160218/east-harlem/city-ignores-concerns-about-proposed-sanitation-garage-residents-say" target="_blank">decision to open a sanitation garage</a> in a residential neighborhood on 3rd Avenue, about 1,200 feet away from another garage on East 131 Street, and in close proximity to two schools and a new cancer treatment facility.</p> <p>According to a statement from New Harlem East Merchants Association, the addition “would place an unfair burden on the East Harlem community,” which already struggles with an asthma rate twice that of the city-wide average (asthma rates in the nearby South Bronx are also quite high). The city has not indicated that community protest will prevent a second garage from going up.</p> <p>However, where the Fair Share Criteria have failed, local legislators are pursuing alternative projects and policies to prevent low-income communities from handling the vast majority of the city’s waste with a mind toward more equitable distribution.</p> <p>Building on the 20-year <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/dsny/about/laws/solid-waste-management-plan.shtml" target="_blank">Solid Waste Management Plan</a> (SWMP), which has an environmental justice focus and was adopted by Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council in 2006, City Council Member Steve Levin of Brooklyn introduced a bill in October 2014. <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=1937616&amp;GUID=2680B9A0-32EF-4B2F-BFD3-85D48111006F&amp;Options=ID|Text|&amp;Search=495" target="_blank">Intro. 495</a>, also known as the “Trash Cap,” would cut the daily waste processing capacity in the three most-burdened neighborhoods -- North Brooklyn, South Bronx, and Northeast Queens -- by 50% of the daily trash volume they currently receive, according to Council Member Antonio Reynoso’s legislative director, Lacey Tauber. It would also cap the permitted capacity of waste transfer stations at 10 percent of the average citywide capacity.&nbsp;</p> <p>Reynoso, who is chair of the Council’s Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste, also represents the district with the highest concentration of waste facilities: parts of Brooklyn including Williamsburg and Bushwick.&nbsp;</p> <p>Under the trash cap bill, all community districts with solid waste transfer stations would be capped, but not every cap would be the same, Tauber told Gotham Gazette. The bill considers any community district handling more than 10 percent of the city’s waste as overburdened and seeks to ensure that community districts that aren’t already over that threshold are capped at 10 percent and cannot be pushed over it.</p> <p>“The [10 percent] cap on citywide waste ensures that lessening the burden on one community does not simply transfer that full burden to another similar community,” Tauber said.</p> <p>Tauber added that pairing prevention of over-saturation of waste facilities with a clear alternative is key to not sacrificing equity in one community to benefit another.</p> <p>“If we say you can’t bring it here but don’t specify where it can go, that directs waste to other low-income communities of color,” Tauber said.</p> <p>After negotiations with the de Blasio administration about the bill, which had a hearing early in 2015, it was amended to increase the cap from the original proposal of 5 percent to the current 10 percent. The bill has not yet been voted on in committee.</p> <p>Another way to decrease truck traffic and associated ills is through the use of marine transfer stations, or MTS, where waste leaves the city via barge, decreasing traffic and consolidating the process. The city is opening MTS in Queens, Brooklyn, and, perhaps most famously, on 91 Street on the Upper East Side. According to the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance, the latter, a wealthy and well-connected neighborhood, has funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars into an <a href="http://ny.curbed.com/2014/11/25/10018036/trash-clash" target="_blank">opposition campaign</a>. Nevertheless, construction is still underway, and proponents of MTS believe the three will offer significant relief to overburdened communities.</p> <p>“It will help decrease traffic, congestion, pollution - everything that the trucks bring into those low-income neighborhoods,” Tauber said of the Upper East Side MTS.</p> <p>Yet, the MTS currently only deal with the residential waste under the jurisdiction of the Department of Sanitation. Incentivizing private truck companies that pick up waste from businesses and restaurants is another challenge that the city appears to be targeting through the neighborhood zoning plan. This model allows the city to consolidate truck traffic and regulate labor standards, truck emissions, and more. The proposal that the de Blasio administration put out has <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2016/08/tough-fight-in-store-for-de-blasios-private-carting-proposal-104815" target="_blank">a long way to go before becoming law</a>.</p> <p><strong>Updating Fair Share</strong><br />Despite noble intentions, the Fair Share Criteria does not achieve the kind of transparent public input process and equitable city landscape sought by its supporters. While Speaker Mark-Viverito promised in her February State of the City address that the City Council would “empower neighborhoods by working with our partners in City and State government to create tools and improve opportunities for public input in the Fair Share process,” no specific legislation has been put forth. In the August interview with Gotham Gazette, she said the Council was exploring the issue, and may put out a paper on it.&nbsp;</p> <p>City Council Member Brad Lander, long a proponent of progressive city planning practices, has clear ideas about how to revamp the criteria.</p> <p>“Step one is to provide more transparency on both the existing siting of various forms of municipal infrastructure and services that are covered by the fair share rules, and more transparency on each individual application so it will be possible to really evaluate whether it is fair or not fair,” Lander told Gotham Gazette in an interview.</p> <p>Second, Lander said that the criteria have to be updated. “If City Planning wants to do that, great. But if not, we need to step forward and push them to do it,” he said.</p> <p>The third objective, Lander said, and one that could be the most challenging legislatively, “is putting some teeth in the laws, having some consequence for unfair sitings, making unfair sitings be more difficult for the city than fairer ones.”</p> <p>“Developing a system that has at least a thumb on the scale toward more equitable distribution: that’s the ultimate goal,” Lander said.</p> <p>The City made significant moves in this direction in April, according to Lander, when the administration quietly resurrected the formerly-annual <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/operations/downloads/pdf/Social-Indicators-Report-April-2016.pdf" target="_blank">Social Indicators Report.</a> Though the annual report was mandated in the same 1989 Charter Revision that created the Fair Share Criteria, this is the first report to be published by a Mayor in a decade.</p> <p>The report, which mostly escaped public notice, provides a comprehensive statistical snapshot of the city, ostensibly to provide a clearer understanding of both need and progress in various communities. The data is disaggregated by 45 different indicators, including race, income, gender, education, English proficiency, and others. The report’s introduction states that it is “meant to help guide the City’s efforts to reduce disparities and advance equity.”</p> <p>Lander says that while the City Council works on how to update and improve the Fair Share Criteria, the Social Indicators Report is a valuable and promising tool. “It’s a good, strong step forward,” Lander said. The Council member did not indicate whether anything on fair share from his office or the Council in general should be expected any time soon.</p> <p>Eddie Bautista, executive director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance and veteran in the fight against clustering waste facilities in low-income neighborhoods, is cautiously optimistic.</p> <p>“What would make it meaningful would be to go back to the original concept: transparency and a full accounting of the burdens and lack of benefits in each community,” Bautista said.</p> <p>“The Fair Share Criteria was all we could muster in ‘89 and ‘90. After 25 years of cynicism, I’m looking forward to the [City Council] speaker - the first speaker of color - and Brad Lander - an activist involved in early fair share conversations - working toward a solution on this.”</p> <p><em>**This is part two of a two-part series on the city’s Fair Share rules. Read part one:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6630-city-may-soon-have-more-formal-fair-share-discussion" target="_blank">City May Soon Have More Formal ‘Fair Share’ Discussion</a>**</em></p> <p>***<br />by Maggie Calmes &amp; Samar Khurshid for Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p>Note: this story has been updated to reflect amended language in Intro. 495, the "Trash Cap" bill.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/27449795996_b13ffb1f6f_z.jpg" alt="garbage trucks" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Trucks (photo: Sofie Hecht/Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p><em><strong>This is part two of a two-part series on the city’s Fair Share rules. Read part one: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6630-city-may-soon-have-more-formal-fair-share-discussion" target="_blank">City May Soon Have More Formal ‘Fair Share’ Discussion</a></strong></em></p> <p><strong>Fair Share Flawed from the Beginning, Some Say</strong><br />Ronald Shiffman, now professor emeritus at the Pratt Institute and co-founder of Pratt’s Center for Community Development, was appointed to the newly-expanded City Planning Commission in 1990, and was present for the adoption of the Fair Share Criteria. He told Gotham Gazette that the creation of the criteria was compelled in large part by increasing concern over the then-nascent homelessness crisis and the early power of the emerging environmental justice movement.</p> <p>“The criteria came out of the need to house populations that were more difficult to house at that time: the homeless, people just released from mental hospitals, people with AIDS,” Shiffman said. “Because of statewide deinstitutionalization policies, the city had to find a way to house these people. The criteria were meant in part to prevent communities from discriminating against those populations.”</p> <p>Shiffman also said that the criteria were kept intentionally vague, so as not to “tie the city’s hands” when shelters and other facilities needed to be sited quickly, and noted the difficulty of achieving an equal distribution of burdens.</p> <p>“How do you make sure that no area is getting over-concentration due to having more city-owned property or being less powerful than other communities?” Shiffman said. “There is a difficult line between preventing communities from excluding populations in dire need of housing and giving communities tools to protest an over-concentration of ‘burdensome’ facilities. It was a goal, to find a balance, and for everyone to carry their fair share of residential facilities.”</p> <p>According to Shiffman, the Fair Share Criteria began to lose power as more city services and facilities were taken over by not-for-profit and private entities, because the accountability and mapping requirements set forth by the criteria apply to only city-owned and operated facilities.</p> <p>“With the privatization of those facilities, city control kind of evaporated,” Shiffman said. “Devolving so much authority to the private sector allowed service providers and the city to do things that were far more inequitable than when we were dealing only with city-owned lots.”</p> <p>At the same time that the newly-created criteria sought to compel communities to do their part to shelter fellow New Yorkers, the environmental justice movement saw the criteria as a tool to help protect low-income communities of color from becoming dumping grounds for waste processing stations.</p> <p>Eddie Bautista is the director of the New York Environmental Justice Alliance; in 1990, when the criteria were enacted, he was the Director of Community Planning with the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI). Bautista said that the criteria emerged at the same time that the environmental justice movement in New York was ramping up.</p> <p>“Environmental activists saw Fair Share as an organizing opportunity,” Bautista told Gotham Gazette. “We developed a citywide coalition with groups doing different environmental organizing in low-income neighborhoods of color.” Those neighborhoods, Bautista said, had “too much of the bad stuff and not enough of the good stuff.”</p> <p>Bautista and others in the environmental justice movement at the time hoped that the criteria would increase transparency of the city facility-siting process, and provide an “early warning” to communities whose neighborhoods had been selected for waste processing stations so that they might intervene.</p> <p>“The Charter Revision in ‘89 put land use in the hands of the City Council,” Bautista said.</p> <p>While NYLPI was able to prevent the construction of two sludge treatment facilities using the criteria as an argument, Bautista says that, overall, the criteria are too superficial in nature and too opaque in execution to be impactful.</p> <p>“Fair Share was never designed to get at the root causes of inequity in neighborhoods,” Bautista said. “It was made to look at the symptoms of the problem; it wasn’t going to change the siting dynamic.”</p> <p>Bautista also points to the lack of penalties levied upon city agencies that do not submit upcoming facilities to the Citywide Statement of Needs; noting that there are no consequences for an agency that does not include plans to open a new facility in a neighborhood. For instance, the Fire Department submitted a site relocation proposal in the Statement of Needs for <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/planning/download/pdf/about/publications/son_16_17.pdf" target="_blank">Fiscal Years 2016/2017</a> but did not do so for <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/planning/download/pdf/about/publications/son_17_18.pdf" target="_blank">Fiscal Years 2017/2018</a>. At the same time, in 2016/2017, Department of Homeless Services and the Administration of Child Services had no site proposals, but in the next statement, both agencies put forward multiple projects. Not enforcing a complete picture of new facilities in neighborhoods means that communities “never get an accurate view of what’s happening in their areas,” Bautista said.</p> <p>“We had three administrations where Fair Share was meaningless because the regulatory framework made it so toothless,” Bautista said, referring to Mayors Dinkins, Giuliani, and Bloomberg.</p> <p>A representative for the City Planning Commission confirmed that there are no punitive measures taken against agencies that fail to participate in the annual statement, but that checks and balances on siting decisions occur throughout the ULURP and public comment process. Often, it is left to City Council oversight and public pushback to a Council member or at a Council hearing to hold sway over these types of omissions.</p> <p>Despite high hopes at the outset, there is no doubt that the Fair Share Criteria have not proved as useful as early proponents had hoped. But, their influence is starting to be felt again in conversations around distribution of facilities. The perception and reality of inequitable distribution are a constant in headlines across New York, as evidenced by the defeated proposal for the homeless shelter in Wakefield, which would have oversaturated the neighborhood, and the agitation over the conversion of the hotel into a homeless shelter in Maspeth, Queens, where the city has limited such facilities. In both situations, the city has had to navigate local concerns while attempting to install services and infrastructure for a growing population. In the case of Wakefield, Council Member Andy Cohen believes Fair Share was definitely a contributing factor in the administration’s final decision. In an interview outside City Hall, he told Gotham Gazette that there is a tension between the city’s need to house the homeless and the needs of communities.</p> <p>“I think in order to maintain quality of life there just has to be balance,” he said, “and having a disproportionate number of homeless people being serviced out of one community, I think taxes the NYPD.” He cited as an example one of the shelters in the Wakefield neighborhood that he said had generated more than 500 911 calls within the first six months of opening. “The precinct is not able to service the rest of the...precinct if they’re answering all of these calls so that’s the kind of example of why I think it’s important that these facilities are spread out in a proportional and representative way,” Council Member Cohen said.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Fair Share Flashpoints</strong><br />Council Speaker Mark-Viverito ignited a firestorm of protest and earned quite a few applause when she spoke hopefully in her <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/12/nyregion/melissa-mark-viverito-council-speaker-vows-to-pursue-new-criminal-justice-reforms.html?_r=0" target="_blank">2016 State of the City address</a> of reducing the jail population of Rikers Island so significantly “that the dream of shutting it down becomes a reality,” and announced the creation of a special commission to be led by Jonathan Lippman, former Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals. The commission is reviewing the city’s entire criminal justice system, including the possibility of closing the island’s jails and relocating the detainees and inmates.</p> <p><a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20160331/college-point/city-quietly-eying-sites-for-new-jails-replace-rikers-island-sources" target="_blank">DNAinfo reported in March</a> that, contrary to earlier claims from the mayor’s office that the closure proposal was a “noble” but “unworkable” concept, city officials had begun examining several locations for new and expanded jails that might house the thousands displaced by shuttering Rikers complexes. As of October 20, Rikers held about 7,500 inmates, many awaiting trial, and other city jails off the island held about 2,200, for a Department of Correction headcount of 9,764, according to a DOC spokesperson.</p> <p>According to DNAinfo, officials identified possible locations in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and on Staten Island, “where two new jails — each housing as many as 2,000 inmates — could be built.” According to several proposals that have been around for years, existing detention centers could and should be expanded to also accommodate detainees if Rikers were to be closed -- something Mayor de Blasio has called a long-shot and a many years, multi-billion dollar project if it were to ever come to fruition.</p> <p>Perhaps even more daunting to the prospect of closing Rikers jails than several billion dollars in costs are the roadblocks thrown up by the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, or ULURP. In the event that the city would need to site small jails to take on the incarcerated population, each site would be subject to a lengthy, complicated, and controversial process that also requires the application of the Fair Share Criteria. Pushback from several City Council members was quick and fierce when DNAinfo reported on potential <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20160404/east-new-york/more-neighborhoods-surface-as-possible-new-jail-sites-for-rikers-shutdown" target="_blank">communities</a> being targeted. No one wants a jail in their district - or “back yard.”</p> <p>One site on the short list for a hypothetical new jail is Hunt’s Point, where a jail barge holding 800 prisoners is currently moored - and the very neighborhood Mark-Viverito held up as an example of an area already saturated with more than its fair share of burdensome facilities.</p> <p>“While I understand that we need to make strides in improving corrections infrastructure, primarily Rikers Island, the solution is not building a new facility in the South Bronx,” City Council Member Rafael Salamanca, recently elected to represent the area, said in an April <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/jeffrey-d-klein/klein-salamanca-city-no-mini-rikers-hunts-point-community" target="_blank">press release</a>, released in collaboration with State Senator Jeff Klein.</p> <p>City Council Member Antonio Reynoso, who represents Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Ridgewood, said in a statement that while he has not been able to verify that the city is considering using a National Grid site in his district as a jail location, “...if it were true, the proposal would need to go through public land use review, and I would never allow it to pass.” The Council is known to defer to the local representative on land use decisions.</p> <p>City Council Member Joseph Borelli, of Staten Island’s south shore, has advocated for addressing conditions at Rikers in lieu of shutting it down. He put his response plainly in <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2016/02/staten_island_jail.html" target="_blank">his letter</a> to Mark-Viverito: “No one wants a jail next to their house.”&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Homeless Shelters</strong><br />In 2013, then-Comptroller John Liu <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/wp-content/uploads/documents/20130509_NYC_ShelterSiteReport_v24_May.pdf" target="_blank">released a report</a> that set out to examine the way the city chooses sites for homeless shelters, and to “determine if the City’s goal of transparency is being effectively achieved by implementation of the Fair Share Criteria.” The answer, in short, was “no,” but the report dove deep into the ways the complex process of siting city facilities is made even more convoluted and opaque when different kinds of shelters and shelter operators are in play.</p> <p>“Shelters are undoubtedly clustered in low-income neighborhoods,” the report stated. Using data from 2011, the comptroller’s office showed that “family and adult shelters were unevenly dispersed across the city,” with the greatest concentrations found in the Bronx, followed by Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. Staten Island was not included, because its six shelters made the borough an outlier that skewed citywide results. The analysis is never as simple as being borough-based, of course, and there are specific communities that are at the heart of fair share issues.</p> <p>Though the unequal distribution of shelters was stark, the report was more an indictment of the failure of the Fair Share Criteria to ensure transparency in the shelter siting process. The criteria, the report said, should “set the framework for dialogue between communities and government in an effort to achieve optimal levels of efficiency, utility, and fairness in the siting of public facilities,” and were developed “to provide communities with a transparent decision-making process that facilitates adequate planning and takes communities’ needs into account.”</p> <p>To this end, the report pointed out a litany of shortcomings, chief among them that a large number of homeless shelters are regularly not included on the annual Citywide Statement of Needs. Many DHS shelters are excluded, as are emergency shelters, which by nature are not anticipated, though potential sites could be identified earlier; as well as per diem shelters, “which are not City facilities” and therefore skirt a real public input process. Those exclusions, the report says, prevent communities from offering comment or intervening once a site has been chosen.</p> <p>The lengthy report contains a thorough critique of and suggestions for improvement to the transparency aspects of the Fair Share Criteria, but the driving conclusions were that “there is poor notification and limited community participation in decisions about siting family and adult homeless shelters” and that “clustering is occurring and that certain neighborhoods across the City have a higher proportion of family and adult shelters than others” - namely, low-income neighborhoods such as Bedford-Stuyvesant and Brownsville in Brooklyn, Fordham, Morris Heights, Belmont, and East Tremont in the Bronx, and Central Harlem in Manhattan.</p> <p>If the public notification and input process were improved, the report says, a more transparent process might create a more equitable distribution of facilities.</p> <p>The problems of transparency and clustering don’t seem to have improved significantly since that data was collected in 2011.</p> <p>In 2015, the Department of Homeless Services <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20150824/belmont/map-10-community-districts-carry-bulk-of-citys-homeless-shelters" target="_blank">released data</a> showing that the ten community districts with the most homeless shelters contain more shelters than the other 49 districts combined. Of those top ten districts, four were located in the Bronx.</p> <p>The other areas with the highest concentration of shelters were almost all low-income and predominantly non-white, including Manhattan Community Boards 10 and 3 in Harlem and the Lower East Side, respectively; Brooklyn CB3 in Bed-Stuy; and Manhattan CB11 in East Harlem.</p> <p>“New York City is legally obligated to provide shelter to any New Yorker who would otherwise be on the streets,” said a Department of Homeless Services spokesperson in an email. “Mayor de Blasio charged the administration with evaluating the breadth of human services located in each community district citywide to identify areas to locate new shelter facilities. We are committed to engaging communities on these issues, listening to feedback and working to address community concerns.”</p> <p>DHS takes a number of factors into consideration when selecting a new site for a homeless shelter -- rating the bid made for the site, whether the building has the appropriate documentation, including a Certificate of Occupancy, whether it complies with requirements of the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA), timeframe of availability, potential capacity and saturation, among others. The OTDA also has to approve the expansion of an existing shelter. In non-emergency circumstances, the city ensures that elected officials are informed of a shelter opening at least 45 days in advance. DHS now also creates a Community Advisory Board for every new shelter. These boards, comprised of appointees of local elected officials and community members, hold monthly meetings with DHS staff, the shelter operator, and NYPD to discuss any pertinent issues.</p> <p>However, the regulatory void in which homeless shelter siting operates became apparent in 2014, when DHS successfully opened a new homeless shelter for adult families without children at 56-66 Clay St. in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, despite protests from local officials and community members that a public review process had not taken place.</p> <p>Assembly Member Joseph Lentol pushed back, citing the four existing shelters in his district, and asking city officials to consider the Fair Share Criteria before making a final decision.</p> <p>"For more than 40 years we have been our brother’s keeper, and we continue to accept that responsibility on the condition that we are not being unfairly singled out to carry this burden," Lentol said in a letter to Department of Homeless Services about the conflict. "Other communities are not carrying this same burden because Community Board 1 is unfairly carrying this load."</p> <p>But the shelter on Clay Street was not subject to the Fair Share Criteria, or to any lengthy public review process. It was instated as an emergency shelter, for which DHS must only give seven days notice. While DHS acted legally, the shelter felt as though it had been “smuggled in by the dead of night,” Board 1 chair Dealice Fuller said in a letter to Mayor de Blasio last year.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Waste Management</strong><br />On August 17, Mayor de Blasio announced major planned reforms to the city’s commercial sanitation industry, which would seek to reduce truck traffic and emissions, increase recycling and promote environmental justice by creating commercial waste zones that are each served by one private sanitation company. The plan was praised by the Transform Don’t Trash NYC coalition, an environmental justice community group that has long advocated against the problem of waste facility clustering in the city.</p> <p>While city officials are making and eyeing significant strides toward reducing the amount of waste New York residents and businesses produce, processing and transfer stations are concentrated in a handful of low-income communities populated predominantly by people of color.</p> <p>Transform Don’t Trash NYC <a href="http://transformdonttrashnyc.org/resources/dirty-wasteful-unsustainable-the-urgent-need-to-reform-new-york-citys-commercial-waste-system/" target="_blank">released a report in 2015</a> indicting the city’s “inefficient and ad-hoc arrangement” for waste processing that allows hundreds of private hauling companies to collect waste from restaurants, stores, and other businesses each night and “truck it to dozens of transfer stations and recycling facilities concentrated in a handful of low-income communities of color.”</p> <p>After collecting data for both city-run and privately-owned waste collectors, the report authors found that 75% of all waste handled in New York City is trucked to transfer stations in <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5589-the-bronx-is-breathing-waste-transfer-station-city-council" target="_blank">just three outer-borough neighborhoods</a> in North Brooklyn, the South Bronx, and Northeast Queens.</p> <p>The 4,000-plus diesel trucks that transport waste to those facilities each day emit exhaust, increase traffic congestion, and add wear and tear to roads, according to the report. The study found that the trucks’ emissions alone have a significant negative impact of <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5111-while-improving-quiet-crisis-air-quality-persists-new-york-city-asthma-air-pollution" target="_blank">air quality in neighborhoods</a> where waste facilities are clustered.</p> <p>While de Blasio’s new commercial sanitation plan will address these issues, there is no indication if it will also look at the Fair Share Criteria to site new waste management facilities. In March, the New Harlem East Merchants Association wrote a letter to the Department of Sanitation, demanding that the department reconsider its <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20160218/east-harlem/city-ignores-concerns-about-proposed-sanitation-garage-residents-say" target="_blank">decision to open a sanitation garage</a> in a residential neighborhood on 3rd Avenue, about 1,200 feet away from another garage on East 131 Street, and in close proximity to two schools and a new cancer treatment facility.</p> <p>According to a statement from New Harlem East Merchants Association, the addition “would place an unfair burden on the East Harlem community,” which already struggles with an asthma rate twice that of the city-wide average (asthma rates in the nearby South Bronx are also quite high). The city has not indicated that community protest will prevent a second garage from going up.</p> <p>However, where the Fair Share Criteria have failed, local legislators are pursuing alternative projects and policies to prevent low-income communities from handling the vast majority of the city’s waste with a mind toward more equitable distribution.</p> <p>Building on the 20-year <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/dsny/about/laws/solid-waste-management-plan.shtml" target="_blank">Solid Waste Management Plan</a> (SWMP), which has an environmental justice focus and was adopted by Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council in 2006, City Council Member Steve Levin of Brooklyn introduced a bill in October 2014. <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=1937616&amp;GUID=2680B9A0-32EF-4B2F-BFD3-85D48111006F&amp;Options=ID|Text|&amp;Search=495" target="_blank">Intro. 495</a>, also known as the “Trash Cap,” would cut the daily waste processing capacity in the three most-burdened neighborhoods -- North Brooklyn, South Bronx, and Northeast Queens -- by 50% of the daily trash volume they currently receive, according to Council Member Antonio Reynoso’s legislative director, Lacey Tauber. It would also cap the permitted capacity of waste transfer stations at 10 percent of the average citywide capacity.&nbsp;</p> <p>Reynoso, who is chair of the Council’s Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste, also represents the district with the highest concentration of waste facilities: parts of Brooklyn including Williamsburg and Bushwick.&nbsp;</p> <p>Under the trash cap bill, all community districts with solid waste transfer stations would be capped, but not every cap would be the same, Tauber told Gotham Gazette. The bill considers any community district handling more than 10 percent of the city’s waste as overburdened and seeks to ensure that community districts that aren’t already over that threshold are capped at 10 percent and cannot be pushed over it.</p> <p>“The [10 percent] cap on citywide waste ensures that lessening the burden on one community does not simply transfer that full burden to another similar community,” Tauber said.</p> <p>Tauber added that pairing prevention of over-saturation of waste facilities with a clear alternative is key to not sacrificing equity in one community to benefit another.</p> <p>“If we say you can’t bring it here but don’t specify where it can go, that directs waste to other low-income communities of color,” Tauber said.</p> <p>After negotiations with the de Blasio administration about the bill, which had a hearing early in 2015, it was amended to increase the cap from the original proposal of 5 percent to the current 10 percent. The bill has not yet been voted on in committee.</p> <p>Another way to decrease truck traffic and associated ills is through the use of marine transfer stations, or MTS, where waste leaves the city via barge, decreasing traffic and consolidating the process. The city is opening MTS in Queens, Brooklyn, and, perhaps most famously, on 91 Street on the Upper East Side. According to the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance, the latter, a wealthy and well-connected neighborhood, has funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars into an <a href="http://ny.curbed.com/2014/11/25/10018036/trash-clash" target="_blank">opposition campaign</a>. Nevertheless, construction is still underway, and proponents of MTS believe the three will offer significant relief to overburdened communities.</p> <p>“It will help decrease traffic, congestion, pollution - everything that the trucks bring into those low-income neighborhoods,” Tauber said of the Upper East Side MTS.</p> <p>Yet, the MTS currently only deal with the residential waste under the jurisdiction of the Department of Sanitation. Incentivizing private truck companies that pick up waste from businesses and restaurants is another challenge that the city appears to be targeting through the neighborhood zoning plan. This model allows the city to consolidate truck traffic and regulate labor standards, truck emissions, and more. The proposal that the de Blasio administration put out has <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2016/08/tough-fight-in-store-for-de-blasios-private-carting-proposal-104815" target="_blank">a long way to go before becoming law</a>.</p> <p><strong>Updating Fair Share</strong><br />Despite noble intentions, the Fair Share Criteria does not achieve the kind of transparent public input process and equitable city landscape sought by its supporters. While Speaker Mark-Viverito promised in her February State of the City address that the City Council would “empower neighborhoods by working with our partners in City and State government to create tools and improve opportunities for public input in the Fair Share process,” no specific legislation has been put forth. In the August interview with Gotham Gazette, she said the Council was exploring the issue, and may put out a paper on it.&nbsp;</p> <p>City Council Member Brad Lander, long a proponent of progressive city planning practices, has clear ideas about how to revamp the criteria.</p> <p>“Step one is to provide more transparency on both the existing siting of various forms of municipal infrastructure and services that are covered by the fair share rules, and more transparency on each individual application so it will be possible to really evaluate whether it is fair or not fair,” Lander told Gotham Gazette in an interview.</p> <p>Second, Lander said that the criteria have to be updated. “If City Planning wants to do that, great. But if not, we need to step forward and push them to do it,” he said.</p> <p>The third objective, Lander said, and one that could be the most challenging legislatively, “is putting some teeth in the laws, having some consequence for unfair sitings, making unfair sitings be more difficult for the city than fairer ones.”</p> <p>“Developing a system that has at least a thumb on the scale toward more equitable distribution: that’s the ultimate goal,” Lander said.</p> <p>The City made significant moves in this direction in April, according to Lander, when the administration quietly resurrected the formerly-annual <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/operations/downloads/pdf/Social-Indicators-Report-April-2016.pdf" target="_blank">Social Indicators Report.</a> Though the annual report was mandated in the same 1989 Charter Revision that created the Fair Share Criteria, this is the first report to be published by a Mayor in a decade.</p> <p>The report, which mostly escaped public notice, provides a comprehensive statistical snapshot of the city, ostensibly to provide a clearer understanding of both need and progress in various communities. The data is disaggregated by 45 different indicators, including race, income, gender, education, English proficiency, and others. The report’s introduction states that it is “meant to help guide the City’s efforts to reduce disparities and advance equity.”</p> <p>Lander says that while the City Council works on how to update and improve the Fair Share Criteria, the Social Indicators Report is a valuable and promising tool. “It’s a good, strong step forward,” Lander said. The Council member did not indicate whether anything on fair share from his office or the Council in general should be expected any time soon.</p> <p>Eddie Bautista, executive director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance and veteran in the fight against clustering waste facilities in low-income neighborhoods, is cautiously optimistic.</p> <p>“What would make it meaningful would be to go back to the original concept: transparency and a full accounting of the burdens and lack of benefits in each community,” Bautista said.</p> <p>“The Fair Share Criteria was all we could muster in ‘89 and ‘90. After 25 years of cynicism, I’m looking forward to the [City Council] speaker - the first speaker of color - and Brad Lander - an activist involved in early fair share conversations - working toward a solution on this.”</p> <p><em>**This is part two of a two-part series on the city’s Fair Share rules. Read part one:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6630-city-may-soon-have-more-formal-fair-share-discussion" target="_blank">City May Soon Have More Formal ‘Fair Share’ Discussion</a>**</em></p> <p>***<br />by Maggie Calmes &amp; Samar Khurshid for Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p>Note: this story has been updated to reflect amended language in Intro. 495, the "Trash Cap" bill.</p> Bill de Blasio Versus NIMBYism 2016-10-06T04:00:00+00:00 2016-10-06T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6563:bill-de-blasio-versus-nimbyism Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/29895751132_1e33656426_z.jpg" alt="BdB town hall queens miller" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio at a town hall (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">In recent weeks, Mayor Bill de Blasio&rsquo;s policies have run up against an age-old forces of inertia and resistance in the city, especially one that springs forth in policy debates on everything from housing to bike lanes to school desegregation and even closing down Rikers Island jails. That force -- NIMBY or Not In My Back Yard-ism -- has taken distinct forms on different issues, but has been causing the de Blasio administration trouble and frustrating the mayor. At the same time, some critics of the administration say that the NIMBYism it is facing is stronger because the administration is not being a proactive, collaborative partner with communities.</p> <p dir="ltr">In some ways, the pushback is more sympathetic, like in cases where communities face real pressures of gentrification and displacement, and in others, less so, like when residents perceive even the smallest change to their neighborhood as contributing to a decline in quality of life.</p> <p dir="ltr">For de Blasio, persistent NIMBYism poses a multi-faceted challenge as he nears the final year of his first term. He has to choose at times to capitulate to demands from communities or local elected officials, and at other times, he must use unilateral but unpopular action that, in the administration&rsquo;s view, will have long-term benefits. Three recent instances, in particular, highlight this obstacle of NIMBYism to the administration&rsquo;s larger vision of equity and justice, which can be messier when being applied to neighborhoods than when explained in principle.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the last two months, two rezoning proposals that would&rsquo;ve added to the city&rsquo;s stock of affordable housing were nixed by the local Council members for their respective districts, eliciting charges of short-sighted NIMBYism by the Council members and the portion of their constituents they were listening to.</p> <p dir="ltr">The first proposal, in the Upper Manhattan neighborhood of Inwood, was voted down by the City Council in August after Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez opted to reject it. He had signaled support for the project, but appeared to bend to vocal community pressure as his final decision neared. Rodriguez has been an outspoken and active ally of de Blasio&rsquo;s, especially around the Vision Zero plan to eliminate traffic deaths.</p> <p dir="ltr">It was the first private rezoning application before the city under the newly passed Mandatory Inclusionary Housing zoning rule. Rodriguez vetoed the proposal despite the city and the developers having reached an agreement in which half the housing would be affordable. By tradition, the full Council usually votes with the local member on land use applications, and did so with Rodriguez.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the second case, in Sunnyside, Queens, a nonprofit real estate developer withdrew a rezoning application in the face of opposition from the community and the prospect of a veto from Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer.</p> <p dir="ltr">The editorial boards of the Daily News and the Observer sharply criticized the two Council members for their &ldquo;NIMBY&rdquo; thinking. &ldquo;A developer could propose Eden and somewhere, somehow, someone&rsquo;s constituents would find it wanting,&rdquo; the <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/tough-bill-anti-housing-nimby-councilmembers-article-1.2803936" target="_blank">Daily News</a>&nbsp;editorial board wrote, calling on the mayor to get tough with the Council in such instances. &ldquo;It is interesting,&rdquo; wrote <a href="http://observer.com/2016/09/end-the-nimby-veto-of-affordable-housing/" target="_blank">the Observer</a>&nbsp;editorial board, &ldquo;make that a euphemism for disheartening, to see supposedly liberal/progressive City Council members echo the call for affordable housing&mdash;except in their own districts.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">While Rodriguez defended his decision around the affordability of the proposed units and the added density to the neighborhood, Van Bramer explained his as especially related to the height of the proposed project, as well as the added density and need for related infrastructure improvements.</p> <p dir="ltr">The third example is local opposition to a City proposal to convert a Holiday Inn Express in Maspeth, Queens into a homeless shelter. Residents of the neighborhood are outraged, citing concerns about public safety and the location of the shelter. In an argument central to NIMBYism, many have even said they don&rsquo;t oppose creating shelters for the homeless, just this particular one. They have protested outside the home of Commissioner Steven Banks, head of the city&rsquo;s Human Resources Administration and <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/news/2016/09/24/maspeth-residents-march-to-hotel-owner-s-home-to-protest--warehousing--homeless-in-their-neighborhood.html" target="_blank">marched</a> to the home of the hotel owner. De Blasio told them to protest at his home, Gracie Mansion.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I think that&rsquo;s the quandary with many policies,&rdquo; said Christina Greer, professor of political science at Fordham University. Greer called NIMBYism the &ldquo;achilles heel of liberalism and progressive politics.&rdquo; Although many people might support policies such as those put forward by the de Blasio administration, Greer said, &ldquo;When it comes time to affect them in a personal way, these coalitions and conversations tend to fall apart.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">In his weekly segment on WNYC&rsquo;s The Brian Lehrer Show <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/ask-mayor-quality-life-farewell-bratton/" target="_blank">on September 16</a>, the mayor also addressed the Maspeth controversy, saying the issue of homelessness &ldquo;brings out a lot of contradictions in people&rdquo; and said the NIMBY mindset had grown in the city over decades. &ldquo;And, as someone who&rsquo;s served here a long time, I don&rsquo;t have an illusion that we&rsquo;re going to snap our fingers and make it go away,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p dir="ltr">The mayor added, &ldquo;I think we have to show people that we will take care of the surrounding community, but I&rsquo;m not ever going to allow folks who say, &lsquo;not in our community, put it in someone else&rsquo;s community&rsquo; &ndash; I&rsquo;m never going to buy into that. That&rsquo;s just not &ndash; that&rsquo;s not New York values. It really isn&rsquo;t.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">At a news conference on Thursday, when the mayor was asked again about Maspeth and the communication with local leaders, he admitted that the administration could do a better job. &ldquo;I would say there&rsquo;s a substantial amount of dialogue that goes on but we need to do better,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;And we&rsquo;re trying to perfect the approach that we can use everywhere in the same way, to do a better job of communicating with elected officials and other community leaders.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">He had more forceful words for the Maspeth protestors, however, which took dead aim at a NIMBY mindset. &ldquo;If they think that they can not have responsibility for a problem that&rsquo;s everyone&rsquo;s problem, they&rsquo;re wrong,&rdquo; he said, before criticizing their &ldquo;disgusting&rdquo; rhetoric and their &ldquo;reprehensible&rdquo; threats to HRA&rsquo;s Banks and his family. &ldquo;Those individuals are saying, &lsquo;There&rsquo;s a homelessness problem, some of those people come from our community and we don&rsquo;t want any of them here,&rsquo;&rdquo; de Blasio said. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t accept that. And I&rsquo;ve told them I welcome their pickets as many times as they want because I will happily stare them down. We are going to put a roof over people&rsquo;s heads.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">The term NIMBY has been used in the past as a pejorative for wealthy white neighborhoods that wanted to avoid any change to their communities that they considered undesirable, including an influx of people. It&rsquo;s a loaded term that can imply class and racial biases. But, over time, the term has become more common and has evolved beyond its original meaning.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Just as the rain falls on rich and poor alike, NIMBYism is found among the rich and poor alike,&rdquo; said Kenneth Sherrill, professor emeritus of political science at Hunter College. The difference, Sherrill pointed out, is that with low-income communities, their NIMBYism is largely founded in justifiable concerns about gentrification and rising rents that contribute to displacement. That was one of the elements at play in the Inwood rezoning proposal."</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;These are forces that every mayoralty in New York City has come up against,&rdquo; said Wiley Norvell, a spokesperson for the mayor. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a durable feature of the political landscape.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">It is an undisputable fact that NIMBYism is universal and has cropped up all over the city in various policy battles. Earlier <a href="http://gothamist.com/2016/06/30/there_goes_the_neighborhood.php" target="_blank">this year</a>, proposals to expand the CitiBike program into Brooklyn faced local opposition that smacked of NIMBYism. A caller from the mayor&rsquo;s home neighborhood of Park Slope called into WNYC on Thursday morning to tell him the new bike installations there were a problem because they took away needed parking. Similar efforts in the form of lawsuits have been <a href="http://therealdeal.com/2014/03/07/judge-tosses-anti-citi-bike-suit-in-brooklyn-heights/" target="_blank">launched</a> since the city announced the CitiBike expansion in 2014.</p> <p dir="ltr">Another lawsuit, against bike lanes installed by the city in Park Slope, was <a href="http://www.villagevoice.com/news/bike-hating-nimby-trolls-grudgingly-surrender-to-reality-9136252" target="_blank">withdrawn</a> just last month after stretching for six years.</p> <p dir="ltr">Especially in more controversial discussions, such as the plan to close down Rikers Island jails, NIMBYism is a significant factor. Although there is fairly <a href="http://www.newsday.com/news/new-york/rikers-island-closing-plan-could-spur-communities-resistance-1.11544401" target="_blank">widespread agreement</a> on shuttering the doors of the prison complex, elected officials do not generally favor relocating inmates to community-based facilities. The Speaker of the City Council, Melissa Mark-Viverito has a commission in motion to create a long-term plan for shutting down Rikers jails, the notion of which has already faced local backlash. Addressing affordable housing-related rezonings, Mark-Viverito recently said that the de Blasio administration needs to be more proactive in engaging with City Council members and their communities.</p> <p dir="ltr">The city&rsquo;s movement to rezone some schools with an eye on desegregating nearby schools has met NIMBY detractors in Downtown Brooklyn and the Upper West Side, though other critics say that the administration has not moved quickly or comprehensively enough on the issue overall.</p> <p dir="ltr">But in issues of land use and infrastructure, NIMBYism is perhaps most consistently pronounced, on both sides. On the one hand are more well-off neighborhoods opposing facilities that have historically saturated low-income communities, like homeless shelters and waste processing centers. On the other hand, are low-income communities resisting the march of gentrification across the city and opposing infrastructure that would put further pressure on their neighborhoods.</p> <p dir="ltr">Eddie Bautista, executive director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, sees a lot of NIMBYism in his line of work. His group advocates for a more even-handed distribution of burdensome city infrastructure that is often clustered in low-income communities of color. These efforts, more often than not, come up against some or another form of NIMBY opposition.</p> <p dir="ltr">Bautista pointed to a classic example exhibited on the Upper East Side last year in local objections to a marine waste transfer station. &ldquo;NIMBYism and environmental justice are polar opposites,&rdquo; he said. And the converse argument, that low-income neighborhoods are being NIMBY by refusing development, does not hold water, he emphasized. &ldquo;It can&rsquo;t apply to communities where everything is in your backyard, when your community is saturated.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Couched in Bautista&rsquo;s argument is the principle of &ldquo;fair share,&rdquo; the city policy aimed at equitable distribution of necessary city services and infrastructure across all neighborhoods. &ldquo;The fair share approach is an important principal,&rdquo; said Council Member Brad Lander. &ldquo;Some people hear &ldquo;fair share&rdquo; and hear &ldquo;NIMBYism.&rdquo; That has eroded the real argument for fair share.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Lander said the opposition in Maspeth may be the &ldquo;most strident&rdquo; example of NIMBYism and said each neighborhood has a fair share obligation to house the homeless. The administration has identified 250 homeless people whose last known address was Maspeth, but the community has no fixed shelters. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not only about not getting more than your fair share but doing your fair share,&rdquo; Lander said.</p> <p dir="ltr">On issues of land use planning, Lander - who is de Blasio&rsquo;s successor in the City Council seat representing Park Slope and nearby neighborhoods - believes the opposition may be more justifiable, &ldquo;especially at a time when rents are high, there&rsquo;s a lot of anxiety, there&rsquo;s a lot of development taking place.&rdquo; &ldquo;That is the challenge of government,&rdquo; he added. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s a big challenge for Mayor de Blasio. That&rsquo;s a big challenge for the Council.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">In part, that&rsquo;s also the administration&rsquo;s argument. Norvell, the mayoral spokesperson, said, &ldquo;We&rsquo;re in a moment of deep insecurity and tremendous fear of displacement.&rdquo; He chalked this up to agreements made by past administrations that were not always delivered upon. For instance the rezoning of Greenpoint and Williamsburg, where the city failed to create all the infrastructure and services that were promised. He said the failure of the rezoning proposals in Inwood and Sunnyside were par for the course. &ldquo;When you play on a field as big as we are, you&rsquo;re gonna win some, you&rsquo;re gonna lose some,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Nobody bats a thousand.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">He also sought to dispel the notion that recent &ldquo;noise&rdquo; or even past opposition were hobbling the administration&rsquo;s progress on its larger core agenda.</p> <p dir="ltr">Norvell pointed to the expansion of affordable housing and CitiBike, &ldquo;both instances where the NIMBY phenomenon surfaced itself in various degrees of intensity but our policy and political goals were achieved nevertheless.&rdquo; Under the affordable housing agenda, about 53,000 units, a quarter of the goal administration&rsquo;s ten-year goal, have been financed and CitiBike is on course to double capacity, Norvell said.</p> <p dir="ltr">The moment of insecurity that both Norvell and Lander speak of may not just be for everyday New Yorkers. It&rsquo;s a challenging time for the mayor as well. He&rsquo;s fast approaching reelection and can ill-afford to make unpopular decisions. His relationship with the City Council <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2016/10/city-halls-progressive-alliance-sours-106081" target="_blank">has become more challenging</a>, particularly after he expressed some public dismay with Council Member Van Bramer over the Sunnyside deal (while also expressing respect for Van Bramer). Affordable housing is one of the main planks on which he has expended significant political capital, and must continue to do so in various local battles.</p> <p dir="ltr">Professor Sherrill said the new equation of power between the Council and the mayor precludes the possibility of unilateral action. &ldquo;An entire generation, 20 years, of atrophy for the Democratic political machine puts de Blasio in a position in which it is almost impossible for him to do anything that would entice members of the Council to do something he would like that is unpopular with...their districts,&rdquo; Sherrill said. &ldquo;This is not Bill de Blasio&rsquo;s problem. This is the problem of anyone who becomes Mayor now and mayors are going to have to find new ways of building relationships with neighborhoods.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">At a press conference on September 14, asked about the success of a housing proposal in the Bronx and the failure of Inwood, Speaker Mark-Viverito defended the leverage that Council members hold over land use decisions and seemed to criticize the mayor. &ldquo;The mayor and the administration need to focus on being proactive and engaged with Council members in their districts and with the communities that we represent to make sure information is being arrived at in the most transparent way about what a project is and what it seeks to do, that needs to happen,&rdquo; she said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Earlier, in a late August&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6508-full-interview-council-speaker-melissa-mark-viverito" target="_blank">interview with Gotham Gazette</a>, Mark-Viverito, whose home district is largely East Harlem, leaned into a fair share argument when talking of rezoning and the siting of homeless shelters. &ldquo;I think there needs to be more equity in the way that services are distributed,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;There are literally some districts that have no shelters in them. You look at one like mine, that we have probably over 2,000, 3,000 beds...And that&rsquo;s a real challenge.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">But she also stressed that local decisions must involve dialogue and engagement with the communities that are affected, even if they don&rsquo;t agree. &ldquo;And I have found that when you really engage in that conversation and take the time to really explain the process of your thinking and why, even if people don&rsquo;t agree with you they&rsquo;ll respect that, and you can work with your constituents and navigate through that,&rdquo; she said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio does seem to be taking some of these critiques to heart. He has stepped up his efforts at personally engaging with New Yorkers. Besides his weekly radio appearance, where he takes questions from callers and promises assistance to those who need it, he has hosted a number of town halls in the last few months, connecting with people more directly in all five boroughs.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;For neighborhood planning, I believe it&rsquo;s better to engage people more and sooner,&rdquo; said Council Member Lander, who thinks the administration has shown strong participation in certain proposed rezonings, including Gowanus, Bushwick, Far Rockaway, and East Harlem.</p> <p dir="ltr">Professor Greer said that she thinks de Blasio &ldquo;has to convince people that &lsquo;this is a good idea and worth doing,&rsquo; either through political pressure or logrolling. If he needs to be successful, he&rsquo;ll find a way to sweeten the deal.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Bautista praised the mayor for reframing city policy along the lines of equity, but said, &ldquo;It can&rsquo;t just be a framing and messaging conceit.&rdquo; He said the mayor has to ensure consistency in applying his governing principles and show authentic community engagement. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s a difference between having a fait accompli and coming to the community with that decision, versus a real engagement where you have a policy goal in mind,&rdquo; he said, getting at one of the repeated criticism of the de Blasio administration, that it too often presents to communities a fully-baked plan. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s crucial to minimizing NIMBY.&rdquo;</p> <p>Norvell contends the administration has made &ldquo;honest and sincere&rdquo; engagement efforts in city planning, and that the ultimate goal is to &ldquo;do the most good for the most people.&rdquo; &ldquo;At the end of the day, you can&rsquo;t make everybody happy,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/29895751132_1e33656426_z.jpg" alt="BdB town hall queens miller" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio at a town hall (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">In recent weeks, Mayor Bill de Blasio&rsquo;s policies have run up against an age-old forces of inertia and resistance in the city, especially one that springs forth in policy debates on everything from housing to bike lanes to school desegregation and even closing down Rikers Island jails. That force -- NIMBY or Not In My Back Yard-ism -- has taken distinct forms on different issues, but has been causing the de Blasio administration trouble and frustrating the mayor. At the same time, some critics of the administration say that the NIMBYism it is facing is stronger because the administration is not being a proactive, collaborative partner with communities.</p> <p dir="ltr">In some ways, the pushback is more sympathetic, like in cases where communities face real pressures of gentrification and displacement, and in others, less so, like when residents perceive even the smallest change to their neighborhood as contributing to a decline in quality of life.</p> <p dir="ltr">For de Blasio, persistent NIMBYism poses a multi-faceted challenge as he nears the final year of his first term. He has to choose at times to capitulate to demands from communities or local elected officials, and at other times, he must use unilateral but unpopular action that, in the administration&rsquo;s view, will have long-term benefits. Three recent instances, in particular, highlight this obstacle of NIMBYism to the administration&rsquo;s larger vision of equity and justice, which can be messier when being applied to neighborhoods than when explained in principle.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the last two months, two rezoning proposals that would&rsquo;ve added to the city&rsquo;s stock of affordable housing were nixed by the local Council members for their respective districts, eliciting charges of short-sighted NIMBYism by the Council members and the portion of their constituents they were listening to.</p> <p dir="ltr">The first proposal, in the Upper Manhattan neighborhood of Inwood, was voted down by the City Council in August after Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez opted to reject it. He had signaled support for the project, but appeared to bend to vocal community pressure as his final decision neared. Rodriguez has been an outspoken and active ally of de Blasio&rsquo;s, especially around the Vision Zero plan to eliminate traffic deaths.</p> <p dir="ltr">It was the first private rezoning application before the city under the newly passed Mandatory Inclusionary Housing zoning rule. Rodriguez vetoed the proposal despite the city and the developers having reached an agreement in which half the housing would be affordable. By tradition, the full Council usually votes with the local member on land use applications, and did so with Rodriguez.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the second case, in Sunnyside, Queens, a nonprofit real estate developer withdrew a rezoning application in the face of opposition from the community and the prospect of a veto from Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer.</p> <p dir="ltr">The editorial boards of the Daily News and the Observer sharply criticized the two Council members for their &ldquo;NIMBY&rdquo; thinking. &ldquo;A developer could propose Eden and somewhere, somehow, someone&rsquo;s constituents would find it wanting,&rdquo; the <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/tough-bill-anti-housing-nimby-councilmembers-article-1.2803936" target="_blank">Daily News</a>&nbsp;editorial board wrote, calling on the mayor to get tough with the Council in such instances. &ldquo;It is interesting,&rdquo; wrote <a href="http://observer.com/2016/09/end-the-nimby-veto-of-affordable-housing/" target="_blank">the Observer</a>&nbsp;editorial board, &ldquo;make that a euphemism for disheartening, to see supposedly liberal/progressive City Council members echo the call for affordable housing&mdash;except in their own districts.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">While Rodriguez defended his decision around the affordability of the proposed units and the added density to the neighborhood, Van Bramer explained his as especially related to the height of the proposed project, as well as the added density and need for related infrastructure improvements.</p> <p dir="ltr">The third example is local opposition to a City proposal to convert a Holiday Inn Express in Maspeth, Queens into a homeless shelter. Residents of the neighborhood are outraged, citing concerns about public safety and the location of the shelter. In an argument central to NIMBYism, many have even said they don&rsquo;t oppose creating shelters for the homeless, just this particular one. They have protested outside the home of Commissioner Steven Banks, head of the city&rsquo;s Human Resources Administration and <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/news/2016/09/24/maspeth-residents-march-to-hotel-owner-s-home-to-protest--warehousing--homeless-in-their-neighborhood.html" target="_blank">marched</a> to the home of the hotel owner. De Blasio told them to protest at his home, Gracie Mansion.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I think that&rsquo;s the quandary with many policies,&rdquo; said Christina Greer, professor of political science at Fordham University. Greer called NIMBYism the &ldquo;achilles heel of liberalism and progressive politics.&rdquo; Although many people might support policies such as those put forward by the de Blasio administration, Greer said, &ldquo;When it comes time to affect them in a personal way, these coalitions and conversations tend to fall apart.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">In his weekly segment on WNYC&rsquo;s The Brian Lehrer Show <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/ask-mayor-quality-life-farewell-bratton/" target="_blank">on September 16</a>, the mayor also addressed the Maspeth controversy, saying the issue of homelessness &ldquo;brings out a lot of contradictions in people&rdquo; and said the NIMBY mindset had grown in the city over decades. &ldquo;And, as someone who&rsquo;s served here a long time, I don&rsquo;t have an illusion that we&rsquo;re going to snap our fingers and make it go away,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p dir="ltr">The mayor added, &ldquo;I think we have to show people that we will take care of the surrounding community, but I&rsquo;m not ever going to allow folks who say, &lsquo;not in our community, put it in someone else&rsquo;s community&rsquo; &ndash; I&rsquo;m never going to buy into that. That&rsquo;s just not &ndash; that&rsquo;s not New York values. It really isn&rsquo;t.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">At a news conference on Thursday, when the mayor was asked again about Maspeth and the communication with local leaders, he admitted that the administration could do a better job. &ldquo;I would say there&rsquo;s a substantial amount of dialogue that goes on but we need to do better,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;And we&rsquo;re trying to perfect the approach that we can use everywhere in the same way, to do a better job of communicating with elected officials and other community leaders.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">He had more forceful words for the Maspeth protestors, however, which took dead aim at a NIMBY mindset. &ldquo;If they think that they can not have responsibility for a problem that&rsquo;s everyone&rsquo;s problem, they&rsquo;re wrong,&rdquo; he said, before criticizing their &ldquo;disgusting&rdquo; rhetoric and their &ldquo;reprehensible&rdquo; threats to HRA&rsquo;s Banks and his family. &ldquo;Those individuals are saying, &lsquo;There&rsquo;s a homelessness problem, some of those people come from our community and we don&rsquo;t want any of them here,&rsquo;&rdquo; de Blasio said. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t accept that. And I&rsquo;ve told them I welcome their pickets as many times as they want because I will happily stare them down. We are going to put a roof over people&rsquo;s heads.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">The term NIMBY has been used in the past as a pejorative for wealthy white neighborhoods that wanted to avoid any change to their communities that they considered undesirable, including an influx of people. It&rsquo;s a loaded term that can imply class and racial biases. But, over time, the term has become more common and has evolved beyond its original meaning.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Just as the rain falls on rich and poor alike, NIMBYism is found among the rich and poor alike,&rdquo; said Kenneth Sherrill, professor emeritus of political science at Hunter College. The difference, Sherrill pointed out, is that with low-income communities, their NIMBYism is largely founded in justifiable concerns about gentrification and rising rents that contribute to displacement. That was one of the elements at play in the Inwood rezoning proposal."</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;These are forces that every mayoralty in New York City has come up against,&rdquo; said Wiley Norvell, a spokesperson for the mayor. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a durable feature of the political landscape.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">It is an undisputable fact that NIMBYism is universal and has cropped up all over the city in various policy battles. Earlier <a href="http://gothamist.com/2016/06/30/there_goes_the_neighborhood.php" target="_blank">this year</a>, proposals to expand the CitiBike program into Brooklyn faced local opposition that smacked of NIMBYism. A caller from the mayor&rsquo;s home neighborhood of Park Slope called into WNYC on Thursday morning to tell him the new bike installations there were a problem because they took away needed parking. Similar efforts in the form of lawsuits have been <a href="http://therealdeal.com/2014/03/07/judge-tosses-anti-citi-bike-suit-in-brooklyn-heights/" target="_blank">launched</a> since the city announced the CitiBike expansion in 2014.</p> <p dir="ltr">Another lawsuit, against bike lanes installed by the city in Park Slope, was <a href="http://www.villagevoice.com/news/bike-hating-nimby-trolls-grudgingly-surrender-to-reality-9136252" target="_blank">withdrawn</a> just last month after stretching for six years.</p> <p dir="ltr">Especially in more controversial discussions, such as the plan to close down Rikers Island jails, NIMBYism is a significant factor. Although there is fairly <a href="http://www.newsday.com/news/new-york/rikers-island-closing-plan-could-spur-communities-resistance-1.11544401" target="_blank">widespread agreement</a> on shuttering the doors of the prison complex, elected officials do not generally favor relocating inmates to community-based facilities. The Speaker of the City Council, Melissa Mark-Viverito has a commission in motion to create a long-term plan for shutting down Rikers jails, the notion of which has already faced local backlash. Addressing affordable housing-related rezonings, Mark-Viverito recently said that the de Blasio administration needs to be more proactive in engaging with City Council members and their communities.</p> <p dir="ltr">The city&rsquo;s movement to rezone some schools with an eye on desegregating nearby schools has met NIMBY detractors in Downtown Brooklyn and the Upper West Side, though other critics say that the administration has not moved quickly or comprehensively enough on the issue overall.</p> <p dir="ltr">But in issues of land use and infrastructure, NIMBYism is perhaps most consistently pronounced, on both sides. On the one hand are more well-off neighborhoods opposing facilities that have historically saturated low-income communities, like homeless shelters and waste processing centers. On the other hand, are low-income communities resisting the march of gentrification across the city and opposing infrastructure that would put further pressure on their neighborhoods.</p> <p dir="ltr">Eddie Bautista, executive director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, sees a lot of NIMBYism in his line of work. His group advocates for a more even-handed distribution of burdensome city infrastructure that is often clustered in low-income communities of color. These efforts, more often than not, come up against some or another form of NIMBY opposition.</p> <p dir="ltr">Bautista pointed to a classic example exhibited on the Upper East Side last year in local objections to a marine waste transfer station. &ldquo;NIMBYism and environmental justice are polar opposites,&rdquo; he said. And the converse argument, that low-income neighborhoods are being NIMBY by refusing development, does not hold water, he emphasized. &ldquo;It can&rsquo;t apply to communities where everything is in your backyard, when your community is saturated.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Couched in Bautista&rsquo;s argument is the principle of &ldquo;fair share,&rdquo; the city policy aimed at equitable distribution of necessary city services and infrastructure across all neighborhoods. &ldquo;The fair share approach is an important principal,&rdquo; said Council Member Brad Lander. &ldquo;Some people hear &ldquo;fair share&rdquo; and hear &ldquo;NIMBYism.&rdquo; That has eroded the real argument for fair share.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Lander said the opposition in Maspeth may be the &ldquo;most strident&rdquo; example of NIMBYism and said each neighborhood has a fair share obligation to house the homeless. The administration has identified 250 homeless people whose last known address was Maspeth, but the community has no fixed shelters. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not only about not getting more than your fair share but doing your fair share,&rdquo; Lander said.</p> <p dir="ltr">On issues of land use planning, Lander - who is de Blasio&rsquo;s successor in the City Council seat representing Park Slope and nearby neighborhoods - believes the opposition may be more justifiable, &ldquo;especially at a time when rents are high, there&rsquo;s a lot of anxiety, there&rsquo;s a lot of development taking place.&rdquo; &ldquo;That is the challenge of government,&rdquo; he added. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s a big challenge for Mayor de Blasio. That&rsquo;s a big challenge for the Council.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">In part, that&rsquo;s also the administration&rsquo;s argument. Norvell, the mayoral spokesperson, said, &ldquo;We&rsquo;re in a moment of deep insecurity and tremendous fear of displacement.&rdquo; He chalked this up to agreements made by past administrations that were not always delivered upon. For instance the rezoning of Greenpoint and Williamsburg, where the city failed to create all the infrastructure and services that were promised. He said the failure of the rezoning proposals in Inwood and Sunnyside were par for the course. &ldquo;When you play on a field as big as we are, you&rsquo;re gonna win some, you&rsquo;re gonna lose some,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Nobody bats a thousand.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">He also sought to dispel the notion that recent &ldquo;noise&rdquo; or even past opposition were hobbling the administration&rsquo;s progress on its larger core agenda.</p> <p dir="ltr">Norvell pointed to the expansion of affordable housing and CitiBike, &ldquo;both instances where the NIMBY phenomenon surfaced itself in various degrees of intensity but our policy and political goals were achieved nevertheless.&rdquo; Under the affordable housing agenda, about 53,000 units, a quarter of the goal administration&rsquo;s ten-year goal, have been financed and CitiBike is on course to double capacity, Norvell said.</p> <p dir="ltr">The moment of insecurity that both Norvell and Lander speak of may not just be for everyday New Yorkers. It&rsquo;s a challenging time for the mayor as well. He&rsquo;s fast approaching reelection and can ill-afford to make unpopular decisions. His relationship with the City Council <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2016/10/city-halls-progressive-alliance-sours-106081" target="_blank">has become more challenging</a>, particularly after he expressed some public dismay with Council Member Van Bramer over the Sunnyside deal (while also expressing respect for Van Bramer). Affordable housing is one of the main planks on which he has expended significant political capital, and must continue to do so in various local battles.</p> <p dir="ltr">Professor Sherrill said the new equation of power between the Council and the mayor precludes the possibility of unilateral action. &ldquo;An entire generation, 20 years, of atrophy for the Democratic political machine puts de Blasio in a position in which it is almost impossible for him to do anything that would entice members of the Council to do something he would like that is unpopular with...their districts,&rdquo; Sherrill said. &ldquo;This is not Bill de Blasio&rsquo;s problem. This is the problem of anyone who becomes Mayor now and mayors are going to have to find new ways of building relationships with neighborhoods.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">At a press conference on September 14, asked about the success of a housing proposal in the Bronx and the failure of Inwood, Speaker Mark-Viverito defended the leverage that Council members hold over land use decisions and seemed to criticize the mayor. &ldquo;The mayor and the administration need to focus on being proactive and engaged with Council members in their districts and with the communities that we represent to make sure information is being arrived at in the most transparent way about what a project is and what it seeks to do, that needs to happen,&rdquo; she said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Earlier, in a late August&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6508-full-interview-council-speaker-melissa-mark-viverito" target="_blank">interview with Gotham Gazette</a>, Mark-Viverito, whose home district is largely East Harlem, leaned into a fair share argument when talking of rezoning and the siting of homeless shelters. &ldquo;I think there needs to be more equity in the way that services are distributed,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;There are literally some districts that have no shelters in them. You look at one like mine, that we have probably over 2,000, 3,000 beds...And that&rsquo;s a real challenge.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">But she also stressed that local decisions must involve dialogue and engagement with the communities that are affected, even if they don&rsquo;t agree. &ldquo;And I have found that when you really engage in that conversation and take the time to really explain the process of your thinking and why, even if people don&rsquo;t agree with you they&rsquo;ll respect that, and you can work with your constituents and navigate through that,&rdquo; she said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio does seem to be taking some of these critiques to heart. He has stepped up his efforts at personally engaging with New Yorkers. Besides his weekly radio appearance, where he takes questions from callers and promises assistance to those who need it, he has hosted a number of town halls in the last few months, connecting with people more directly in all five boroughs.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;For neighborhood planning, I believe it&rsquo;s better to engage people more and sooner,&rdquo; said Council Member Lander, who thinks the administration has shown strong participation in certain proposed rezonings, including Gowanus, Bushwick, Far Rockaway, and East Harlem.</p> <p dir="ltr">Professor Greer said that she thinks de Blasio &ldquo;has to convince people that &lsquo;this is a good idea and worth doing,&rsquo; either through political pressure or logrolling. If he needs to be successful, he&rsquo;ll find a way to sweeten the deal.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Bautista praised the mayor for reframing city policy along the lines of equity, but said, &ldquo;It can&rsquo;t just be a framing and messaging conceit.&rdquo; He said the mayor has to ensure consistency in applying his governing principles and show authentic community engagement. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s a difference between having a fait accompli and coming to the community with that decision, versus a real engagement where you have a policy goal in mind,&rdquo; he said, getting at one of the repeated criticism of the de Blasio administration, that it too often presents to communities a fully-baked plan. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s crucial to minimizing NIMBY.&rdquo;</p> <p>Norvell contends the administration has made &ldquo;honest and sincere&rdquo; engagement efforts in city planning, and that the ultimate goal is to &ldquo;do the most good for the most people.&rdquo; &ldquo;At the end of the day, you can&rsquo;t make everybody happy,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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