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/fair-share 2017-10-17T07:43:56+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com ‘Fair Share’ Reform – An Essential Step to Solving the City’s Homelessness Crisis 2017-08-28T04:00:00+00:00 2017-08-28T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7159:fair-share-reform-a-key-step-to-solving-the-city-s-homelessness-crisis Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/carlina-rivera.jpg" alt="Carlina Rivera" width="600" /></p> <p>Carlina Rivera, the author (photo: Samar Khurshid/Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>Repairing the subways, closing Rikers, rescuing failing schools – it can seem like New York’s most insurmountable crises are always being dealt with by cutting corners and taking the path of least resistance. This isn’t how it’s always been in our city. When the city passed the historic Fair Share Criteria in 1989, officials finally said enough to the inequitable distribution of city facilities and called for investment in a long-term plan for facility siting in the future.</p> <p>These rules were supposed to require the city to place facilities in a thought-out, deliberative process that factored in their potential effectiveness as well as the input of the community. Unfortunately that hasn’t been the case.</p> <p>Over the years, the original Fair Share Criteria have been found to be non-transparent and filled with loopholes that city officials and agencies continue to exploit to this day, particularly when it comes to homeless shelter siting.</p> <p>The city’s new homelessness plan shows this disregard for Fair Share, with officials looking to place shelters in the easiest-to-build locations in order to satisfy the plan's goal of building 90 new shelters. Sadly, this means that overburdened communities are once again seeing shelters open just blocks away from existing shelters, while nearby neighborhoods continue with few or no shelters at all. This is a clear misallocation of resources that will only help to exacerbate difficulties around existing shelters.</p> <p>Want a real example of how Fair Share isn’t being factored into the city’s homelessness response? One of the <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20170629/gramercy/brc-homeless-safe-haven-shelter-east-17th-street" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">newest facilities in the city, a 28-unit shelter that is set to open soon in on East 17th Street in Gramercy</a>, perfectly illustrates the current situation. This shelter is exactly what the city needs – its small size will create a safer, more comfortable environment for its residents, and the facility will have access to the programs that can get New Yorkers back on their feet.</p> <p>But this shelter’s innovations quickly end when it comes to its location. The site was quietly chosen largely because it was a former treatment center and easy to develop, even though the community already has nearly 1000 beds within walking distance at the 30th Street Men’s Shelter. With such a large population and a lack of individualized supportive services, this shelter has been a disappointment for many who reside in it and a continued complaint of local residents who see hundreds of men outside each day with seemingly no path to housing stability.</p> <p>I want our district to be a role model for the rest of the city, where we each accept the same, equal responsibility to help. When I am elected to the City Council, passing the <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/2017-Fair-Share-Report.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recently announced Fair Share reform package</a> will be one of my first legislative goals.</p> <p>I also understand that new shelters such as the one on 17th Street will be a real resource for our community’s most vulnerable residents. However, we also must be fair and recognize the terrible situation occurring at large, less-effective shelters such as 30th Street, and couple any new shelter openings with a reduction of beds at larger or failing shelters. This would bring shelters like 30th Street more in line with the smarter, smaller shelters we need in this city.</p> <p>For years the city favored quick fixes over a long-term solution to homelessness. But homelessness has never been an issue that can just be swept under the rug and forgot about, or dealt with by warehousing people. It requires a forward-thinking strategy that looks at each level of the homelessness support structure and honestly asks if we can do better.</p> <p>A better Fair Share is the first step in this process, and it won’t be easy. But our city’s biggest accomplishments have always emerged from the most visionary ideas. We know what needs to be done – now we just need the courage to follow through with it.</p> <p>***<br />Carlina Rivera is a candidate for New York City Council’s District 2, which covers the East Village, Gramercy Park, Kips Bay, Flatiron, Lower East Side, Murray Hill, Rose Hill. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/CarlinaRivera" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@CarlinaRivera</a>.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/carlina-rivera.jpg" alt="Carlina Rivera" width="600" /></p> <p>Carlina Rivera, the author (photo: Samar Khurshid/Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>Repairing the subways, closing Rikers, rescuing failing schools – it can seem like New York’s most insurmountable crises are always being dealt with by cutting corners and taking the path of least resistance. This isn’t how it’s always been in our city. When the city passed the historic Fair Share Criteria in 1989, officials finally said enough to the inequitable distribution of city facilities and called for investment in a long-term plan for facility siting in the future.</p> <p>These rules were supposed to require the city to place facilities in a thought-out, deliberative process that factored in their potential effectiveness as well as the input of the community. Unfortunately that hasn’t been the case.</p> <p>Over the years, the original Fair Share Criteria have been found to be non-transparent and filled with loopholes that city officials and agencies continue to exploit to this day, particularly when it comes to homeless shelter siting.</p> <p>The city’s new homelessness plan shows this disregard for Fair Share, with officials looking to place shelters in the easiest-to-build locations in order to satisfy the plan's goal of building 90 new shelters. Sadly, this means that overburdened communities are once again seeing shelters open just blocks away from existing shelters, while nearby neighborhoods continue with few or no shelters at all. This is a clear misallocation of resources that will only help to exacerbate difficulties around existing shelters.</p> <p>Want a real example of how Fair Share isn’t being factored into the city’s homelessness response? One of the <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20170629/gramercy/brc-homeless-safe-haven-shelter-east-17th-street" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">newest facilities in the city, a 28-unit shelter that is set to open soon in on East 17th Street in Gramercy</a>, perfectly illustrates the current situation. This shelter is exactly what the city needs – its small size will create a safer, more comfortable environment for its residents, and the facility will have access to the programs that can get New Yorkers back on their feet.</p> <p>But this shelter’s innovations quickly end when it comes to its location. The site was quietly chosen largely because it was a former treatment center and easy to develop, even though the community already has nearly 1000 beds within walking distance at the 30th Street Men’s Shelter. With such a large population and a lack of individualized supportive services, this shelter has been a disappointment for many who reside in it and a continued complaint of local residents who see hundreds of men outside each day with seemingly no path to housing stability.</p> <p>I want our district to be a role model for the rest of the city, where we each accept the same, equal responsibility to help. When I am elected to the City Council, passing the <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/2017-Fair-Share-Report.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recently announced Fair Share reform package</a> will be one of my first legislative goals.</p> <p>I also understand that new shelters such as the one on 17th Street will be a real resource for our community’s most vulnerable residents. However, we also must be fair and recognize the terrible situation occurring at large, less-effective shelters such as 30th Street, and couple any new shelter openings with a reduction of beds at larger or failing shelters. This would bring shelters like 30th Street more in line with the smarter, smaller shelters we need in this city.</p> <p>For years the city favored quick fixes over a long-term solution to homelessness. But homelessness has never been an issue that can just be swept under the rug and forgot about, or dealt with by warehousing people. It requires a forward-thinking strategy that looks at each level of the homelessness support structure and honestly asks if we can do better.</p> <p>A better Fair Share is the first step in this process, and it won’t be easy. But our city’s biggest accomplishments have always emerged from the most visionary ideas. We know what needs to be done – now we just need the courage to follow through with it.</p> <p>***<br />Carlina Rivera is a candidate for New York City Council’s District 2, which covers the East Village, Gramercy Park, Kips Bay, Flatiron, Lower East Side, Murray Hill, Rose Hill. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/CarlinaRivera" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@CarlinaRivera</a>.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>
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> City May Soon Have More Formal ‘Fair Share’ Discussion 2016-11-17T05:00:00+00:00 2016-11-17T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6630:city-may-soon-have-more-formal-fair-share-discussion Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/27025983544_87acd86757_z.jpg" alt="bronx recycling center" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>A recycling center in the Bronx (photo: Sofie Hecht for Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>For months, residents and elected officials from Wakefield in the Bronx protested a de Blasio administration proposal to site a homeless shelter in the neighborhood. They were concerned that the community would be overburdened by yet another shelter within a four-block radius, decreasing public safety and hurting “quality of life.” On August 15, the administration dropped its proposal, giving residents occasion to rejoice, while sending the City back to the drawing board.</p> <p>A similar situation played out more recently in Maspeth, Queens, but with a community where even one shelter is seen as too many, and residents aggressively pushed back on a city plan to fully convert into a shelter a hotel that has been used to house homeless people. After several contentious weeks, the city announced that the plan would not move forward.</p> <p>Wakefield and Maspeth are microcosms of issues facing the entire city. Some neighborhoods, particularly low-income communities of color, are overburdened by facilities like homeless shelters and underserved by others, like hospitals; while some neighborhoods want to ensure that no challenging facilities, like waste transfer stations, come into their communities at all. There are local fights over how homeless people are housed, where garbage is trucked, and how to provide adequate health care -- and thus, old and new conversations around whether the city’s “Fair Share” criteria, designed to equitably distribute facilities like shelters throughout the five boroughs, is effective enough and has been modernized to ensure justice and equity in providing essential city services to New Yorkers and not overburdening communities.</p> <p>Not only are there always local fair share issues flaring up, at times prompting larger conversations -- which happened around the Maspeth fight -- but city leaders have indicated that it is time to reevaluate the fair share criteria. Both Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito have indicated an interest in modernizing the guidelines, first adopted in 1990 by the City Planning Commission.</p> <p>The Fair Share <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/planning/download/pdf/about/publications/criteria_lcf.pdf" target="_blank">guidelines</a> state as purpose: “to foster neighborhood stability and revitalization by furthering the fair distribution among communities of city facilities.” Eight goals fall under that purpose, according to the criteria, which include equitable siting that balances needs for services, efficiency and effectiveness, and “social, economic, and environmental impacts of city facilities upon surrounding areas.”</p> <p>In her February 2016 State of the City speech, Mark-Viverito announced her intention to seek updates to the Fair Share criteria, something she reiterated in an August interview with Gotham Gazette, pointing to problems with the overburdening of some communities and the lack of willingness in others to accept certain responsibilities.</p> <p>In <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/126-city/6163-in-state-of-the-city-mark-viverito-outlines-civic-engagement-voter-empowerment-plans" target="_blank">her State of the City</a>, titled “More Justice,” Mark-Viverito discussed Fair Share as a weak spot in the quest for more justice in community planning, land use, and services.</p> <p>“Our Fair Share guidelines are vague and difficult to enforce,” Mark-Viverito said in her address. “They haven’t been updated in 25 years and there is limited information available to the public to inform these critical decisions. Too often, less desirable facilities are concentrated in just a few communities - like this one, in the South Bronx,” she said, from the Samuel Gompers school.</p> <p>The Fair Share criteria is meant to be a two-edged sword, insisting on shared responsibility and protecting communities, especially those that have historically had less political clout -- but that sword has long been blunt on both sides. Now, 27 years after the inception of the criteria, elected officials appear to be looking at giving new life to a once-promising idea.</p> <p>“I believe the Fair Share reality needs to be really looked at,” Mark-Viverito <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6508-full-interview-council-speaker-melissa-mark-viverito" target="_blank">told Gotham Gazette in August</a>. “I think there needs to be more equity in the way that services are distributed. 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,” the speaker said of her home district, which is mostly East Harlem. “So the issue of equity comes into the siting of services as well. And that’s a real challenge.”</p> <p>Along with homeless shelters, when discussing fair share Mark-Viverito references the desegregation of city schools and her goal of closing the Rikers Island jail complex, which would require additional small, localized jails.</p> <p>“We’ve been doing some thinking internally, we’ve been analyzing this and...we’ve got to figure out what are the things we can do as a city, and we have the authority to do, to create some more equity,” she said. “So we think that there’s some things - hopefully, we’ll be rolling something out soon, with some ideas, or a policy paper or something.”</p> <p>According to a Council spokesperson, that discussion is ongoing. Mark-Viverito is about to enter her final year in the Council, she is term-limited out of office at the end of 2017, and will deliver her last State of the City as speaker in February.</p> <p>For his part, Mayor de Blasio has been frustrated by the type of pushback seen by residents and officials from Maspeth. Speaking on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show in mid-September, de Blasio admonished those who were protesting against a shelter in their Queens neighborhood and said that the city was moving ahead with its plan (which was dropped when the hotel owner backed away, according to the city). Maspeth residents even took buses to protest outside of a city commissioner’s home in Brooklyn, which de Blasio took particular issue with.</p> <p>Criticizing the “not in my backyard” response, de Blasio said the “NIMBY mindset has grown over decades in New York City,” but that it is important to “tell people the truth that every community needs to bear its fair share, that this is how we turn around homelessness and get people off the streets once and for all.”</p> <p>The mayor went on to say that the city is siting facilities in all types of neighborhoods, including more affluent ones, and that he aims to modify the siting process. “I want our shelter system to evolve from what is a very cumbersome citywide approach to, first, a borough-based approach, and then even more localized,” de Blasio told Lehrer.</p> <p>Following the Wakefield announcement, Congressional Rep. Eliot Engel, a Bronx Democrat, said in a public statement, “Everyone agrees that the City must do more for homeless populations. However, it is unreasonable to expect one community to maintain this effort on its own. The people of Wakefield and the surrounding neighborhoods have done more than their fair share.”</p> <p>Referring to the city’s Department of Homeless Services, Engel said, “It appears that DHS has come to realize that one more shelter within an area that already has been saturated with similar facilities just didn’t make sense.”</p> <p>Engel’s argument is one that goes back decades and is hot today as the city grapples not only with homelessness, but also with waste transfer facilities, jails, health clinics, drug treatment centers, and more. Fair share has also been scrutinized on the flip side: ensuring more equitable distribution of open green space and other public community amenities.</p> <p>During her 2015 State of the City speech, Mark-Viverito, a Democrat, was not far from the Hunt’s Point neighborhood, which -- like much of the South Bronx -- <a href="http://www.nyenvironmentreport.com/the-bronx-is-breathing/" target="_blank">contains far more burdensome facilities</a> than some of its higher-income neighbors. The area is home to a wastewater treatment facility, power plants, a floating jail barge, and the largest food distribution center of its kind in the world, which, while it creates jobs, also creates traffic and related community health and safety concerns.</p> <p>Not surprisingly, the South Bronx shares the distinction of shouldering comparatively high numbers of undesirable facilities with other low-income neighborhoods of color: East Harlem; Central Harlem; Jamaica, Queens; and Bedford-Stuyvesant; among others. <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20150824/belmont/map-10-community-districts-carry-bulk-of-citys-homeless-shelters" target="_blank">DNAinfo reported</a> in August 2015 that just 10 New York City community board districts contain more homeless shelters than the remaining 49 districts combined.</p> <p>Clearly, the problem that the Fair Share criteria was crafted to address - the unequal allotment of burdens and benefits among New York City boroughs, neighborhoods, and communities - remains unsolved today.</p> <p>The issue perpetually arises in policy discussions, whether around homeless shelters or waste transfer stations, or even new Citi Bike docking sites. As the city recently went through the process of changing its zoning codes and land use rules to promote affordable housing and neighborhood development, the issue of fair share was omnipresent. One condition of the recently passed rezoning of part of East New York was the closure of three homeless shelters.</p> <p>The failure of the Fair Share criteria and of political leadership to more evenly distribute facilities throughout the city is complex, and raises questions of what equitable land use really looks like: by-the-numbers equality of city sites across boroughs, community boards, and neighborhoods? More shelters located in neighborhoods where the need is greatest, or more of those facilities built in areas that aren’t already saturated? What is fair, and to whom?</p> <p>The angry cousin of Fair Share is, of course, the NIMBYism that de Blasio recently railed against -- people do not want burdensome facilities in their neighborhoods. Wealthy communities are often more able to fight off such sitings.</p> <p>The issue of fair share is perhaps the most central flashpoint in the ongoing debate over the closing of Rikers Island jails. In her same State of the City speech, Mark-Viverito called for moving toward closing Rikers. To make good on her proposal to close the island’s nine active jails, the city would need to relocate several thousand prisoners held there -- as of October 20, the Rikers census was about 7,500, but Mark-Viverito has said that the goal is first to reduce that population, which has been dropping over many years, through criminal justice reforms. She announced the formation of a commission to study additional reforms and closing Rikers and expects to have new things to announce by her next State of the City.</p> <p>As <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/03/nyregion/closing-rikers-island-despite-rhetoric-intractable-obstacles-remain.html" target="_blank">the New York Times noted</a>, closing a jail riddled with neglect and violence and moving prisoners to safe, clean, and humane community-based facilities is a nice idea - until any one neighborhood finds itself the potential site of a new jail facility. The reaction from various communities, regardless of demography, against receiving detainees from Rikers Island was swift and defiant.</p> <p>Among the most vocal were officials from Staten Island, where worries that the city would open a jail on the South Shore resulted in an oppositional <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2016/02/staten_island_jail.html" target="_blank">back-and-forth</a> between Staten Island City Council Member Joseph Borelli and Mark-Viverito. City Council Member Steven Matteo, a Republican from Staten Island like Borelli, <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2016/04/could_a_new_jail_be_located_on.html" target="_blank">said outright</a> that the possibility of a new prison anywhere on Staten Island is a “non-starter” in his opinion.</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio has expressed skepticism about the notion of closing Rikers jails, but his language around it has warmed somewhat over the course of the year.</p> <p>While Mark-Viverito’s commission explores the possibility of and path toward closing Rikers and critics continue to label the plan intractable and unrealistic, any Fair Share criteria update proposed by the speaker could also become a complicating factor should the time come to site new, smaller community jails or expand existing detention centers where about 2,200 detainees are currently held on any given day (the total Department of Correction headcount was 9,764 on October 20).</p> <p>But separate from the closure of Rikers, the city’s fair share rules may be up for modernization.</p> <p>As is, it seems clear that Fair Share is not particularly successful at preventing an uneven distribution of undesirable facilities. It is less clear why such well-intentioned city policy has not been effective -- other than, perhaps, that the criteria are too vague and that the political will to more strongly enforce the spirit of fair share has not been present.</p> <p>Reasons for the criteria’s opacity and lack of efficacy may lie in its origins, as well as the complexity of how to use city-owned land in the most populous urban center in North America.</p> <p>“The current fair share system was a noble idea,” City Council Member Brad Lander, a city planning expert, told Gotham Gazette in an interview. “Creating the criteria was the first time these issues were addressed in municipal public policy. But as years have gone by, the criteria have not proven to be an effective system.”</p> <p><strong>Fair Share Origins</strong><br />The Fair Share Criteria emerged during a period of intense political transition and structural transformation in New York City government. In 1989, sustained protest from low-income communities and wealthy neighborhoods alike prompted the passage of the criteria.</p> <p><a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/planning/download/pdf/about/publications/criteria_lcf.pdf" target="_blank">The criteria</a> lay down considerations the city must keep in mind when looking to site a new local or citywide facility, or expand, close or reduce an existing facility. According to the guidelines, the city must explore whether a new or expanded facility is compatible with existing ones, city-owned and private, in the immediate vicinity; whether the facility would have an adverse impact on the neighborhood; whether a site is suitable to deliver cost-effective services; and whether the facility is compatible with the facility proposals in the annual Statement of Needs compiled by the Mayor under Section 204 of the City Charter. In closing or reducing the capacity of a facility, the city must consider whether it would create an imbalance in service delivery by doing so.</p> <p>The same 1989 <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/charter/downloads/pdf/1989_final_report.pdf" target="_blank">revision of the city charter</a> that required that the City Planning Commission adopt the Fair Share Criteria was also called “the most thorough overhaul of the municipal government since the Greater City of New York was created in 1898” <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1989/11/08/nyregion/1989-elections-charter-overhaul-new-york-city-charter-approved-polls-show.html" target="_blank">by the New York Times</a> just after November elections in 1989.</p> <p>The charter revision, which passed with a fairly slim margin of 55% of the vote, dissolved the Board of Estimate, which was comprised by the mayor, comptroller, president of the City Council, and the five borough presidents, and had been “at the heart of city affairs for almost 100 years,” wrote the Times. The change was proposed after the U.S. Supreme Court declared the Board of Estimate to be unconstitutional on the grounds that Brooklyn, despite being the most populous borough, had no more representation than Staten Island, the least populous.</p> <p>The revision shifted powers over land use, the city budget, and city contracts, among others, to the mayor and the City Council, and expanded the Council from 35 to 51 members.</p> <p>The change also restructured the City Planning Commission, growing it from seven mayor-appointed members to 13 members, with seven appointed by the mayor, one chosen by each of the borough presidents, and one by the then-City Council President. The 13th commissioner is now appointed by the Public Advocate.</p> <p>The mandates included in the 1989 charter revision essentially constructed the form of New York City governance that remains to this day, and revolutionized the way that land use, zoning, and city planning would be executed in the future.</p> <p>So it was the newly-expanded City Planning Commission that formally adopted the Criteria for the Location of City Facilities, or the Fair Share Criteria, in 1990.</p> <p>That same year, the Office of the Mayor passed from Ed Koch to David Dinkins, and a group of borough presidents who’d pushed for liberal reforms to Koch’s housing and environmental policies took office. With a new administration, revised charter, and a restructured and significantly larger city government, Ruth Messinger, inaugurated as Manhattan Borough President that year, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1989/11/08/nyregion/the-1989-elections-board-of-estimate-a-generation-of-ex-critics-gains-power.html" target="_blank">called the shift</a> a “generational change” for city government.</p> <p>The Fair Share Criteria became effective in July of 1991, at which time the commission called on the Department of City Planning to “monitor and evaluate the effects of these new and untested guidelines and periodically report its findings.”</p> <p>The DCP issued its one and only assessment in 1995, when it published “<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/planning/download/pdf/about/publications/fair.pdf" target="_blank">Fair Share: An Assessment of New York City's Facility Siting Process</a>,” which “outlined a range of issues and shortcomings” based on community board comments, past litigation, testimony from public officials and citizens, and various other feedback sources, but did not affect any significant change to the way the criteria are structured or implemented.</p> <p>In 1998, Planning Commissioner Joseph Rose, under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, published “<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/planning/download/pdf/about/publications/fair_share_guide.pdf" target="_blank">The Fair Share Criteria: A Guide for City Agencies</a>.” The lengthy document, after acknowledging that “developing a consistent approach to the criteria was especially challenging during the early years of new regulation,” provides detailed clarifications of the criteria, followed by descriptions of how and in what spirit the criteria should be applied as agencies attempt to open, close, or alter sites for city facilities.</p> <p>The last substantive change was made to the criteria in 2010, when Mayor Michael Bloomberg appointed a Charter Revision Commission to recommend changes to the City Charter for voter approval. The New York City Environmental Justice Alliance <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/617-making-fair-share-fairer" target="_blank">successfully advocated</a> that the Charter Commission propose an amendment to include all public and private waste and transportation infrastructure facilities on the atlas that formerly only included city-owned or leased facilities.</p> <p><strong>The Criteria, Explained</strong><br />The Criteria for the Location of City Facilities, or Fair Share Criteria, found in section 203 of the City Charter, are a set of processes meant “to further the fair distribution of burdens and benefits associated with city facilities.” According to the 1998 city assessment of fair share, the criteria were created in response to the “widespread perception -- and sometimes the reality -- that some communities were becoming dumping grounds for unwanted city facilities” by way of “poorly planned and often secretive siting decisions driven by expediency.” Residents of the city’s lower-income neighborhoods, the report says, believed that they were being saturated with facilities like shelters because most city-owned property is located in those neighborhoods, and because residents lacked the resources to adequately protest new sitings in their communities.</p> <p>For the purposes of the criteria, a “City facility” is defined as “a facility providing City services whose location, expansion, closing, or reduction in size is subject to control and supervision by a City agency, operated by the City on property owned or leased by the City which is greater than 750 square feet in total floor area; or, used primarily for a program or programs operated pursuant to a written agreement on behalf of the City and derives at least 50 percent and at least $50,000 of its annual funding from the City.”</p> <p>According to the 1998 assessment, the Fair Share Criteria are guided by a number of core goals: balancing considerations of community need for services and the cost and impact of facilities; long-term planning for land use, budget and service delivery; soliciting public input and creating consensus in the planning process; ensuring fair distribution according to local needs and reducing disparities in level of responsibility; preserving neighborhood character; and accountability in mitigating negative effects and monitoring impact after sites are built.</p> <p>The document goes on to say that the criteria should be applied “whenever the City sites a new facility by purchase, condemnation, new lease, or new contract, expands or reduces size of a facility by 25% or more, substantially changes the use of an existing facility, relocates a facility, or closes a facility and does not replace it at new location.”</p> <p>The criteria do not apply to the siting of facilities by private entities, state or federal agencies - an important exclusion that critics of the Fair Share Criteria say prevents communities from gaining a full understanding of the burdensome facilities in their neighborhoods.</p> <p>The city ostensibly checks to see if the criteria have been applied when a city agency submits a land use (ULURP) application. <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/planning/download/pdf/applicants/applicant-portal/fair_share_analysis_description.pdf" target="_blank">The criteria guide</a> says that agencies must prove that all criteria have been considered before a ULURP application is certified, and must account for any inconsistencies or conflicts.</p> <p>This means that if the Department of Sanitation wishes to site a new waste transfer facility, it conducts its own fair share analysis, submits the application and analysis to City Planning, which then chooses whether to certify the agency’s ULURP application, in part based on whether the Sanitation adequately considered the Fair Share Criteria when choosing the new site.</p> <p>Though the actual, original criteria are housed in <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/planning/download/pdf/about/publications/criteria_lcf.pdf" target="_blank">a 14-page technical manual</a>, they are not meant to be viewed as a silver bullet for equitable planning, according to Sarah Goldwyn, director of planning coordination at the Department of City Planning.</p> <p>“Rather than being a strict set of rules or regulations used for enforcement, the criteria are intended to serve as a set of considerations to support an early and informed public dialogue and assist decision-makers in the process for siting city facilities,” Goldwyn told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>The criteria attempt to achieve this both by providing guidelines for agencies to consider when choosing sites for city facilities, and by creating a public review process once those sites have been identified.</p> <p>The guidelines span a great deal of potential siting scenarios, but some of the most salient areas concern logistical feasibility (“Site should be optimally located, other sites being more cost-prohibitive because of location or positioning”), and clustering of burdensome facilities (“Agency must consider presence of other sites within a half mile with similar environmental impact”).</p> <p>To ensure public review of all new city sites, Section 204 makes necessary the Citywide Statement of Needs, in which the city must publish annually all facilities that the city “plans to site, close or substantially change in size over the next two years.” This document, City Planning says, allows community boards, City Council members, and borough presidents to review facilities that will appear or be removed from their jurisdiction so that they may offer statements or propose new facilities. The Citywide Statement of Needs is published each fall by the mayor.</p> <p>According to the criteria, the statement of needs must be accompanied by a list and map of city-owned and leased properties, called the Gazetteer and Atlas of City Property. Today, the “gazetteer” is <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/planning/data-maps/open-data.page#city_facilities" target="_blank">an online database</a> of City Owned and Leased Properties (COLP), and the sites formerly found in the atlas are now available as “Uses on City Owned and Leased Properties” on <a href="http://maps.nyc.gov/doitt/nycitymap/template?applicationName=ZOLA" target="_blank">ZoLa</a>, the city’s zoning and land use website.</p> <p>COLP and ZoLa include only properties owned or leased by New York City - not private facilities, and not facilities owned or leased by state and federal agencies. Private facilities, which can include waste transfer stations and recycling facilities, are stored in <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/planning/data-maps/open-data.page#city_facilities" target="_blank">a separate database</a>.</p> <p>The database, which includes geographic data, type of use and agency will be updated again in mid-November of this year along with the map of city-owned properties. The properties fall in general categories according to use, including cultural and recreation, education, health and social services, public safety and criminal justice, and residential, among others.</p> <p>While the Fair Share Criteria are outlined in considerable detail, their real-world application is less clear. The 1998 revision of the criteria state that, although an agency’s consideration of the criteria is not publicly reviewed until the ULURP or contract procurement process is underway, “project planners should begin to keep the criteria in mind well before that time - when they evaluate service needs and consider new facilities or chances in facilities.”</p> <p>While City Planning emphasizes that the Fair Share Criteria were never meant to be hard-and-fast rules for how the city sites facilities, some hold that the criteria should have - and could have - been a more helpful tool in building a more equitable New York.</p> <p><em><strong>This is part one of a two-part series on Fair Share. READ PART TWO &gt;&gt;&gt; <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6633-fair-share-design-flaws-flashpoints-possible-updates" target="_blank">FAIR SHARE: DESIGN FLAWS, FLASHPOINTS &amp; POSSIBLE UPDATES</a></strong></em></p> <p>***<br />by Maggie Calmes &amp; Samar Khurshid<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/27025983544_87acd86757_z.jpg" alt="bronx recycling center" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>A recycling center in the Bronx (photo: Sofie Hecht for Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>For months, residents and elected officials from Wakefield in the Bronx protested a de Blasio administration proposal to site a homeless shelter in the neighborhood. They were concerned that the community would be overburdened by yet another shelter within a four-block radius, decreasing public safety and hurting “quality of life.” On August 15, the administration dropped its proposal, giving residents occasion to rejoice, while sending the City back to the drawing board.</p> <p>A similar situation played out more recently in Maspeth, Queens, but with a community where even one shelter is seen as too many, and residents aggressively pushed back on a city plan to fully convert into a shelter a hotel that has been used to house homeless people. After several contentious weeks, the city announced that the plan would not move forward.</p> <p>Wakefield and Maspeth are microcosms of issues facing the entire city. Some neighborhoods, particularly low-income communities of color, are overburdened by facilities like homeless shelters and underserved by others, like hospitals; while some neighborhoods want to ensure that no challenging facilities, like waste transfer stations, come into their communities at all. There are local fights over how homeless people are housed, where garbage is trucked, and how to provide adequate health care -- and thus, old and new conversations around whether the city’s “Fair Share” criteria, designed to equitably distribute facilities like shelters throughout the five boroughs, is effective enough and has been modernized to ensure justice and equity in providing essential city services to New Yorkers and not overburdening communities.</p> <p>Not only are there always local fair share issues flaring up, at times prompting larger conversations -- which happened around the Maspeth fight -- but city leaders have indicated that it is time to reevaluate the fair share criteria. Both Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito have indicated an interest in modernizing the guidelines, first adopted in 1990 by the City Planning Commission.</p> <p>The Fair Share <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/planning/download/pdf/about/publications/criteria_lcf.pdf" target="_blank">guidelines</a> state as purpose: “to foster neighborhood stability and revitalization by furthering the fair distribution among communities of city facilities.” Eight goals fall under that purpose, according to the criteria, which include equitable siting that balances needs for services, efficiency and effectiveness, and “social, economic, and environmental impacts of city facilities upon surrounding areas.”</p> <p>In her February 2016 State of the City speech, Mark-Viverito announced her intention to seek updates to the Fair Share criteria, something she reiterated in an August interview with Gotham Gazette, pointing to problems with the overburdening of some communities and the lack of willingness in others to accept certain responsibilities.</p> <p>In <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/126-city/6163-in-state-of-the-city-mark-viverito-outlines-civic-engagement-voter-empowerment-plans" target="_blank">her State of the City</a>, titled “More Justice,” Mark-Viverito discussed Fair Share as a weak spot in the quest for more justice in community planning, land use, and services.</p> <p>“Our Fair Share guidelines are vague and difficult to enforce,” Mark-Viverito said in her address. “They haven’t been updated in 25 years and there is limited information available to the public to inform these critical decisions. Too often, less desirable facilities are concentrated in just a few communities - like this one, in the South Bronx,” she said, from the Samuel Gompers school.</p> <p>The Fair Share criteria is meant to be a two-edged sword, insisting on shared responsibility and protecting communities, especially those that have historically had less political clout -- but that sword has long been blunt on both sides. Now, 27 years after the inception of the criteria, elected officials appear to be looking at giving new life to a once-promising idea.</p> <p>“I believe the Fair Share reality needs to be really looked at,” Mark-Viverito <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6508-full-interview-council-speaker-melissa-mark-viverito" target="_blank">told Gotham Gazette in August</a>. “I think there needs to be more equity in the way that services are distributed. 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,” the speaker said of her home district, which is mostly East Harlem. “So the issue of equity comes into the siting of services as well. And that’s a real challenge.”</p> <p>Along with homeless shelters, when discussing fair share Mark-Viverito references the desegregation of city schools and her goal of closing the Rikers Island jail complex, which would require additional small, localized jails.</p> <p>“We’ve been doing some thinking internally, we’ve been analyzing this and...we’ve got to figure out what are the things we can do as a city, and we have the authority to do, to create some more equity,” she said. “So we think that there’s some things - hopefully, we’ll be rolling something out soon, with some ideas, or a policy paper or something.”</p> <p>According to a Council spokesperson, that discussion is ongoing. Mark-Viverito is about to enter her final year in the Council, she is term-limited out of office at the end of 2017, and will deliver her last State of the City as speaker in February.</p> <p>For his part, Mayor de Blasio has been frustrated by the type of pushback seen by residents and officials from Maspeth. Speaking on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show in mid-September, de Blasio admonished those who were protesting against a shelter in their Queens neighborhood and said that the city was moving ahead with its plan (which was dropped when the hotel owner backed away, according to the city). Maspeth residents even took buses to protest outside of a city commissioner’s home in Brooklyn, which de Blasio took particular issue with.</p> <p>Criticizing the “not in my backyard” response, de Blasio said the “NIMBY mindset has grown over decades in New York City,” but that it is important to “tell people the truth that every community needs to bear its fair share, that this is how we turn around homelessness and get people off the streets once and for all.”</p> <p>The mayor went on to say that the city is siting facilities in all types of neighborhoods, including more affluent ones, and that he aims to modify the siting process. “I want our shelter system to evolve from what is a very cumbersome citywide approach to, first, a borough-based approach, and then even more localized,” de Blasio told Lehrer.</p> <p>Following the Wakefield announcement, Congressional Rep. Eliot Engel, a Bronx Democrat, said in a public statement, “Everyone agrees that the City must do more for homeless populations. However, it is unreasonable to expect one community to maintain this effort on its own. The people of Wakefield and the surrounding neighborhoods have done more than their fair share.”</p> <p>Referring to the city’s Department of Homeless Services, Engel said, “It appears that DHS has come to realize that one more shelter within an area that already has been saturated with similar facilities just didn’t make sense.”</p> <p>Engel’s argument is one that goes back decades and is hot today as the city grapples not only with homelessness, but also with waste transfer facilities, jails, health clinics, drug treatment centers, and more. Fair share has also been scrutinized on the flip side: ensuring more equitable distribution of open green space and other public community amenities.</p> <p>During her 2015 State of the City speech, Mark-Viverito, a Democrat, was not far from the Hunt’s Point neighborhood, which -- like much of the South Bronx -- <a href="http://www.nyenvironmentreport.com/the-bronx-is-breathing/" target="_blank">contains far more burdensome facilities</a> than some of its higher-income neighbors. The area is home to a wastewater treatment facility, power plants, a floating jail barge, and the largest food distribution center of its kind in the world, which, while it creates jobs, also creates traffic and related community health and safety concerns.</p> <p>Not surprisingly, the South Bronx shares the distinction of shouldering comparatively high numbers of undesirable facilities with other low-income neighborhoods of color: East Harlem; Central Harlem; Jamaica, Queens; and Bedford-Stuyvesant; among others. <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20150824/belmont/map-10-community-districts-carry-bulk-of-citys-homeless-shelters" target="_blank">DNAinfo reported</a> in August 2015 that just 10 New York City community board districts contain more homeless shelters than the remaining 49 districts combined.</p> <p>Clearly, the problem that the Fair Share criteria was crafted to address - the unequal allotment of burdens and benefits among New York City boroughs, neighborhoods, and communities - remains unsolved today.</p> <p>The issue perpetually arises in policy discussions, whether around homeless shelters or waste transfer stations, or even new Citi Bike docking sites. As the city recently went through the process of changing its zoning codes and land use rules to promote affordable housing and neighborhood development, the issue of fair share was omnipresent. One condition of the recently passed rezoning of part of East New York was the closure of three homeless shelters.</p> <p>The failure of the Fair Share criteria and of political leadership to more evenly distribute facilities throughout the city is complex, and raises questions of what equitable land use really looks like: by-the-numbers equality of city sites across boroughs, community boards, and neighborhoods? More shelters located in neighborhoods where the need is greatest, or more of those facilities built in areas that aren’t already saturated? What is fair, and to whom?</p> <p>The angry cousin of Fair Share is, of course, the NIMBYism that de Blasio recently railed against -- people do not want burdensome facilities in their neighborhoods. Wealthy communities are often more able to fight off such sitings.</p> <p>The issue of fair share is perhaps the most central flashpoint in the ongoing debate over the closing of Rikers Island jails. In her same State of the City speech, Mark-Viverito called for moving toward closing Rikers. To make good on her proposal to close the island’s nine active jails, the city would need to relocate several thousand prisoners held there -- as of October 20, the Rikers census was about 7,500, but Mark-Viverito has said that the goal is first to reduce that population, which has been dropping over many years, through criminal justice reforms. She announced the formation of a commission to study additional reforms and closing Rikers and expects to have new things to announce by her next State of the City.</p> <p>As <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/03/nyregion/closing-rikers-island-despite-rhetoric-intractable-obstacles-remain.html" target="_blank">the New York Times noted</a>, closing a jail riddled with neglect and violence and moving prisoners to safe, clean, and humane community-based facilities is a nice idea - until any one neighborhood finds itself the potential site of a new jail facility. The reaction from various communities, regardless of demography, against receiving detainees from Rikers Island was swift and defiant.</p> <p>Among the most vocal were officials from Staten Island, where worries that the city would open a jail on the South Shore resulted in an oppositional <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2016/02/staten_island_jail.html" target="_blank">back-and-forth</a> between Staten Island City Council Member Joseph Borelli and Mark-Viverito. City Council Member Steven Matteo, a Republican from Staten Island like Borelli, <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2016/04/could_a_new_jail_be_located_on.html" target="_blank">said outright</a> that the possibility of a new prison anywhere on Staten Island is a “non-starter” in his opinion.</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio has expressed skepticism about the notion of closing Rikers jails, but his language around it has warmed somewhat over the course of the year.</p> <p>While Mark-Viverito’s commission explores the possibility of and path toward closing Rikers and critics continue to label the plan intractable and unrealistic, any Fair Share criteria update proposed by the speaker could also become a complicating factor should the time come to site new, smaller community jails or expand existing detention centers where about 2,200 detainees are currently held on any given day (the total Department of Correction headcount was 9,764 on October 20).</p> <p>But separate from the closure of Rikers, the city’s fair share rules may be up for modernization.</p> <p>As is, it seems clear that Fair Share is not particularly successful at preventing an uneven distribution of undesirable facilities. It is less clear why such well-intentioned city policy has not been effective -- other than, perhaps, that the criteria are too vague and that the political will to more strongly enforce the spirit of fair share has not been present.</p> <p>Reasons for the criteria’s opacity and lack of efficacy may lie in its origins, as well as the complexity of how to use city-owned land in the most populous urban center in North America.</p> <p>“The current fair share system was a noble idea,” City Council Member Brad Lander, a city planning expert, told Gotham Gazette in an interview. “Creating the criteria was the first time these issues were addressed in municipal public policy. But as years have gone by, the criteria have not proven to be an effective system.”</p> <p><strong>Fair Share Origins</strong><br />The Fair Share Criteria emerged during a period of intense political transition and structural transformation in New York City government. In 1989, sustained protest from low-income communities and wealthy neighborhoods alike prompted the passage of the criteria.</p> <p><a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/planning/download/pdf/about/publications/criteria_lcf.pdf" target="_blank">The criteria</a> lay down considerations the city must keep in mind when looking to site a new local or citywide facility, or expand, close or reduce an existing facility. According to the guidelines, the city must explore whether a new or expanded facility is compatible with existing ones, city-owned and private, in the immediate vicinity; whether the facility would have an adverse impact on the neighborhood; whether a site is suitable to deliver cost-effective services; and whether the facility is compatible with the facility proposals in the annual Statement of Needs compiled by the Mayor under Section 204 of the City Charter. In closing or reducing the capacity of a facility, the city must consider whether it would create an imbalance in service delivery by doing so.</p> <p>The same 1989 <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/charter/downloads/pdf/1989_final_report.pdf" target="_blank">revision of the city charter</a> that required that the City Planning Commission adopt the Fair Share Criteria was also called “the most thorough overhaul of the municipal government since the Greater City of New York was created in 1898” <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1989/11/08/nyregion/1989-elections-charter-overhaul-new-york-city-charter-approved-polls-show.html" target="_blank">by the New York Times</a> just after November elections in 1989.</p> <p>The charter revision, which passed with a fairly slim margin of 55% of the vote, dissolved the Board of Estimate, which was comprised by the mayor, comptroller, president of the City Council, and the five borough presidents, and had been “at the heart of city affairs for almost 100 years,” wrote the Times. The change was proposed after the U.S. Supreme Court declared the Board of Estimate to be unconstitutional on the grounds that Brooklyn, despite being the most populous borough, had no more representation than Staten Island, the least populous.</p> <p>The revision shifted powers over land use, the city budget, and city contracts, among others, to the mayor and the City Council, and expanded the Council from 35 to 51 members.</p> <p>The change also restructured the City Planning Commission, growing it from seven mayor-appointed members to 13 members, with seven appointed by the mayor, one chosen by each of the borough presidents, and one by the then-City Council President. The 13th commissioner is now appointed by the Public Advocate.</p> <p>The mandates included in the 1989 charter revision essentially constructed the form of New York City governance that remains to this day, and revolutionized the way that land use, zoning, and city planning would be executed in the future.</p> <p>So it was the newly-expanded City Planning Commission that formally adopted the Criteria for the Location of City Facilities, or the Fair Share Criteria, in 1990.</p> <p>That same year, the Office of the Mayor passed from Ed Koch to David Dinkins, and a group of borough presidents who’d pushed for liberal reforms to Koch’s housing and environmental policies took office. With a new administration, revised charter, and a restructured and significantly larger city government, Ruth Messinger, inaugurated as Manhattan Borough President that year, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1989/11/08/nyregion/the-1989-elections-board-of-estimate-a-generation-of-ex-critics-gains-power.html" target="_blank">called the shift</a> a “generational change” for city government.</p> <p>The Fair Share Criteria became effective in July of 1991, at which time the commission called on the Department of City Planning to “monitor and evaluate the effects of these new and untested guidelines and periodically report its findings.”</p> <p>The DCP issued its one and only assessment in 1995, when it published “<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/planning/download/pdf/about/publications/fair.pdf" target="_blank">Fair Share: An Assessment of New York City's Facility Siting Process</a>,” which “outlined a range of issues and shortcomings” based on community board comments, past litigation, testimony from public officials and citizens, and various other feedback sources, but did not affect any significant change to the way the criteria are structured or implemented.</p> <p>In 1998, Planning Commissioner Joseph Rose, under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, published “<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/planning/download/pdf/about/publications/fair_share_guide.pdf" target="_blank">The Fair Share Criteria: A Guide for City Agencies</a>.” The lengthy document, after acknowledging that “developing a consistent approach to the criteria was especially challenging during the early years of new regulation,” provides detailed clarifications of the criteria, followed by descriptions of how and in what spirit the criteria should be applied as agencies attempt to open, close, or alter sites for city facilities.</p> <p>The last substantive change was made to the criteria in 2010, when Mayor Michael Bloomberg appointed a Charter Revision Commission to recommend changes to the City Charter for voter approval. The New York City Environmental Justice Alliance <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/617-making-fair-share-fairer" target="_blank">successfully advocated</a> that the Charter Commission propose an amendment to include all public and private waste and transportation infrastructure facilities on the atlas that formerly only included city-owned or leased facilities.</p> <p><strong>The Criteria, Explained</strong><br />The Criteria for the Location of City Facilities, or Fair Share Criteria, found in section 203 of the City Charter, are a set of processes meant “to further the fair distribution of burdens and benefits associated with city facilities.” According to the 1998 city assessment of fair share, the criteria were created in response to the “widespread perception -- and sometimes the reality -- that some communities were becoming dumping grounds for unwanted city facilities” by way of “poorly planned and often secretive siting decisions driven by expediency.” Residents of the city’s lower-income neighborhoods, the report says, believed that they were being saturated with facilities like shelters because most city-owned property is located in those neighborhoods, and because residents lacked the resources to adequately protest new sitings in their communities.</p> <p>For the purposes of the criteria, a “City facility” is defined as “a facility providing City services whose location, expansion, closing, or reduction in size is subject to control and supervision by a City agency, operated by the City on property owned or leased by the City which is greater than 750 square feet in total floor area; or, used primarily for a program or programs operated pursuant to a written agreement on behalf of the City and derives at least 50 percent and at least $50,000 of its annual funding from the City.”</p> <p>According to the 1998 assessment, the Fair Share Criteria are guided by a number of core goals: balancing considerations of community need for services and the cost and impact of facilities; long-term planning for land use, budget and service delivery; soliciting public input and creating consensus in the planning process; ensuring fair distribution according to local needs and reducing disparities in level of responsibility; preserving neighborhood character; and accountability in mitigating negative effects and monitoring impact after sites are built.</p> <p>The document goes on to say that the criteria should be applied “whenever the City sites a new facility by purchase, condemnation, new lease, or new contract, expands or reduces size of a facility by 25% or more, substantially changes the use of an existing facility, relocates a facility, or closes a facility and does not replace it at new location.”</p> <p>The criteria do not apply to the siting of facilities by private entities, state or federal agencies - an important exclusion that critics of the Fair Share Criteria say prevents communities from gaining a full understanding of the burdensome facilities in their neighborhoods.</p> <p>The city ostensibly checks to see if the criteria have been applied when a city agency submits a land use (ULURP) application. <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/planning/download/pdf/applicants/applicant-portal/fair_share_analysis_description.pdf" target="_blank">The criteria guide</a> says that agencies must prove that all criteria have been considered before a ULURP application is certified, and must account for any inconsistencies or conflicts.</p> <p>This means that if the Department of Sanitation wishes to site a new waste transfer facility, it conducts its own fair share analysis, submits the application and analysis to City Planning, which then chooses whether to certify the agency’s ULURP application, in part based on whether the Sanitation adequately considered the Fair Share Criteria when choosing the new site.</p> <p>Though the actual, original criteria are housed in <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/planning/download/pdf/about/publications/criteria_lcf.pdf" target="_blank">a 14-page technical manual</a>, they are not meant to be viewed as a silver bullet for equitable planning, according to Sarah Goldwyn, director of planning coordination at the Department of City Planning.</p> <p>“Rather than being a strict set of rules or regulations used for enforcement, the criteria are intended to serve as a set of considerations to support an early and informed public dialogue and assist decision-makers in the process for siting city facilities,” Goldwyn told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>The criteria attempt to achieve this both by providing guidelines for agencies to consider when choosing sites for city facilities, and by creating a public review process once those sites have been identified.</p> <p>The guidelines span a great deal of potential siting scenarios, but some of the most salient areas concern logistical feasibility (“Site should be optimally located, other sites being more cost-prohibitive because of location or positioning”), and clustering of burdensome facilities (“Agency must consider presence of other sites within a half mile with similar environmental impact”).</p> <p>To ensure public review of all new city sites, Section 204 makes necessary the Citywide Statement of Needs, in which the city must publish annually all facilities that the city “plans to site, close or substantially change in size over the next two years.” This document, City Planning says, allows community boards, City Council members, and borough presidents to review facilities that will appear or be removed from their jurisdiction so that they may offer statements or propose new facilities. The Citywide Statement of Needs is published each fall by the mayor.</p> <p>According to the criteria, the statement of needs must be accompanied by a list and map of city-owned and leased properties, called the Gazetteer and Atlas of City Property. Today, the “gazetteer” is <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/planning/data-maps/open-data.page#city_facilities" target="_blank">an online database</a> of City Owned and Leased Properties (COLP), and the sites formerly found in the atlas are now available as “Uses on City Owned and Leased Properties” on <a href="http://maps.nyc.gov/doitt/nycitymap/template?applicationName=ZOLA" target="_blank">ZoLa</a>, the city’s zoning and land use website.</p> <p>COLP and ZoLa include only properties owned or leased by New York City - not private facilities, and not facilities owned or leased by state and federal agencies. Private facilities, which can include waste transfer stations and recycling facilities, are stored in <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/planning/data-maps/open-data.page#city_facilities" target="_blank">a separate database</a>.</p> <p>The database, which includes geographic data, type of use and agency will be updated again in mid-November of this year along with the map of city-owned properties. The properties fall in general categories according to use, including cultural and recreation, education, health and social services, public safety and criminal justice, and residential, among others.</p> <p>While the Fair Share Criteria are outlined in considerable detail, their real-world application is less clear. The 1998 revision of the criteria state that, although an agency’s consideration of the criteria is not publicly reviewed until the ULURP or contract procurement process is underway, “project planners should begin to keep the criteria in mind well before that time - when they evaluate service needs and consider new facilities or chances in facilities.”</p> <p>While City Planning emphasizes that the Fair Share Criteria were never meant to be hard-and-fast rules for how the city sites facilities, some hold that the criteria should have - and could have - been a more helpful tool in building a more equitable New York.</p> <p><em><strong>This is part one of a two-part series on Fair Share. READ PART TWO &gt;&gt;&gt; <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6633-fair-share-design-flaws-flashpoints-possible-updates" target="_blank">FAIR SHARE: DESIGN FLAWS, FLASHPOINTS &amp; POSSIBLE UPDATES</a></strong></em></p> <p>***<br />by Maggie Calmes &amp; Samar Khurshid<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></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>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Does Staten Island Get Its Fair Share? 2015-08-14T05:00:00+00:00 2015-08-14T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5849:does-staten-island-get-its-fair-share Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/si_wheel.jpg" alt="si wheel" height="394" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Rendering of proposed New York Wheel on Staten Island. (Perkins Eastman <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/09/nyregion/betting-on-the-new-york-ferris-wheel-to-elevate-staten-islands-fortunes.html?ref=nyregion&amp;_r=2" target="_blank">via NY Times</a>)</span></p> <hr /> <p>There may be no other borough that has the local pride and identity felt by Staten Islanders. To be a Staten Islander often means to be of New York City and to be disconnected from New York City. It often means to know your family, but wonder if you were switched at birth.</p> <p dir="ltr">Since New York City adopted its outer boroughs in 1898, Staten Island has always been the odd child out. Even for a city of islands, Staten Island seems, and is, far away. It is the enigma of New York City in virtually every aspect - at least most of it is, as the stereotypes of Staten Island sometimes belie its diversity.</p> <p dir="ltr">Stand Island sits apart, though. Even the island accent is a bit more bombastic — more expressive, even — than the standard New York intonation. It’s important to have your voice stand out when you’re struggling to be heard.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Staten Island existence has been, and continues to be, in some part dominated by its uneasy relationship with the larger city it is a part of, and the ongoing struggle its residents and elected representatives engage in to ensure that “the forgotten borough” gets its fair share.</p> <p dir="ltr">Perhaps it’s fitting that Staten Island is the size of a key at the bottom left of the MTA subway map, which, of course, shows few lines cutting through the borough. It is a borough geographically far from the others, and population-wise, nowhere near a fifth of New York, with just under 500,000 residents in a city of over eight million. While much of the city is chasing rent, Staten Island has higher home ownership than any other borough, and its residents rely heavily on cars. For the most part, Islanders are big supporters of law enforcement, and it is a suburbia to many current and retired uniforms.</p> <p dir="ltr">This is not to say that Staten Island is homogenous, of course. It is not.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Island, aka Richmond County, looks more like America than the rest of New York City. Or, as Joe Borelli, one of only four Staten Islanders who serve in the 150-seat New York State Assembly, told Gotham Gazette, “New York looks at Staten Island weird, but it’s the rest of the country who’s looking at New York weird.”</p> <p dir="ltr">It is the only borough with <a href="http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/36/36085.html" target="_blank">a clear white majority</a>, at 77 percent of the population, compared to 12 percent African-American and 18 percent Latino, according to recent census figures. And the racial divide is stark: the North Shore is far more ethnically diverse and less wealthy than the South Shore and much of Mid-Island, with a reliance on public housing and apartment complexes to accommodate booming immigration populations. Staten Island has <a href="http://www1.cuny.edu/mu/forum/2015/03/02/new-gc-maps-reveal-potential-electoral-strength-of-democrats-in-staten-island/" target="_blank">more registered Democrats</a>, but most of its elected officials are Republican. This ruling conservatism makes it an outlier.</p> <p dir="ltr">There’s been a longstanding feeling of disconnect, both figuratively and literally, between the residents of Staten Island and City Hall — pleas unheard, problems ignored. There is an ongoing sense on Staten Island that things simply aren’t fair.</p> <p dir="ltr">It is the only borough <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#v=onepage&amp;q=staten%20island%20no%20public%20hospital%20city&amp;f=false" target="_blank">without</a> a full-service public hospital. Its transportation system, as many residents will tell you, is abysmal: besides the ferry, there is no direct route to Manhattan. Commuters are left with the more expensive buses that route through Brooklyn, and the always congested, pricey Verrazano Bridge, whose toll now stands at $5.50 each way (at the resident discount). The only intra-borough train in existence is the SI Rail, while no train operates from east to west. And the borough has been left with spots of land that are widely <a href="http://web.mta.info/nyct/maps/bussi.pdf" target="_blank">inaccessible</a> by public transit.</p> <p dir="ltr">The discontent is about funding, for sure, but not just about the money. It’s simply often part of what it means to be a Staten Islander - a sense of otherness, of not being understood or served by the public servants who are supposed to represent the *entire* city. But the question is: has the borough really been shortchanged? Under Mayor de Blasio or anyone else. That’s up for debate.</p> <p dir="ltr">And Gotham Gazette is not the only entity looking for answers. Last week, the College of Staten Island <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2015/08/staten_island_city_services_study.html" target="_blank">announced</a> that a $20,000 study will be conducted into whether or not the “forgotten borough” is truly forgotten. Pushed by City Council Member Steven Matteo and his predecessor as Minority Leader, Vincent Ignizio, the Council-funded research will essentially evaluate city services to see if Staten Island is getting its fair share. So, next time its delegates negotiate the city budget or other upcoming policy, the island will have a better idea of where it stands.</p> <p>Well before that study gets underway, we set out to assess how much of its due Staten Island receives.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">*****</p> <p dir="ltr">As is the case with the current mayor, Bill de Blasio, Staten Island often votes against the city grain — it was the only borough de Blasio lost in his landslide 2013 victory over Republican Joe Lhota. In the City Council, Staten Island has three seats of the 51, which are allotted by population. Brooklyn has 16. “We have less representatives in the Council and Albany, which puts us at a disadvantage,” Borelli argued.</p> <p dir="ltr">So, in late July, the small City Council delegation from Staten Island — Council Members Debi Rose, former Council Minority Leader Vincent Ignizio, and Steven Matteo — held a press conference alongside elected officials to announce big news for the borough: $30 million of Council funding in the Fiscal Year 2016 budget for capital and expense projects across the island.</p> <p dir="ltr">The new infusion of cash would be pooled by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s office, the Staten Island council member delegation, and the Borough President’s office. Causes from libraries and school lunches to the Snug Harbor Cultural Center were getting a financial boost. A Council spokesperson also pointed out efforts in last year’s budget to increase ferry service and establish business improvement districts.</p> <p dir="ltr">“This Council recognizes the important contributions of Staten Island and is thrilled to invest back into the borough in order to strengthen New York City as a whole,” Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito noted.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I thank Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and my colleagues in the Staten Island delegation for being partners in crafting a budget that responds to the real needs of Staten Islanders,” Council Member Rose added. Rose is the lone Democrat representing Staten Island in the Council, she is African-American and hails from the North Shore.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the grand scheme of things, though, the $30 million jackpot is due more nuanced analysis. The new city <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5799-breaking-down-the-city-budget-de-blasio-nyc-council" target="_blank">budget</a> includes a total of $78.6 billion for expenses. Then there’s $13.9 billion for capital projects across the city. Much of the full picture of what Staten Island receives is buried deep in those amounts, through mayoral agencies and city operations. This fogs up how the $30 million factors into a larger total, and what it means on the local level.</p> <p dir="ltr">Take, for example, the funds for the borough presidents. James Oddo, Staten Island borough president and former member of the City Council, received the smallest BP allotment, $4.2 million, while Eric Adams, of Brooklyn, has $5.8 million to work with. Yet, per capita, Oddo has more money than any other BP. Adams has $5.8 million to spend on 2.6 million people, about five times the population of its somewhat distant neighbor.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/ignizio_oddo_si_heynowjo.jpg" alt="ignizio oddo si heynowjo" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" height="233" width="350" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size: 8pt;">(former SI Council Members Ignizio, foreground, &amp; Oddo)</span></p> <p dir="ltr">Generally, it’s quite difficult to break the city budget down borough-by-borough, so much so that the College of Staten Island needs a well-resourced study to get to the bottom of this. You cannot flip open city budget documents to see a full accounting of what resources are devoted to each borough - it’s just not so easy to decipher how much of FDNY or Department of Health expenses are going to serve Staten Islanders, though estimates are surely possible.</p> <p dir="ltr">Still, there’s the concept of insurance, that as part of the larger city, Staten Islanders can believe that there are virtually unlimited resources available were they to need them. Though, one need not look further than Superstorm Sandy to see the complicated nature of such a point.</p> <p dir="ltr">There are many complicating factors to really trying to suss out how the city allocates resources.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Let’s say a nonprofit agency based in Manhattan provides some of its services in the Bronx. The value of the contract for the work in the Bronx would show up in the Manhattan district where the agency is located,” Doug Turetsky, a spokesperson for the Independent Budget Office, told Gotham Gazette. “Another problem with these statements, or assigning dollars to a particular location, comes up with NYPD. An officer may be assigned to a particular precinct and that’s where he or she gets paid from, but on any given day that officer may be working in any part of the city.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Turetsky was referring to what are known as <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/hra/downloads/pdf/facts/drs/drs_hra_2014_2015.pdf" target="_blank">District Resource Statements</a>, which are provided by the Office of Management and Budget. These show analyses of the funds dedicated to the districts in every borough by each agency - but, as Turetsky explained, they don’t necessarily give the full picture of what Staten Island is getting, or, perhaps, not getting from the city.</p> <p dir="ltr">Instead, Turetsky pointed to Community Board Geographic Reports, which are also OMB documents. This is a fuller borough-by-borough breakdown of the major agencies in the city (e.g. Parks and Recreation, Sanitation, NYPD). So, to get an idea of how Staten Island stacks up, looking at an agency like Parks and Recreation can be helpful.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to the latest <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/omb/downloads/pdf/cbgeo6_15.pdf" target="_blank">Community Board Geographic Report</a>, for FY 2016, which began July 1, the funds for Staten Island borough-wide parks and rec total upwards of $1.8 million, with 27 full-time park employee positions. Queens, meanwhile, has $3.9 million allocated for borough-wide recreation, with 47 full-time positions. Around the same budget increase is set to occur next year for both boroughs: $55,000.</p> <p dir="ltr">Staten Island parks see about half the funding of Queens’ while the borough has more park land, but many fewer residents. The island boasts the title of “<a href="http://www.silive.com/guide/index.ssf/2010/04/parks_staten_island_is_the_greenest_borough.html" target="_blank">Greenest Borough</a>,” having 113 city parks, which, with state parks included, constitute a <a href="http://www.visitstatenisland.com/parks/" target="_blank">third</a> of the island’s land mass, 12,400 acres in total. Queens has more parks, but covering fewer total acres: 284 parks, 7,000 acres. Queens, though, has 2.3 million residents, while Staten Island has just over 500,000.</p> <p dir="ltr">It is no surprise that in every category for the Department of Sanitation, meanwhile, Staten Island ranks lowest out of the boroughs — less people, less garbage.</p> <p dir="ltr">That’s the main obstacle in comparing Staten Island, in general, with the rest of the city: the demands are completely different. Brooklyn, for comparison, serves nearly 300,000 students in its public schools, while Staten Island has <a href="http://schools.nyc.gov/AboutUs/schools/data/stats/default.htm" target="_blank">60,000 students</a>. Speaking with Joseph Viteritti, the chair of the Urban Affairs and Planning Department at CUNY Hunter, about this, Gotham Gazette asked him how to sort through this reality and analyze any discrepancies. “It’s very hard to answer that,” he responded. “You can’t do a straight budget analysis, because the budget is driven by demand.”</p> <p dir="ltr">And it’s not all about population, of course. Yes, Staten Island police districts may have smaller budgets, but if areas in Brooklyn have higher concentrations of violent crime, then it makes sense that Brooklyn precincts receive a bigger piece of the pie. The same applies to schools, sanitation, parks, and so on. Think about Manhattan, Viteritti said. Even with the smallest land mass of the five boroughs, it is home to Wall Street, countless skyscrapers, Central Park, and 1.6 million people; not to mention the hordes upon hordes of tourists.</p> <p>“Of course Manhattan gets more money from the city [than Staten Island],” he explained. “How can you even compare the two?”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">*****</p> <p>Joe Borelli, the Assembly member set to soon replace Ignizio in the City Council, says Staten Island’s blues arise from its uniqueness. He says the problems faced by residents are unlike those anywhere else in New York. “Since as far back as the American Revolution,” Borelli muses, “Station Island was different, and disconnected.”</p> <p dir="ltr">And though there are sections of Queens and other boroughs that resemble large swaths of Staten Island, there’s nowhere in the city with the combination of characteristics of the island, including its remoteness, limited public transportation, and more.</p> <p dir="ltr">As a result of “the failures of urban liberalism” in the 1960s and 1970s, Borelli argues, his home island served as a refuge for white flight as crime skyrocketed elsewhere. This is why on the island, “everyone you know is related to a cop,” Borelli added. Yet, after Manhattan and other parts of the city regained social stability, many of the developments achieved over the past decade-plus have failed to make it across the Verrazano.</p> <p dir="ltr">For example, the ferries that now ride up and down the East River, servicing the re-emergence of neighborhoods like Williamsburg and Long Island City. Albeit suspended until 2017, even Rockaway Beach, at the far southeast corner of Queens, had some sort of ferry service (in addition to the A train). Residents on the South Shore of Staten Island, on the other hand, are still <a href="http://observer.com/2015/02/de-blasio-announces-plan-for-fast-ferries-with-a-more-manageable-price-tag/" target="_blank">waiting</a> to be picked up.</p> <p dir="ltr">Then there’s bikes. While Mayor Michael Bloomberg peppered the city with bike lanes and pedestrian plazas throughout the 2000s, Staten Island watched from the sidelines: the borough is more car-dependent than any other, with a far distance between the North and South shores. Hylan Boulevard, which is arguably the busiest thoroughfare in the whole borough, has rows of perpetually <a href="http://www.silive.com/eastshore/index.ssf/2011/04/hylan_boulevard_bike_rack_plan.html" target="_blank">empty bike racks</a>, which the city spent $60,000 to build, because a solid portion of the avenue has no lane dedicated to cyclists.</p> <p dir="ltr">Whether Staten Islanders wanted bike racks—or lanes, for that matter—is up for debate. But the situation, Borelli explained, demonstrates this “general distaste” of residents towards the city’s larger urban planning ideas, of which they’ve been largely left out of. It is this uneven growth that has driven Borelli’s current (and <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20150728/tottenville/staten-island-election-one-horse-race-as-single-candidate-runs" target="_blank">unopposed</a>) campaign to fill the empty seat left by Ignizio, who recently became the CEO of Catholic Charities on Staten Island. "Somebody has to speak for the millions of outer-borough, middle class homeowners that are lately placed on the back burner of city policy,” Borelli told DNAinfo, referring to more than just Staten Island woes.</p> <p dir="ltr">When asked about the stark differences — population, size, demand — between Staten Island and the other boroughs, Borelli said that, yes, those things are true, but shouldn’t be the reasoning behind neglect. He then listed conundrums that could happen few places in the city but Staten Island. Parks built without sidewalks leading to them. Bike lanes <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2007/12/a_perilous_place_for_bike_ride.html" target="_blank">delayed</a> because of too much brush blocking them. Nearly $5 million <a href="http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20130714/ECONOMY/307149974/staten-islands-300000-tree" target="_blank">spent</a> on replacing trees.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We have a lot of resources, but they’re left vacant or without funding,” Borelli argued. “We have more parkland than any other borough, and somehow have less of the Parks budget than everyone else. Where else can you ride an ATV in the city?”</p> <p dir="ltr">“Find me a property anywhere else where the city builds a park but doesn’t put sidewalks in,” he continued. “It just doesn’t make any sense.”</p> <p dir="ltr">This frustration, as expressed by Borelli, is part of the Staten Island id. In 1993, it came to a boiling point when Staten Island attempted to secede from New York City. The referendum effort, led by State Senator John Marchi, was, of course, a culmination of built-up emotions, but the immediate catalyst was the approval of <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1989/11/08/nyregion/1989-elections-charter-overhaul-new-york-city-charter-approved-polls-show.html" target="_blank">a new City Charter</a> in 1989, which did away with the Board of Estimate. Instead of having one vote of five, like every other borough, Staten Island now had just three City Council members to represent its interests across the Narrows. The borough arose in protest.</p> <p dir="ltr">At the time, Joe Viteritti was the staff director of a commission that looked into the economic self-sustainability of Staten Island, or if an island with the population of a small city could manage alone without the help of sister boroughs and City Hall. The studies showed that it was feasible, Viteritto says, but his team also found that, in 1993, the cost of Staten Island to the city outpaced the revenue it generated by about $200 million. In other words, the city was putting more into Staten Island than it was receiving.</p> <p dir="ltr">“These analyses point to the surprising conclusion that separation of Staten Island from New York would actually provide budget relief for the city,” he <a href="http://www.city-journal.org/story.php?id=1519" target="_blank">wrote</a> then, in City Journal. “From a strictly economic perspective, the other four boroughs would come out ahead.”</p> <p dir="ltr">This didn’t convince either Mayor Ed Koch or Mayor David Dinkins, both of whom strongly opposed the referendum. When Governor Mario Cuomo let the legislation proceed in Albany, Koch <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1989/12/16/nyregion/cuomo-approves-a-secession-vote-for-staten-island.html" target="_blank">said</a> the Democratic leader was “plunging a dagger into the city’s heart.” But it wasn’t up to him.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Honestly, the only reason secession didn’t go through is that the legislation needed approval in the State Assembly, and it didn’t get it,” Viteritti told Gotham Gazette. “Cuomo, and then Pataki, were ready to sign it. [Former Assembly Speaker from Manhattan] Sheldon Silver bears sole responsibility for why Staten Island is not its own independent city right now.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Now, over twenty years later, Viteritti doesn’t know if things are the same on Staten Island. The most immediate demands of the secession movement were met, and, in many ways, that’s why everyone Gotham Gazette spoke with for this article said Rudy Giuliani is still the most popular mayor on the island, by far.</p> <p dir="ltr">Giuliani, a Republican, had a 1994 platform aimed at addressing the island’s two main grievances: making the Staten Island ferry free and closing the Fresh Kills dump (both were eventually accomplished). “To think, what was more symbolic to Staten Islanders than a place where the city can leave all of its garbage?” Doug Muzzio quipped.</p> <p dir="ltr">At the time, Muzzio, a political scientist at CUNY Baruch and longtime city expert, was tasked with polling Staten Island residents. He said a “victim narrative” existed, in which residents felt their input surpassed the output (later found to be untrue) and, in return, they got the city’s garbage. While their transportation issues are “legitimate” reasons to be angry, Muzzio added, “Staten Islanders have always thought they were forgotten, and if they did get city services, they were ill-timed,” he said. This is part of the island’s “mythology” - too little, too late.</p> <p dir="ltr">Yet, to Muzzio, Giuliani fit the Staten Island mold. His last name sounded like it was cut from the borough’s fabric. He was <a href="http://blog.silive.com/politics/2012/10/oddo_rudy_giuliani_guy_molinar.html" target="_blank">close</a> with the renowned Borough President then, Guy Molinari. He was incredibly pro-NYPD, and he was a Republican. Staten Islanders still reminisce about the Giuliani days as a time when the island was truly a part of the city. In a recent <a href="https://twitter.com/HeyNowJO/status/629047154330476544" target="_blank">tweet</a>, James Oddo, the current BP, named the Giuliani Years as one of the few times in its history when “Staten Island was treated better than fairly.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The same can almost be said about Bloomberg. Once again, a Republican, if only in his early mayoral years, and very close with the law enforcement base. To Staten Islanders, Bloomberg’s reign was praised for lower crime rates, much-needed rezoning and development, and finally, a focus on fixing their vast parkland. His property tax hike wasn’t received well, but, like with the rest of New Yorkers, maybe it will be down the line.</p> <p dir="ltr">"I think his legacy is not fully baked,” now former Council Member Ignizio <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2013/12/parks_to_property_taxes_bloomb.html" target="_blank">said</a> when Bloomberg left office. “I think coming from Rudy Giuliani, who was wildly popular on Staten Island...following that act was tough.”</p> <p dir="ltr">More controversially, Bloomberg was mayor during Superstorm Sandy, a storm that devastated Staten Island, perhaps more so than any other borough. It left millions of dollars worth of damages, and still, to this day, has residents rebuilding their homes. Bloomberg’s attention to the disaster was received well, but his funding program — Build It Back — was not. The initiative, which was meant to siphon federal funds to those not insured, hadn’t issued a single check or broke ground on any related construction programs when he left office.</p> <p dir="ltr">It was an utter failure in Staten Islanders’ eyes. And one that was saved by an unlikely, if quite unpopular, new figure who Islanders did not want elected and are still coming to terms with.</p> <p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;">*****</p> <p dir="ltr">There were all the ingredients for Staten Island scorn: a persecuted policeman, a progressive mayor the borough didn’t vote for, and a publicly drawn-out war that put the hometown base and new city leader on opposite sides. Not to mention that it happened just minutes from the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, and for all the world to see. The death of Eric Garner at the hands of Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo set off what had already been a begrudged populace. Within a year of his mayoralty, de Blasio had lost any goodwill many Staten Islanders had extended him, largely because of his comments in the aftermath of the grand jury’s decision not to indict Pantaleo.</p> <p dir="ltr">Since then, his administration has made efforts to make it clear that City Hall does care about the mid-Island and South Shore constituency, with more visits, more funds for extensive capital projects, and a continued <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2015/04/build_it_back_audit_finds_flaw.html" target="_blank">overhaul</a> of Build it Back that finally has the program up and running - though many still find the pace too slow. Even with a 19 percent <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2015/08/staten_island_city_services_study.html" target="_blank">approval rating</a> amongst Islanders, de Blasio seems set on establishing some island credentials, even against all odds. A progressive Democrat, from Brooklyn; at least he has the Italian last name.</p> <p dir="ltr">"Mayor de Blasio has invested nearly $5 million a year to deliver 24/7 half-hour Staten Island ferry service, added over $240 million to improve road conditions, brought faster [snow] plowing to Staten Island residential streets, and improved the Build it Back program so residents are finally receiving checks and rebuilding their homes,” Monica Klein, a deputy press secretary for de Blasio, said in a statement to Gotham Gazette, “showing time and again that he is committed to improving the lives of Staten Islanders and giving the borough the attention it deserves.”</p> <p dir="ltr" style="text-align: justify;">For the announcement on the repaving efforts, de Blasio made a trip to Staten Island after mounting <a href="http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/now-national-spotlight-nyc-mayor-de-blasio-forgetting-city/" target="_blank">criticism</a> that he had zigzagged the country while spending little time in the “forgotten borough.” But praise was in the air from Staten Island officials. “Mayor de Blasio heard our pleas for help and delivered, and we are thankful for his commitment to improving our roads,” BP Oddo <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#/0" target="_blank">said</a>, alongside the mayor, and a large "pave baby pave" sign from the borough president's office.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/pave_baby_pave_heynowjo.jpg" alt="pave baby pave heynowjo" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" height="413" width="250" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size: 10pt;">(via BP Oddo)</span></p> <p dir="ltr">Still, many car-owning Islanders happy about new investments in roads may continue to point to de Blasio’s handling of the Eric Garner saga and a perceived lack of support for the NYPD. They are likely to pin any upticks in crime or perceived quality-of-life issues to the mayor’s legacy; a sentiment that is true across the city, but most acute on Staten Island. But regardless of what happens between the mayor and Islanders, there are strong forces at work that could drastically change just about everything on and about the island.</p> <p dir="ltr">In April, the New York Times beat the gentrification drum with a headline that <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/19/realestate/an-islands-turning-point.html" target="_blank">read</a>, “Staten Island’s Turning Point?” The writer, C.J. Hughes, pointed out major developments that will mark the island coast in the near future: the New York Wheel (a massive London-Eye-esque ferris wheel), Empire Outlets (a huge mall complex), and numerous stores, coffee shops, and breweries. Not to mention a condo complex called Lighthouse Point and another called URL Staten Island, which, along with the Wheel and outlets, have been <a href="http://therealdeal.com/issues_articles/the-forgotten-borough-gets-noticed/" target="_blank">deemed</a> the “core four” by The Real Deal, a development-focused publication.</p> <p dir="ltr">While some are excited and see jobs afoot, others are skeptical. One resident remarked, “I like the small-town vibe, and I don’t mind that there’s a little bit of grit.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Linda Baran, the director of the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce, says that the impending development is a conversation that the borough has yet to have. What will it do if thousands of New Yorkers start to move in, once again escaping the mainland, this time because of high rents, not crime? The spike in prices is something that “resonates through every conversation,” she said. Is Staten Island really ready for that?</p> <p dir="ltr">“There is no dialogue about how the borough should receive the people coming in,” Baran told Gotham Gazette. “Now the idea is to bring new businesses here so people don’t have to leave.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Baran argued that development could solve one of the main issues the island faces, and has always faced: vacancy. The shore, she said, is lined with empty industrial lots, which are not only a blight on the islandscape, but bad for business. She’s hoping that development will bring more attention to major borough-wide concerns, like infrastructure and healthcare, as it has in Brooklyn and Queens.</p> <p dir="ltr">She added that the de Blasio administration has done a fine job of <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5792-why-dont-we-ever-hear-about-commercial-rent-policy" target="_blank">cutting red tape</a> for small businesses, but other City Council-backed measures, like paid sick leave and ‘ban the box’ legislation disallowing background checks, are “good initiatives,” but have left Staten Island owners weary of City Hall intrusion. “I think the city has talked about fixing the business community here,” she told me. “But the businesses aren’t seeing that just yet.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Still, Baran touched upon what could be a new chapter in the Staten Island mystique. After feeling forgotten for decades, this could be the future the island has longed for; one where it is on an equal playing field, both economically and culturally, with its borough brethren. There is a fear — or irony — that the borough could be on its way to getting more than it bargained for, with high-rise condos and public attractions threatening the Staten Island way of life, causing more traffic. Be careful what you ask for, some seem to be saying.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We were always used to being last on the totem pole,” Baran said. “We were an escape for everyone. And now, the boroughs are saturated, and growth is a good thing.”</p> <p dir="ltr">She paused, then said, “Things are changing.”</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><span style="font-size: 14.6666666666667px; font-family: Arial; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap; background-color: transparent;">***</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><span style="font-size: 14.6666666666667px; font-family: Arial; font-style: italic; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap; background-color: transparent;">John Surico is a freelance metro reporter. His reporting has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and here, on Gotham Gazette. He lives in Queens. Find him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/JohnSurico" target="_blank">@JohnSurico</a></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank"><span style="font-size: 14.6666666666667px; font-family: Arial; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap; background-color: transparent;">@GothamGazette</span></a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/si_wheel.jpg" alt="si wheel" height="394" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Rendering of proposed New York Wheel on Staten Island. (Perkins Eastman <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/09/nyregion/betting-on-the-new-york-ferris-wheel-to-elevate-staten-islands-fortunes.html?ref=nyregion&amp;_r=2" target="_blank">via NY Times</a>)</span></p> <hr /> <p>There may be no other borough that has the local pride and identity felt by Staten Islanders. To be a Staten Islander often means to be of New York City and to be disconnected from New York City. It often means to know your family, but wonder if you were switched at birth.</p> <p dir="ltr">Since New York City adopted its outer boroughs in 1898, Staten Island has always been the odd child out. Even for a city of islands, Staten Island seems, and is, far away. It is the enigma of New York City in virtually every aspect - at least most of it is, as the stereotypes of Staten Island sometimes belie its diversity.</p> <p dir="ltr">Stand Island sits apart, though. Even the island accent is a bit more bombastic — more expressive, even — than the standard New York intonation. It’s important to have your voice stand out when you’re struggling to be heard.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Staten Island existence has been, and continues to be, in some part dominated by its uneasy relationship with the larger city it is a part of, and the ongoing struggle its residents and elected representatives engage in to ensure that “the forgotten borough” gets its fair share.</p> <p dir="ltr">Perhaps it’s fitting that Staten Island is the size of a key at the bottom left of the MTA subway map, which, of course, shows few lines cutting through the borough. It is a borough geographically far from the others, and population-wise, nowhere near a fifth of New York, with just under 500,000 residents in a city of over eight million. While much of the city is chasing rent, Staten Island has higher home ownership than any other borough, and its residents rely heavily on cars. For the most part, Islanders are big supporters of law enforcement, and it is a suburbia to many current and retired uniforms.</p> <p dir="ltr">This is not to say that Staten Island is homogenous, of course. It is not.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Island, aka Richmond County, looks more like America than the rest of New York City. Or, as Joe Borelli, one of only four Staten Islanders who serve in the 150-seat New York State Assembly, told Gotham Gazette, “New York looks at Staten Island weird, but it’s the rest of the country who’s looking at New York weird.”</p> <p dir="ltr">It is the only borough with <a href="http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/36/36085.html" target="_blank">a clear white majority</a>, at 77 percent of the population, compared to 12 percent African-American and 18 percent Latino, according to recent census figures. And the racial divide is stark: the North Shore is far more ethnically diverse and less wealthy than the South Shore and much of Mid-Island, with a reliance on public housing and apartment complexes to accommodate booming immigration populations. Staten Island has <a href="http://www1.cuny.edu/mu/forum/2015/03/02/new-gc-maps-reveal-potential-electoral-strength-of-democrats-in-staten-island/" target="_blank">more registered Democrats</a>, but most of its elected officials are Republican. This ruling conservatism makes it an outlier.</p> <p dir="ltr">There’s been a longstanding feeling of disconnect, both figuratively and literally, between the residents of Staten Island and City Hall — pleas unheard, problems ignored. There is an ongoing sense on Staten Island that things simply aren’t fair.</p> <p dir="ltr">It is the only borough <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#v=onepage&amp;q=staten%20island%20no%20public%20hospital%20city&amp;f=false" target="_blank">without</a> a full-service public hospital. Its transportation system, as many residents will tell you, is abysmal: besides the ferry, there is no direct route to Manhattan. Commuters are left with the more expensive buses that route through Brooklyn, and the always congested, pricey Verrazano Bridge, whose toll now stands at $5.50 each way (at the resident discount). The only intra-borough train in existence is the SI Rail, while no train operates from east to west. And the borough has been left with spots of land that are widely <a href="http://web.mta.info/nyct/maps/bussi.pdf" target="_blank">inaccessible</a> by public transit.</p> <p dir="ltr">The discontent is about funding, for sure, but not just about the money. It’s simply often part of what it means to be a Staten Islander - a sense of otherness, of not being understood or served by the public servants who are supposed to represent the *entire* city. But the question is: has the borough really been shortchanged? Under Mayor de Blasio or anyone else. That’s up for debate.</p> <p dir="ltr">And Gotham Gazette is not the only entity looking for answers. Last week, the College of Staten Island <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2015/08/staten_island_city_services_study.html" target="_blank">announced</a> that a $20,000 study will be conducted into whether or not the “forgotten borough” is truly forgotten. Pushed by City Council Member Steven Matteo and his predecessor as Minority Leader, Vincent Ignizio, the Council-funded research will essentially evaluate city services to see if Staten Island is getting its fair share. So, next time its delegates negotiate the city budget or other upcoming policy, the island will have a better idea of where it stands.</p> <p>Well before that study gets underway, we set out to assess how much of its due Staten Island receives.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">*****</p> <p dir="ltr">As is the case with the current mayor, Bill de Blasio, Staten Island often votes against the city grain — it was the only borough de Blasio lost in his landslide 2013 victory over Republican Joe Lhota. In the City Council, Staten Island has three seats of the 51, which are allotted by population. Brooklyn has 16. “We have less representatives in the Council and Albany, which puts us at a disadvantage,” Borelli argued.</p> <p dir="ltr">So, in late July, the small City Council delegation from Staten Island — Council Members Debi Rose, former Council Minority Leader Vincent Ignizio, and Steven Matteo — held a press conference alongside elected officials to announce big news for the borough: $30 million of Council funding in the Fiscal Year 2016 budget for capital and expense projects across the island.</p> <p dir="ltr">The new infusion of cash would be pooled by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s office, the Staten Island council member delegation, and the Borough President’s office. Causes from libraries and school lunches to the Snug Harbor Cultural Center were getting a financial boost. A Council spokesperson also pointed out efforts in last year’s budget to increase ferry service and establish business improvement districts.</p> <p dir="ltr">“This Council recognizes the important contributions of Staten Island and is thrilled to invest back into the borough in order to strengthen New York City as a whole,” Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito noted.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I thank Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and my colleagues in the Staten Island delegation for being partners in crafting a budget that responds to the real needs of Staten Islanders,” Council Member Rose added. Rose is the lone Democrat representing Staten Island in the Council, she is African-American and hails from the North Shore.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the grand scheme of things, though, the $30 million jackpot is due more nuanced analysis. The new city <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5799-breaking-down-the-city-budget-de-blasio-nyc-council" target="_blank">budget</a> includes a total of $78.6 billion for expenses. Then there’s $13.9 billion for capital projects across the city. Much of the full picture of what Staten Island receives is buried deep in those amounts, through mayoral agencies and city operations. This fogs up how the $30 million factors into a larger total, and what it means on the local level.</p> <p dir="ltr">Take, for example, the funds for the borough presidents. James Oddo, Staten Island borough president and former member of the City Council, received the smallest BP allotment, $4.2 million, while Eric Adams, of Brooklyn, has $5.8 million to work with. Yet, per capita, Oddo has more money than any other BP. Adams has $5.8 million to spend on 2.6 million people, about five times the population of its somewhat distant neighbor.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/ignizio_oddo_si_heynowjo.jpg" alt="ignizio oddo si heynowjo" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" height="233" width="350" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size: 8pt;">(former SI Council Members Ignizio, foreground, &amp; Oddo)</span></p> <p dir="ltr">Generally, it’s quite difficult to break the city budget down borough-by-borough, so much so that the College of Staten Island needs a well-resourced study to get to the bottom of this. You cannot flip open city budget documents to see a full accounting of what resources are devoted to each borough - it’s just not so easy to decipher how much of FDNY or Department of Health expenses are going to serve Staten Islanders, though estimates are surely possible.</p> <p dir="ltr">Still, there’s the concept of insurance, that as part of the larger city, Staten Islanders can believe that there are virtually unlimited resources available were they to need them. Though, one need not look further than Superstorm Sandy to see the complicated nature of such a point.</p> <p dir="ltr">There are many complicating factors to really trying to suss out how the city allocates resources.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Let’s say a nonprofit agency based in Manhattan provides some of its services in the Bronx. The value of the contract for the work in the Bronx would show up in the Manhattan district where the agency is located,” Doug Turetsky, a spokesperson for the Independent Budget Office, told Gotham Gazette. “Another problem with these statements, or assigning dollars to a particular location, comes up with NYPD. An officer may be assigned to a particular precinct and that’s where he or she gets paid from, but on any given day that officer may be working in any part of the city.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Turetsky was referring to what are known as <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/hra/downloads/pdf/facts/drs/drs_hra_2014_2015.pdf" target="_blank">District Resource Statements</a>, which are provided by the Office of Management and Budget. These show analyses of the funds dedicated to the districts in every borough by each agency - but, as Turetsky explained, they don’t necessarily give the full picture of what Staten Island is getting, or, perhaps, not getting from the city.</p> <p dir="ltr">Instead, Turetsky pointed to Community Board Geographic Reports, which are also OMB documents. This is a fuller borough-by-borough breakdown of the major agencies in the city (e.g. Parks and Recreation, Sanitation, NYPD). So, to get an idea of how Staten Island stacks up, looking at an agency like Parks and Recreation can be helpful.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to the latest <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/omb/downloads/pdf/cbgeo6_15.pdf" target="_blank">Community Board Geographic Report</a>, for FY 2016, which began July 1, the funds for Staten Island borough-wide parks and rec total upwards of $1.8 million, with 27 full-time park employee positions. Queens, meanwhile, has $3.9 million allocated for borough-wide recreation, with 47 full-time positions. Around the same budget increase is set to occur next year for both boroughs: $55,000.</p> <p dir="ltr">Staten Island parks see about half the funding of Queens’ while the borough has more park land, but many fewer residents. The island boasts the title of “<a href="http://www.silive.com/guide/index.ssf/2010/04/parks_staten_island_is_the_greenest_borough.html" target="_blank">Greenest Borough</a>,” having 113 city parks, which, with state parks included, constitute a <a href="http://www.visitstatenisland.com/parks/" target="_blank">third</a> of the island’s land mass, 12,400 acres in total. Queens has more parks, but covering fewer total acres: 284 parks, 7,000 acres. Queens, though, has 2.3 million residents, while Staten Island has just over 500,000.</p> <p dir="ltr">It is no surprise that in every category for the Department of Sanitation, meanwhile, Staten Island ranks lowest out of the boroughs — less people, less garbage.</p> <p dir="ltr">That’s the main obstacle in comparing Staten Island, in general, with the rest of the city: the demands are completely different. Brooklyn, for comparison, serves nearly 300,000 students in its public schools, while Staten Island has <a href="http://schools.nyc.gov/AboutUs/schools/data/stats/default.htm" target="_blank">60,000 students</a>. Speaking with Joseph Viteritti, the chair of the Urban Affairs and Planning Department at CUNY Hunter, about this, Gotham Gazette asked him how to sort through this reality and analyze any discrepancies. “It’s very hard to answer that,” he responded. “You can’t do a straight budget analysis, because the budget is driven by demand.”</p> <p dir="ltr">And it’s not all about population, of course. Yes, Staten Island police districts may have smaller budgets, but if areas in Brooklyn have higher concentrations of violent crime, then it makes sense that Brooklyn precincts receive a bigger piece of the pie. The same applies to schools, sanitation, parks, and so on. Think about Manhattan, Viteritti said. Even with the smallest land mass of the five boroughs, it is home to Wall Street, countless skyscrapers, Central Park, and 1.6 million people; not to mention the hordes upon hordes of tourists.</p> <p>“Of course Manhattan gets more money from the city [than Staten Island],” he explained. “How can you even compare the two?”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">*****</p> <p>Joe Borelli, the Assembly member set to soon replace Ignizio in the City Council, says Staten Island’s blues arise from its uniqueness. He says the problems faced by residents are unlike those anywhere else in New York. “Since as far back as the American Revolution,” Borelli muses, “Station Island was different, and disconnected.”</p> <p dir="ltr">And though there are sections of Queens and other boroughs that resemble large swaths of Staten Island, there’s nowhere in the city with the combination of characteristics of the island, including its remoteness, limited public transportation, and more.</p> <p dir="ltr">As a result of “the failures of urban liberalism” in the 1960s and 1970s, Borelli argues, his home island served as a refuge for white flight as crime skyrocketed elsewhere. This is why on the island, “everyone you know is related to a cop,” Borelli added. Yet, after Manhattan and other parts of the city regained social stability, many of the developments achieved over the past decade-plus have failed to make it across the Verrazano.</p> <p dir="ltr">For example, the ferries that now ride up and down the East River, servicing the re-emergence of neighborhoods like Williamsburg and Long Island City. Albeit suspended until 2017, even Rockaway Beach, at the far southeast corner of Queens, had some sort of ferry service (in addition to the A train). Residents on the South Shore of Staten Island, on the other hand, are still <a href="http://observer.com/2015/02/de-blasio-announces-plan-for-fast-ferries-with-a-more-manageable-price-tag/" target="_blank">waiting</a> to be picked up.</p> <p dir="ltr">Then there’s bikes. While Mayor Michael Bloomberg peppered the city with bike lanes and pedestrian plazas throughout the 2000s, Staten Island watched from the sidelines: the borough is more car-dependent than any other, with a far distance between the North and South shores. Hylan Boulevard, which is arguably the busiest thoroughfare in the whole borough, has rows of perpetually <a href="http://www.silive.com/eastshore/index.ssf/2011/04/hylan_boulevard_bike_rack_plan.html" target="_blank">empty bike racks</a>, which the city spent $60,000 to build, because a solid portion of the avenue has no lane dedicated to cyclists.</p> <p dir="ltr">Whether Staten Islanders wanted bike racks—or lanes, for that matter—is up for debate. But the situation, Borelli explained, demonstrates this “general distaste” of residents towards the city’s larger urban planning ideas, of which they’ve been largely left out of. It is this uneven growth that has driven Borelli’s current (and <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20150728/tottenville/staten-island-election-one-horse-race-as-single-candidate-runs" target="_blank">unopposed</a>) campaign to fill the empty seat left by Ignizio, who recently became the CEO of Catholic Charities on Staten Island. "Somebody has to speak for the millions of outer-borough, middle class homeowners that are lately placed on the back burner of city policy,” Borelli told DNAinfo, referring to more than just Staten Island woes.</p> <p dir="ltr">When asked about the stark differences — population, size, demand — between Staten Island and the other boroughs, Borelli said that, yes, those things are true, but shouldn’t be the reasoning behind neglect. He then listed conundrums that could happen few places in the city but Staten Island. Parks built without sidewalks leading to them. Bike lanes <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2007/12/a_perilous_place_for_bike_ride.html" target="_blank">delayed</a> because of too much brush blocking them. Nearly $5 million <a href="http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20130714/ECONOMY/307149974/staten-islands-300000-tree" target="_blank">spent</a> on replacing trees.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We have a lot of resources, but they’re left vacant or without funding,” Borelli argued. “We have more parkland than any other borough, and somehow have less of the Parks budget than everyone else. Where else can you ride an ATV in the city?”</p> <p dir="ltr">“Find me a property anywhere else where the city builds a park but doesn’t put sidewalks in,” he continued. “It just doesn’t make any sense.”</p> <p dir="ltr">This frustration, as expressed by Borelli, is part of the Staten Island id. In 1993, it came to a boiling point when Staten Island attempted to secede from New York City. The referendum effort, led by State Senator John Marchi, was, of course, a culmination of built-up emotions, but the immediate catalyst was the approval of <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1989/11/08/nyregion/1989-elections-charter-overhaul-new-york-city-charter-approved-polls-show.html" target="_blank">a new City Charter</a> in 1989, which did away with the Board of Estimate. Instead of having one vote of five, like every other borough, Staten Island now had just three City Council members to represent its interests across the Narrows. The borough arose in protest.</p> <p dir="ltr">At the time, Joe Viteritti was the staff director of a commission that looked into the economic self-sustainability of Staten Island, or if an island with the population of a small city could manage alone without the help of sister boroughs and City Hall. The studies showed that it was feasible, Viteritto says, but his team also found that, in 1993, the cost of Staten Island to the city outpaced the revenue it generated by about $200 million. In other words, the city was putting more into Staten Island than it was receiving.</p> <p dir="ltr">“These analyses point to the surprising conclusion that separation of Staten Island from New York would actually provide budget relief for the city,” he <a href="http://www.city-journal.org/story.php?id=1519" target="_blank">wrote</a> then, in City Journal. “From a strictly economic perspective, the other four boroughs would come out ahead.”</p> <p dir="ltr">This didn’t convince either Mayor Ed Koch or Mayor David Dinkins, both of whom strongly opposed the referendum. When Governor Mario Cuomo let the legislation proceed in Albany, Koch <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1989/12/16/nyregion/cuomo-approves-a-secession-vote-for-staten-island.html" target="_blank">said</a> the Democratic leader was “plunging a dagger into the city’s heart.” But it wasn’t up to him.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Honestly, the only reason secession didn’t go through is that the legislation needed approval in the State Assembly, and it didn’t get it,” Viteritti told Gotham Gazette. “Cuomo, and then Pataki, were ready to sign it. [Former Assembly Speaker from Manhattan] Sheldon Silver bears sole responsibility for why Staten Island is not its own independent city right now.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Now, over twenty years later, Viteritti doesn’t know if things are the same on Staten Island. The most immediate demands of the secession movement were met, and, in many ways, that’s why everyone Gotham Gazette spoke with for this article said Rudy Giuliani is still the most popular mayor on the island, by far.</p> <p dir="ltr">Giuliani, a Republican, had a 1994 platform aimed at addressing the island’s two main grievances: making the Staten Island ferry free and closing the Fresh Kills dump (both were eventually accomplished). “To think, what was more symbolic to Staten Islanders than a place where the city can leave all of its garbage?” Doug Muzzio quipped.</p> <p dir="ltr">At the time, Muzzio, a political scientist at CUNY Baruch and longtime city expert, was tasked with polling Staten Island residents. He said a “victim narrative” existed, in which residents felt their input surpassed the output (later found to be untrue) and, in return, they got the city’s garbage. While their transportation issues are “legitimate” reasons to be angry, Muzzio added, “Staten Islanders have always thought they were forgotten, and if they did get city services, they were ill-timed,” he said. This is part of the island’s “mythology” - too little, too late.</p> <p dir="ltr">Yet, to Muzzio, Giuliani fit the Staten Island mold. His last name sounded like it was cut from the borough’s fabric. He was <a href="http://blog.silive.com/politics/2012/10/oddo_rudy_giuliani_guy_molinar.html" target="_blank">close</a> with the renowned Borough President then, Guy Molinari. He was incredibly pro-NYPD, and he was a Republican. Staten Islanders still reminisce about the Giuliani days as a time when the island was truly a part of the city. In a recent <a href="https://twitter.com/HeyNowJO/status/629047154330476544" target="_blank">tweet</a>, James Oddo, the current BP, named the Giuliani Years as one of the few times in its history when “Staten Island was treated better than fairly.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The same can almost be said about Bloomberg. Once again, a Republican, if only in his early mayoral years, and very close with the law enforcement base. To Staten Islanders, Bloomberg’s reign was praised for lower crime rates, much-needed rezoning and development, and finally, a focus on fixing their vast parkland. His property tax hike wasn’t received well, but, like with the rest of New Yorkers, maybe it will be down the line.</p> <p dir="ltr">"I think his legacy is not fully baked,” now former Council Member Ignizio <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2013/12/parks_to_property_taxes_bloomb.html" target="_blank">said</a> when Bloomberg left office. “I think coming from Rudy Giuliani, who was wildly popular on Staten Island...following that act was tough.”</p> <p dir="ltr">More controversially, Bloomberg was mayor during Superstorm Sandy, a storm that devastated Staten Island, perhaps more so than any other borough. It left millions of dollars worth of damages, and still, to this day, has residents rebuilding their homes. Bloomberg’s attention to the disaster was received well, but his funding program — Build It Back — was not. The initiative, which was meant to siphon federal funds to those not insured, hadn’t issued a single check or broke ground on any related construction programs when he left office.</p> <p dir="ltr">It was an utter failure in Staten Islanders’ eyes. And one that was saved by an unlikely, if quite unpopular, new figure who Islanders did not want elected and are still coming to terms with.</p> <p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;">*****</p> <p dir="ltr">There were all the ingredients for Staten Island scorn: a persecuted policeman, a progressive mayor the borough didn’t vote for, and a publicly drawn-out war that put the hometown base and new city leader on opposite sides. Not to mention that it happened just minutes from the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, and for all the world to see. The death of Eric Garner at the hands of Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo set off what had already been a begrudged populace. Within a year of his mayoralty, de Blasio had lost any goodwill many Staten Islanders had extended him, largely because of his comments in the aftermath of the grand jury’s decision not to indict Pantaleo.</p> <p dir="ltr">Since then, his administration has made efforts to make it clear that City Hall does care about the mid-Island and South Shore constituency, with more visits, more funds for extensive capital projects, and a continued <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2015/04/build_it_back_audit_finds_flaw.html" target="_blank">overhaul</a> of Build it Back that finally has the program up and running - though many still find the pace too slow. Even with a 19 percent <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2015/08/staten_island_city_services_study.html" target="_blank">approval rating</a> amongst Islanders, de Blasio seems set on establishing some island credentials, even against all odds. A progressive Democrat, from Brooklyn; at least he has the Italian last name.</p> <p dir="ltr">"Mayor de Blasio has invested nearly $5 million a year to deliver 24/7 half-hour Staten Island ferry service, added over $240 million to improve road conditions, brought faster [snow] plowing to Staten Island residential streets, and improved the Build it Back program so residents are finally receiving checks and rebuilding their homes,” Monica Klein, a deputy press secretary for de Blasio, said in a statement to Gotham Gazette, “showing time and again that he is committed to improving the lives of Staten Islanders and giving the borough the attention it deserves.”</p> <p dir="ltr" style="text-align: justify;">For the announcement on the repaving efforts, de Blasio made a trip to Staten Island after mounting <a href="http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/now-national-spotlight-nyc-mayor-de-blasio-forgetting-city/" target="_blank">criticism</a> that he had zigzagged the country while spending little time in the “forgotten borough.” But praise was in the air from Staten Island officials. “Mayor de Blasio heard our pleas for help and delivered, and we are thankful for his commitment to improving our roads,” BP Oddo <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#/0" target="_blank">said</a>, alongside the mayor, and a large "pave baby pave" sign from the borough president's office.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/pave_baby_pave_heynowjo.jpg" alt="pave baby pave heynowjo" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" height="413" width="250" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size: 10pt;">(via BP Oddo)</span></p> <p dir="ltr">Still, many car-owning Islanders happy about new investments in roads may continue to point to de Blasio’s handling of the Eric Garner saga and a perceived lack of support for the NYPD. They are likely to pin any upticks in crime or perceived quality-of-life issues to the mayor’s legacy; a sentiment that is true across the city, but most acute on Staten Island. But regardless of what happens between the mayor and Islanders, there are strong forces at work that could drastically change just about everything on and about the island.</p> <p dir="ltr">In April, the New York Times beat the gentrification drum with a headline that <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/19/realestate/an-islands-turning-point.html" target="_blank">read</a>, “Staten Island’s Turning Point?” The writer, C.J. Hughes, pointed out major developments that will mark the island coast in the near future: the New York Wheel (a massive London-Eye-esque ferris wheel), Empire Outlets (a huge mall complex), and numerous stores, coffee shops, and breweries. Not to mention a condo complex called Lighthouse Point and another called URL Staten Island, which, along with the Wheel and outlets, have been <a href="http://therealdeal.com/issues_articles/the-forgotten-borough-gets-noticed/" target="_blank">deemed</a> the “core four” by The Real Deal, a development-focused publication.</p> <p dir="ltr">While some are excited and see jobs afoot, others are skeptical. One resident remarked, “I like the small-town vibe, and I don’t mind that there’s a little bit of grit.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Linda Baran, the director of the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce, says that the impending development is a conversation that the borough has yet to have. What will it do if thousands of New Yorkers start to move in, once again escaping the mainland, this time because of high rents, not crime? The spike in prices is something that “resonates through every conversation,” she said. Is Staten Island really ready for that?</p> <p dir="ltr">“There is no dialogue about how the borough should receive the people coming in,” Baran told Gotham Gazette. “Now the idea is to bring new businesses here so people don’t have to leave.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Baran argued that development could solve one of the main issues the island faces, and has always faced: vacancy. The shore, she said, is lined with empty industrial lots, which are not only a blight on the islandscape, but bad for business. She’s hoping that development will bring more attention to major borough-wide concerns, like infrastructure and healthcare, as it has in Brooklyn and Queens.</p> <p dir="ltr">She added that the de Blasio administration has done a fine job of <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5792-why-dont-we-ever-hear-about-commercial-rent-policy" target="_blank">cutting red tape</a> for small businesses, but other City Council-backed measures, like paid sick leave and ‘ban the box’ legislation disallowing background checks, are “good initiatives,” but have left Staten Island owners weary of City Hall intrusion. “I think the city has talked about fixing the business community here,” she told me. “But the businesses aren’t seeing that just yet.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Still, Baran touched upon what could be a new chapter in the Staten Island mystique. After feeling forgotten for decades, this could be the future the island has longed for; one where it is on an equal playing field, both economically and culturally, with its borough brethren. There is a fear — or irony — that the borough could be on its way to getting more than it bargained for, with high-rise condos and public attractions threatening the Staten Island way of life, causing more traffic. Be careful what you ask for, some seem to be saying.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We were always used to being last on the totem pole,” Baran said. “We were an escape for everyone. And now, the boroughs are saturated, and growth is a good thing.”</p> <p dir="ltr">She paused, then said, “Things are changing.”</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><span style="font-size: 14.6666666666667px; font-family: Arial; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap; background-color: transparent;">***</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><span style="font-size: 14.6666666666667px; font-family: Arial; font-style: italic; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap; background-color: transparent;">John Surico is a freelance metro reporter. His reporting has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and here, on Gotham Gazette. He lives in Queens. Find him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/JohnSurico" target="_blank">@JohnSurico</a></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank"><span style="font-size: 14.6666666666667px; font-family: Arial; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap; background-color: transparent;">@GothamGazette</span></a></p>