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/land-use 2018-04-26T03:34:19+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com On Land Use, Johnson Promises 'Deference' to Members But 'No Veto' 2018-03-09T05:00:00+00:00 2018-03-09T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7530:on-land-use-johnson-promises-deference-to-members-but-no-veto Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/39625100192_76d7406276_z.jpg" alt="Johnson Rodriguez City Council" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Speaker Johnson, center, &amp; CM Rodriguez, right (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said Thursday that the elected Council members of the body he leads will get “deference” but “no veto” on land use matters.</p> <p>Even before he was officially elected the new speaker of the Council, Johnson had already begun to define how he would approach the job. In clear breaks from his predecessor, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Johnson promised greater independence from the mayor, expanded oversight over city agencies, and a more active role in land use decisions, which is one of the most significant roles played by the 51-member legislative body.</p> <p>Promising to bolster the Council’s land use division with more resources and staff, Johnson seemed to want a heavier hand in local development projects, or land use applications, where the previous speaker tended to almost completely defer to the local Council member’s sentiments and negotiations. Johnson, however, has implied that he won’t allow the same kind of leeway that Mark-Viverito gave to members to oppose or reject proposals in their districts, which, under Mayor Bill de Blasio, include a number of neighborhood rezonings that can shape the landscape and character of neighborhoods for generations.</p> <p>At an event Thursday, hosted by the Center for Community and Ethnic Media at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, Johnson explained his approach, saying that he would involve himself in land use applications if a local Council member requested it, but at the same time, would not allow any single member to act as an obstacle to a worthwhile project with benefits for a community.</p> <p>When asked about the ongoing land use process for a proposed rezoning in Inwood in Uptown Manhattan, Johnson first admitted that he knew little about the ins-and-outs of the particular plan. “On the Inwood rezoning, this is not me in any way shirking, but I honestly, I haven’t been briefed on it,” he said, when panellist Debralee Santos from the Manhattan Times asked him about his general approach to land use issues and specifically two rezonings, a recently completed one in the Jerome Avenue corridor in the Bronx and the ongoing one in Inwood in Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez’s district.</p> <p>“I’ve been so crazy dealing with so many other things across the city,” Johnson added. “I see people tweet at me about it, and I’ve read some articles about it, but I have not had the opportunity to sit down with Councilman Rodriguez or the other elected officials and have a conversation about it.”</p> <p>In the past few years, the City Council and the de Blasio administration have come face-to-face with the fact that even with rezonings that invest hundreds of millions of dollars in a neighborhood, that have gone through months of negotiations and received hundreds of hours of testimony and feedback from communities, there are inevitably those who remain dissatisfied. In some cases, Council members capitulate to community backlash, killing a project, but often they do not.</p> <p>For instance, in 2015 East New York became home to the administration’s first successful neighborhood rezoning. Despite Council Member Rafael Espinal negotiating commitments of more than $260 million in investments from the city as well as a slew of other community benefits -- besides the affordable housing and economic development that undergirded the rezoning -- a segment of housing advocates argued that the rezoning would continue, and exacerbate, the nascent gentrification of the district. (The advocates even threatened to organize a challenge to Espinal’s 2017 reelection bid but did not follow through.) Espinal approved the project in the end, claiming advocates did not recognize the quality of the deal coming to the long-ignored community.</p> <p>But, in 2016, owing to vocal community resentment, Council Member Rodriguez announced his opposition to a proposed development, also in Inwood, the day before it was scheduled to be voted on by the Council’s land use committee. The project was unanimously rejected by the committee based on Rodriguez’s verdict.</p> <p>It was different, however, for Council Member Laurie Cumbo, who faced widespread criticism for vacillating on the proposed redevelopment of the Bedford Union Armory in Crown Heights. Eventually, faced with angry residents and a strong primary challenger, Cumbo rejected the proposal before her, which forced the city to amend its plans to later have them approved.</p> <p>On Thursday at CUNY, Santos pointed to the Inwood Library as one controversial aspect of the larger rezoning, where residents of the neighborhood have called for an entirely separate land-use application for the building. “That’s a local institution that people believe should merit its own process altogether, its own ULURP [Uniform Land Use Review Procedure],” Santos pointed out.</p> <p>“So I don’t know anything about it,” Johnson conceded. “But I’m happy to work with the stakeholders involved and find a solution. My general principle is, unless the rezoning or the land use action that’s proposed is totally off-the-wall and doesn’t make any sense or if there is no community buy-in, which it may be this case in Inwood from what I’m seeing, I try to get to a place of ‘yes.’”</p> <p>Johnson recounted his own experience with the rezoning of Pier 40 in his Manhattan district in 2016, where in the end, he managed to extract $100 million worth of investments from the city while creating affordable housing and senior housing. “I worked on it for two-and-a-half years. There were many places where I wanted to walk away from that rezoning, it was frustrating me so much that I didn’t think I’d be able to close the deal. But in the end, I always work to get to a place of ‘yes,’” he said.</p> <p>Would he get similarly involved in the Inwood rezoning, Santos asked.</p> <p>“If I’m asked by the local elected official,” Johnson said. It’s unclear to what extent Johnson will assert himself if asked by other parties in a negotiation, such as the mayor’s office or real estate developers.</p> <p>And though he noted that most rezonings go through a negotiated process, and most of them are approved, he said he will not allow a local Council member to determine the fate of any single land-use process that he deems worthy. “One thing I said is, is there member deference involved? Of course, there’s member deference involved,” he said. “But there’s no veto. No one gets a veto. There’s a difference between deference and a veto. If someone is opposing a project or asking for things that are totally unreasonable, someone needs to step in and say, ‘that doesn’t make any sense.’”</p> <p>Though Johnson said he was not up to speed on the Inwood rezoning, in a statement to Gotham Gazette, Council Member Rodriguez indicated he is pleased with the speaker’s support thus far in the process.</p> <p>“Speaker Johnson and the Land Use Committee staff have been very supportive throughout the rezoning,” Rodriguez said. “Land Use has taken the time to understand the needs of the community the council members share. They understand council members have the best knowledge of the whole population in their districts and are seeking an optimal outcome.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/39625100192_76d7406276_z.jpg" alt="Johnson Rodriguez City Council" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Speaker Johnson, center, &amp; CM Rodriguez, right (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said Thursday that the elected Council members of the body he leads will get “deference” but “no veto” on land use matters.</p> <p>Even before he was officially elected the new speaker of the Council, Johnson had already begun to define how he would approach the job. In clear breaks from his predecessor, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Johnson promised greater independence from the mayor, expanded oversight over city agencies, and a more active role in land use decisions, which is one of the most significant roles played by the 51-member legislative body.</p> <p>Promising to bolster the Council’s land use division with more resources and staff, Johnson seemed to want a heavier hand in local development projects, or land use applications, where the previous speaker tended to almost completely defer to the local Council member’s sentiments and negotiations. Johnson, however, has implied that he won’t allow the same kind of leeway that Mark-Viverito gave to members to oppose or reject proposals in their districts, which, under Mayor Bill de Blasio, include a number of neighborhood rezonings that can shape the landscape and character of neighborhoods for generations.</p> <p>At an event Thursday, hosted by the Center for Community and Ethnic Media at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, Johnson explained his approach, saying that he would involve himself in land use applications if a local Council member requested it, but at the same time, would not allow any single member to act as an obstacle to a worthwhile project with benefits for a community.</p> <p>When asked about the ongoing land use process for a proposed rezoning in Inwood in Uptown Manhattan, Johnson first admitted that he knew little about the ins-and-outs of the particular plan. “On the Inwood rezoning, this is not me in any way shirking, but I honestly, I haven’t been briefed on it,” he said, when panellist Debralee Santos from the Manhattan Times asked him about his general approach to land use issues and specifically two rezonings, a recently completed one in the Jerome Avenue corridor in the Bronx and the ongoing one in Inwood in Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez’s district.</p> <p>“I’ve been so crazy dealing with so many other things across the city,” Johnson added. “I see people tweet at me about it, and I’ve read some articles about it, but I have not had the opportunity to sit down with Councilman Rodriguez or the other elected officials and have a conversation about it.”</p> <p>In the past few years, the City Council and the de Blasio administration have come face-to-face with the fact that even with rezonings that invest hundreds of millions of dollars in a neighborhood, that have gone through months of negotiations and received hundreds of hours of testimony and feedback from communities, there are inevitably those who remain dissatisfied. In some cases, Council members capitulate to community backlash, killing a project, but often they do not.</p> <p>For instance, in 2015 East New York became home to the administration’s first successful neighborhood rezoning. Despite Council Member Rafael Espinal negotiating commitments of more than $260 million in investments from the city as well as a slew of other community benefits -- besides the affordable housing and economic development that undergirded the rezoning -- a segment of housing advocates argued that the rezoning would continue, and exacerbate, the nascent gentrification of the district. (The advocates even threatened to organize a challenge to Espinal’s 2017 reelection bid but did not follow through.) Espinal approved the project in the end, claiming advocates did not recognize the quality of the deal coming to the long-ignored community.</p> <p>But, in 2016, owing to vocal community resentment, Council Member Rodriguez announced his opposition to a proposed development, also in Inwood, the day before it was scheduled to be voted on by the Council’s land use committee. The project was unanimously rejected by the committee based on Rodriguez’s verdict.</p> <p>It was different, however, for Council Member Laurie Cumbo, who faced widespread criticism for vacillating on the proposed redevelopment of the Bedford Union Armory in Crown Heights. Eventually, faced with angry residents and a strong primary challenger, Cumbo rejected the proposal before her, which forced the city to amend its plans to later have them approved.</p> <p>On Thursday at CUNY, Santos pointed to the Inwood Library as one controversial aspect of the larger rezoning, where residents of the neighborhood have called for an entirely separate land-use application for the building. “That’s a local institution that people believe should merit its own process altogether, its own ULURP [Uniform Land Use Review Procedure],” Santos pointed out.</p> <p>“So I don’t know anything about it,” Johnson conceded. “But I’m happy to work with the stakeholders involved and find a solution. My general principle is, unless the rezoning or the land use action that’s proposed is totally off-the-wall and doesn’t make any sense or if there is no community buy-in, which it may be this case in Inwood from what I’m seeing, I try to get to a place of ‘yes.’”</p> <p>Johnson recounted his own experience with the rezoning of Pier 40 in his Manhattan district in 2016, where in the end, he managed to extract $100 million worth of investments from the city while creating affordable housing and senior housing. “I worked on it for two-and-a-half years. There were many places where I wanted to walk away from that rezoning, it was frustrating me so much that I didn’t think I’d be able to close the deal. But in the end, I always work to get to a place of ‘yes,’” he said.</p> <p>Would he get similarly involved in the Inwood rezoning, Santos asked.</p> <p>“If I’m asked by the local elected official,” Johnson said. It’s unclear to what extent Johnson will assert himself if asked by other parties in a negotiation, such as the mayor’s office or real estate developers.</p> <p>And though he noted that most rezonings go through a negotiated process, and most of them are approved, he said he will not allow a local Council member to determine the fate of any single land-use process that he deems worthy. “One thing I said is, is there member deference involved? Of course, there’s member deference involved,” he said. “But there’s no veto. No one gets a veto. There’s a difference between deference and a veto. If someone is opposing a project or asking for things that are totally unreasonable, someone needs to step in and say, ‘that doesn’t make any sense.’”</p> <p>Though Johnson said he was not up to speed on the Inwood rezoning, in a statement to Gotham Gazette, Council Member Rodriguez indicated he is pleased with the speaker’s support thus far in the process.</p> <p>“Speaker Johnson and the Land Use Committee staff have been very supportive throughout the rezoning,” Rodriguez said. “Land Use has taken the time to understand the needs of the community the council members share. They understand council members have the best knowledge of the whole population in their districts and are seeking an optimal outcome.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
‘Done Deal Democrats’ Push Misguided Land Grab 2016-12-12T05:00:00+00:00 2016-12-12T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6662:done-deal-democrats-push-misguided-land-grab Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/friends_of_roosevelt_park.jpg" alt="friends of roosevelt park" width="600" height="402" /></p> <p>photo: Friends of Roosevelt Park</p> <hr /> <p>New York City is ruled by political elite, based in the Democratic Party. Elected officials regularly run unopposed or win re-election by margins that approach those of one-party regimes. They nominate and appoint community board members. They endorse each other’s re-election. They co-sponsor bills, attend party fundraisers, and work together to restrict the citizenry’s right to be heard and influence policy. Nowhere is this anti-democratic approach clearer than in the case of the American Museum of Natural History’s planned annexation in Margaret Mead Green and Teddy Roosevelt Park.</p> <p>The museum, a private institution, wants to erect a giant, gas-fueled building in a public park. And, its “done deal” allies in government are all-too-willing to help them. For a year, the Manhattan borough president, the local City Council member, the community board chair, the city comptroller, the local Assembly member, and the city parks commissioner have told everyone that the project was, “a done deal.” Without a public hearing, before any community board dialogue, these “representatives” spread the word that the annexation was a forgone fact.</p> <p>However, park preservationists, environmentalists, educators and neighbors have objected. They describe the plan as toxic, because, well, the museum wants to build on top of a toxic waste site and because it would spew millions of metric tons of carbon dioxide into the air. More than 4,000 people have picketed and signed petitions arguing against this eco-cide. They’ve pointed out that the neighborhood is already glutted with cultural institutions (e.g. Lincoln Center, the Historical Society, the Manhattan Children’s Museum) while other neighborhoods suffer a lack of cultural resources (The Bronx has only two museums for a borough of 1.5 million people.).</p> <p>Those who live closest to the site worry about an additional 800,000 people each year flooding the tiny park’s pathways to gain access to a new gift shop, restaurant, and event space. Finally, everyone became outraged when a local journalist revealed that the Done Deal Democrats had appropriated nearly $100 million of taxes for this project.</p> <p>Opponents of the plan went to Community Board 7 to urge its neutrality and to request that information from both sides of the issue be placed on the board’s website. Instead, the only material that appeared was provided by the museum, which wrote glowingly about its own proposal. For nine months, opponents of the plan asked the board to hold a public hearing before the city budget was approved and millions more allocated. Instead, the board officially joined a “working group” organized by and at the museum, so it could work out the kinks of the plan’s implementation.</p> <p>And, when the community board finally got around to holding a hearing on the plan, the museum was allotted 45 minutes to make its case while opponents were given one minute each.</p> <p>How has the museum been able to secure such enthusiastic support for this project from these public servants? Why have all these government officials been so generous with our tax dollars? In a word, lobbyists.</p> <p>The museum has hired at least half-a-dozen lobbying firms to ply millions from our state and local treasuries. Seems surreal but true: public servants giving a private institution an enormous sum of our money to plunder our public asset, Teddy Roosevelt Park. The process is well-documented on the website of the state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) and OpenSecrets.org. One firm is hired to influence the borough president, the mayor, the comptroller and the City Council. Another is hired to lobby government officials at the state level. And, yet a third set of influence-peddlers work on the federal level.</p> <p>In an age when cities around the world are striving to reduce greenhouse gases, our city is indulging this fossil foolishness of the museum’s expansion. In an era when citizens are manifesting a gross distrust of government, New York City is operating like an autocracy. And, in a neighborhood rife with segregation and inequality, these Done Deal Democrats are reinforcing those disparities.<br />In the names of Teddy Roosevelt and Margaret Mead, we can do better.</p> <p>***<br />Dr. Cary Goodman has lived on the Upper West Side for four decades and has been active in the community throughout.</p> <p>

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

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/friends_of_roosevelt_park.jpg" alt="friends of roosevelt park" width="600" height="402" /></p> <p>photo: Friends of Roosevelt Park</p> <hr /> <p>New York City is ruled by political elite, based in the Democratic Party. Elected officials regularly run unopposed or win re-election by margins that approach those of one-party regimes. They nominate and appoint community board members. They endorse each other’s re-election. They co-sponsor bills, attend party fundraisers, and work together to restrict the citizenry’s right to be heard and influence policy. Nowhere is this anti-democratic approach clearer than in the case of the American Museum of Natural History’s planned annexation in Margaret Mead Green and Teddy Roosevelt Park.</p> <p>The museum, a private institution, wants to erect a giant, gas-fueled building in a public park. And, its “done deal” allies in government are all-too-willing to help them. For a year, the Manhattan borough president, the local City Council member, the community board chair, the city comptroller, the local Assembly member, and the city parks commissioner have told everyone that the project was, “a done deal.” Without a public hearing, before any community board dialogue, these “representatives” spread the word that the annexation was a forgone fact.</p> <p>However, park preservationists, environmentalists, educators and neighbors have objected. They describe the plan as toxic, because, well, the museum wants to build on top of a toxic waste site and because it would spew millions of metric tons of carbon dioxide into the air. More than 4,000 people have picketed and signed petitions arguing against this eco-cide. They’ve pointed out that the neighborhood is already glutted with cultural institutions (e.g. Lincoln Center, the Historical Society, the Manhattan Children’s Museum) while other neighborhoods suffer a lack of cultural resources (The Bronx has only two museums for a borough of 1.5 million people.).</p> <p>Those who live closest to the site worry about an additional 800,000 people each year flooding the tiny park’s pathways to gain access to a new gift shop, restaurant, and event space. Finally, everyone became outraged when a local journalist revealed that the Done Deal Democrats had appropriated nearly $100 million of taxes for this project.</p> <p>Opponents of the plan went to Community Board 7 to urge its neutrality and to request that information from both sides of the issue be placed on the board’s website. Instead, the only material that appeared was provided by the museum, which wrote glowingly about its own proposal. For nine months, opponents of the plan asked the board to hold a public hearing before the city budget was approved and millions more allocated. Instead, the board officially joined a “working group” organized by and at the museum, so it could work out the kinks of the plan’s implementation.</p> <p>And, when the community board finally got around to holding a hearing on the plan, the museum was allotted 45 minutes to make its case while opponents were given one minute each.</p> <p>How has the museum been able to secure such enthusiastic support for this project from these public servants? Why have all these government officials been so generous with our tax dollars? In a word, lobbyists.</p> <p>The museum has hired at least half-a-dozen lobbying firms to ply millions from our state and local treasuries. Seems surreal but true: public servants giving a private institution an enormous sum of our money to plunder our public asset, Teddy Roosevelt Park. The process is well-documented on the website of the state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) and OpenSecrets.org. One firm is hired to influence the borough president, the mayor, the comptroller and the City Council. Another is hired to lobby government officials at the state level. And, yet a third set of influence-peddlers work on the federal level.</p> <p>In an age when cities around the world are striving to reduce greenhouse gases, our city is indulging this fossil foolishness of the museum’s expansion. In an era when citizens are manifesting a gross distrust of government, New York City is operating like an autocracy. And, in a neighborhood rife with segregation and inequality, these Done Deal Democrats are reinforcing those disparities.<br />In the names of Teddy Roosevelt and Margaret Mead, we can do better.</p> <p>***<br />Dr. Cary Goodman has lived on the Upper West Side for four decades and has been active in the community throughout.</p> <p>

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

</p>
Bill Would Require City Planner at Each Community Board 2015-03-30T18:52:44+00:00 2015-03-30T18:52:44+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5662:bill-would-require-city-planner-at-each-community-board-kallos Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/kallos_ops_hearing.jpg" alt="kallos ops hearing" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">CM Kallos at a committee hearing (photo: William Alatriste)</span></p> <hr /> <p>New York City Council Member Ben Kallos, a Manhattan Democrat, will introduce a bill Tuesday to provide a professional urban planner to each of the 59 community boards in the city.</p> <p>The bill, Kallos said, is a move to empower communities in the city's land use process. Speaking exclusively to Gotham Gazette, Kallos said, "The City has two main powers. The first is over budget and the community boards have a say in that. They make their budget priorities known. The other is land use. In order to give community boards power and a voice in that land use process, they need skilled technical help."</p> <p>Kallos' bill would create a planning department in each of the five borough president offices which would staff at least one planner for each community board. There are 12 boards in Manhattan, 12 in the Bronx, 14 in Queens, 18 in Brooklyn and three in Staten Island.</p> <p>The council member cited a number of concerns which prompted the bill, including lack of support from the City Planning Commission and the proposed <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5574-new-phase-of-east-midtown-rezoning-prioritizes-public-benefits" target="_blank">rezoning of East Midtown</a>. "This is the age of the super-scraper," Kallos said. "I'll be getting a 900 foot tall building in my district soon. Development is running rampant. Developers are making billions off new buildings and communities don't really have a say. The idea is to put planning back in 'community planning board' as it once was and empower the community boards."</p> <p>Currently, community boards only play an advisory role in any zoning or planning issues. Land use deals that need City Council approval typically hinge on the decision of the council member whose district is home to the project. The City's Planning Department falls under the mayor and community boards that disagree with the administration may not get the planning support they need, Kallos said. Changes in the city's zoning laws <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2015/02/8562626/city-allow-taller-buildings-reduce-parking-requirements" target="_blank">proposed last month</a> by Mayor Bill de Blasio will affect the entire city and Kallos believes the community boards may not necessarily have the expertise required to deal with them. The law would require the City to appropriate funding through each borough president's office and the borough presidents would have a say in the new hires, as they do with community board member appointment.</p> <p>Kallos will introduce the bill at <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5659-the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-march-30" target="_blank">Tuesday's full-body Stated Meeting</a> of the City Council and it will head to the governmental operations committee, which he chairs.</p> <p>The demand for technical help already exists. At a recent hearing of the governmental operations committee, representatives of Manhattan community boards called for an increased budget for professional hires, although not specifically for planners. "This law is in line with that," said Kallos.</p> <p>***<br />by Samar Khurshid, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/samarkhurshid" target="_blank">@samarkhurshid</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/kallos_ops_hearing.jpg" alt="kallos ops hearing" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">CM Kallos at a committee hearing (photo: William Alatriste)</span></p> <hr /> <p>New York City Council Member Ben Kallos, a Manhattan Democrat, will introduce a bill Tuesday to provide a professional urban planner to each of the 59 community boards in the city.</p> <p>The bill, Kallos said, is a move to empower communities in the city's land use process. Speaking exclusively to Gotham Gazette, Kallos said, "The City has two main powers. The first is over budget and the community boards have a say in that. They make their budget priorities known. The other is land use. In order to give community boards power and a voice in that land use process, they need skilled technical help."</p> <p>Kallos' bill would create a planning department in each of the five borough president offices which would staff at least one planner for each community board. There are 12 boards in Manhattan, 12 in the Bronx, 14 in Queens, 18 in Brooklyn and three in Staten Island.</p> <p>The council member cited a number of concerns which prompted the bill, including lack of support from the City Planning Commission and the proposed <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5574-new-phase-of-east-midtown-rezoning-prioritizes-public-benefits" target="_blank">rezoning of East Midtown</a>. "This is the age of the super-scraper," Kallos said. "I'll be getting a 900 foot tall building in my district soon. Development is running rampant. Developers are making billions off new buildings and communities don't really have a say. The idea is to put planning back in 'community planning board' as it once was and empower the community boards."</p> <p>Currently, community boards only play an advisory role in any zoning or planning issues. Land use deals that need City Council approval typically hinge on the decision of the council member whose district is home to the project. The City's Planning Department falls under the mayor and community boards that disagree with the administration may not get the planning support they need, Kallos said. Changes in the city's zoning laws <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2015/02/8562626/city-allow-taller-buildings-reduce-parking-requirements" target="_blank">proposed last month</a> by Mayor Bill de Blasio will affect the entire city and Kallos believes the community boards may not necessarily have the expertise required to deal with them. The law would require the City to appropriate funding through each borough president's office and the borough presidents would have a say in the new hires, as they do with community board member appointment.</p> <p>Kallos will introduce the bill at <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5659-the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-march-30" target="_blank">Tuesday's full-body Stated Meeting</a> of the City Council and it will head to the governmental operations committee, which he chairs.</p> <p>The demand for technical help already exists. At a recent hearing of the governmental operations committee, representatives of Manhattan community boards called for an increased budget for professional hires, although not specifically for planners. "This law is in line with that," said Kallos.</p> <p>***<br />by Samar Khurshid, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/samarkhurshid" target="_blank">@samarkhurshid</a></p>