Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Voice Of Gowanus: NYC's 'Virtual' Hearings For The Proposed Neighborhood Rezoning Will Deprive Community Of Due Process Rights And Violate City Charter Requirements For ULURP

Voice Of Gowanus, a coalition of Gowanus-area residents and  civic associations, just sent a letter to New York City Planning Commission Chair Marisa Lago regarding the proposed Gowanus rezoning.

The group has been very vocal about its concerns relating to the rezoning, the largest undertaken by the De Blasio administration so far. 

To become law, the rezoning needs to go through a months-long public Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, a process mandated by the New York City Charter.  The charter requires public hearings at several stages of the ULURP process be held in places of public assembly in a physical location. 

VoG wants to make absolutely sure that Gowanus residents will have the same opportunity as all other New York City neighborhoods that have been rezoned. In the letter to Lago, the group points out that an attempt by the city to proceed with "virtual" public hearings for the proposed Gowanus rezoning while it is not possible to hold safe, large-scale, in-person public hearings will violate the city charter's requirements for ULURP.

From VoG:
"Now is not the time to proceed with an illegitimate and diluted land use review process for a major rezoning that would dramatically impact our neighborhood.  Community members are entitled by law to a process that protects their rights to hold public officials accountable in the same room - and in the same manner as other neighborhoods that have previously faced rezonings."

Below is the letter sent by the group to Marisa Lago yesterday.

August 4, 2020

Chair Marisa Lago City Planning Commission New York City

Dear Chair Marisa Lago:

Many in our Brooklyn community are concerned that the city’s land use process is set to re-open without adequate consideration of existing land use law. Together our group of concerned independent community members calls upon the Department of City Planning and the City Planning Commission to cease any further consideration of the proposed Gowanus rezoning-and any other New York City-led neighborhood rezonings-until conditions permit holding safe, large-scale, in-person public hearings. This pause must include holding off on certifying any City-led neighborhood rezoning.

Any further actions undertaken by the Department of City Planning and the City Planning Commission to certify the proposed Gowanus rezoning this month that would lead to so-called “virtual” Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) public hearings starting in September—a civic process that has never before been carried out “virtually” in any previous New York City-led neighborhood rezoning—would constitute a violation of ULURP.

“Virtual” ULURP hearings would not be uniform in light of what the law requires. The city charter provision regarding ULURP procedures requires that public hearings for ULURP at the community board level occur in a physical location (as does the provision about borough president hearings during ULURP):

“A community board public hearing shall be held at a convenient place of public assembly chosen by the board and located within its community district. If in the community board's judgment there is no suitable and convenient place within the community district, the hearing shall be held at a centrally located place of public assembly within the borough.”

Given the in-person civic process other communities have been afforded to date when facing neighborhood rezonings, “virtual” ULURP hearings would unfairly undercut the procedural rights of community members in greater Gowanus and any other neighborhood facing a rezoning, and would prevent them from holding their elected and appointed officials accountable.

The virtual hearings and practices recently rushed into use by other City agencies indicate that, especially in the context of ULURP for an entire neighborhood, attendees’ collective power would be severely diluted through the use of an online platform. Equitable access to technological devices and high-speed internet is simply presumed by the City but a resourced plan has not been offered or executed to ensure access for all community members. Structurally diluting a community’s ability to hold power accountable during the current Covid-19 crisis, when the future of our entire neighborhood and its interconnected communities is at stake, is unacceptable. It does not conform to the letter or the spirit of what ULURP requires; even if more individuals could theoretically participate in “virtual” hearings, community power to confront politicians collectively in a room is blunted by an internet-only process. We urge you in the strongest possible terms to abandon plans for this illegitimate and illegal “virtual” ULURP process that will effectively deprive our community members of their due process rights.

Please also find enclosed an Op-Ed co-authored by State Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon published in yesterday’s edition of City Limits that details further the widespread community concerns regarding “virtual” ULURP hearings and any certification that would lead to such hearings.

Voice of Gowanus

Opinion: Fairness Requires that NYC Pause the Gowanus Rezoning


Anonymous said...

Where is this democracy going? Such a slippery slope, next thing we know all public protests will be required to take place on ZOOM!

And could you imagine the government making it necessary to have a computer and online services in order to VOTE? Is this the future anyone would agree to?

Anonymous said...

Remote rezoning hearings would be able to be challenged legally. What's the rush? With so many other issues facing NYC due to COVID, is this REALLY a priority? Or is this pressure developer driven? Right now people are fleeing NYC, so the argument of needing more housing is disingenuous, to say the least.

Anonymous said...

the city is in no shape to be turning down real revenue

Anonymous said...

9:21 What revenue would the City be getting out of Gowanus Rezoning? The developers are getting tax breaks, tax exemptions for decades! PLEEZ. And don't give me the crap about this is going to be providing much needed affordable housing, either. That's another ruse that's being overplayed, and false.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, the idea that the rezoning is going to generate tax revenue in the short term is bogus.

Anonymous said...

DeBlasio is lining his pockets again to help Kushner and friends and taking advantage of COVID 19 to make this happen while more people are going to die. He has no plan for opening school in 3 weeks.... and he is pushing this crap?
He needs to work for Trump.. DEBLASIO RESIGN!!!!

Anonymous said...

Zoom and other kinds of virtual meetings are chaotic. People talking while mute is on, not knowing how to make and respond to sidebar comments, trying to navigate screen options, muddled audio in and out, screen getting funny and blurry at times. With a small group of experienced people, maybe it can be smooth, but not for the general population who may not be used to this and how do you tell everyone, hey, I didn't hear that last part can you please repeat? You're at the mercy of technology, bandwidth, experience. Aspects that are inequal and unequal.

Benjamin Shepard said...

#NoGowanusRezone Five reasons why we oppose rezoning.