Opinion: Planning perspectives


We are inclined to think that the times we live in are the best of times or worst of times, but the takeaway is that we don’t write as well as Charles Dickens.

What most distinguishes humans from other species is our ability to contemplate, and imagine the future. Rust Cohle would call this an evolutionary misstep, but it is a step we have taken nonetheless. Part of what distinguishes New York and like cities from the vast expanse of our planet is our perceived need and inclination to contemplate and plan our built environment through zoning text, the Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP), the Department of City Planning (DCP) the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), the Department of Design and Construction (DDC) and District Needs Assessments.

I could get into a whole host of perspectives on these processes, but for the sake of space and time, I’ll say it boils down to being inadequate but better than nothing. 

However, New York City shouldn’t accept a “better than nothing” planning process and, post-pandemic, it can’t afford one. As I’ve said before, the 2021 elections are incredibly important to our city’s future, but how we revise the structure in which the winners of the 2021 elections will operate is incredibly important.

Fortunately I’m not the only person who thinks this as next week, on Feb. 23rd the City Council will be holding a hearing on this exact matter. The hearing will revolve around the council’s “Planning Together” report which looks to update the planning process with the intention of helping correct neighborhood disparities and moving toward a more equitable city. 

The plan remains vague and I firmly believe it needs to give more leverage to citywide needs through tangible mechanisms as opposed to assuming, or hoping, that the council doesn’t, as it does now through unwritten rule, just defer to the local member in issues impacting all five boroughs. 

But to be clear, at this point, that vagueness isn’t a bug — it’s a feature that allows people to chime in and contribute to the discussion. 

So, if you’re interested, and have time to: read the plan, watch the hearing, and ask your representative about it.

P.S I have to thank Historic Districts Council’s Simeon Bankoff for letting me know about the Feb. 23rd council hearing.