By David Brand
A coalition of community advocates gathered last Friday at Manhattan’s Equitable Building to denounce real estate influence in the Department of City Planning and industry ties among agency staff, many of whom have worked in development.
Event organizer Human Scale chose the Equitable Building as the site for symbolic reasons: the 1916 construction of the tower — a ‘super tall’ for its era — prompted the city to create the first zoning code.
The modern zoning code is manipulated, and changes rubber-stamped, by developer-friendly members of the DCP, said organizers from Queens Neighborhoods United, Stop Sunnyside Yards and other local groups.
“Hearings at the City Planning Commission have become kangaroo courts in which Commissioners (most of whom are profoundly connected to the real estate industry) rubber stamp a majority vote along the lines indicated by landlords and developers via their lobby, the Real Estate Board of New York,” the coalition said in a statement. “The foxes are guarding the henhouse at the City Planning Commission.”
Sunnyside Yards, a proposed neighborhood that would be constructed on decking over a huge train yard, would accelerate gentrification and “be a nightmare for Queens,” said organizer Emily Sharpe.
Queens Neighborhoods United organizer Tania Mattos denounced large-scale projects proposed and planned for Queens in spite of resistance from the affected communities.
“We are sick and tired of being displaced,” Mattos said. “We are sick and tired of BIDs pushing street vendors away.”
The advocates also called for an investigation into conflicts related to rezonings of Gowanus, Bushwick, Flatbush and Industry City and the completed rezonings of Inwood, East Harlem and East New York.
DCP spokesperson Joe Marvilli said the agency invests in communities and communicates with the residents.
“These plans go through a detailed, multi-layered democratic process, giving New Yorkers an active role in shaping land use proposals,” Marvilli said. “We look forward to continuing to address affordable housing, job opportunities and infrastructure needs and to make New York a fairer city for all.”