Volume 80, Number 46 | April 21 - 27, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Community Board

Jo Hamilton.

Our ULURP role will be critical on big development projects

By Jo Hamilton

Community Board 2 continues to be one of the busiest community boards in New York City. Each year we are at or near the top of the list for the most sidewalk cafe, liquor license, street fair and landmark applications that need to be reviewed. The board district is bounded by 14th St., Canal St., Bowery/Fourth Ave. and the Hudson River.

Our committees stay busy. In the strong tradition of activism in our neighborhoods, the board’s committees work hard to advocate for such important causes as new schools, more open space, a crackdown on counterfeit vending and pedestrian safety.

The coming year promises to be even more challenging. We have three major development projects coming before us — “N.Y.U. Plan 2031,” the future of the St. Vincent’s site and a proposed rezoning of Hudson Square. Each of these will go through the city process known as ULURP (uniform land use review procedure), and our board has a charter-mandated role to conduct the initial review, and the responsibility to assess these plans’ potential impacts on our community.

In order to be an effective voice for each constituency, we have been educating ourselves about the ULURP process. Last week, we hosted a forum with leaders from four other Manhattan community boards; they shared their insights and experiences, and what we heard was sobering.

Community boards are often faced with two distinct courses of action: We can just say “no” and oppose a development outright, or, we can try to negotiate with a developer to try to seek concessions that could benefit our district. Both approaches have their risks and rewards.

It is certainly true that some projects would be so destructive to the character of a neighborhood that they should never be the subject of any bargaining. The impact of the proposed West Side Stadium a few years ago comes to mind. But unless political support is lined up early, the community board risks winning a short-term battle at the community level, but losing the war. Many of these projects proceed despite a board’s concerns and objections, and the community loses its ability to help shape the outcome. This is what happened with the Trump Riverside South project a decade ago.

Constructive dialogue with a developer can be appealing on the surface. The community gains the opportunity to weigh in on design, density and bulk and advocate for amenities, such as parks, schools and affordable housing. But the downside is that the immediate neighborhood is burdened with having to absorb changes that will forever compromise the area’s quality of life.

Our responsibility is indeed sobering. But I know that each and every board member is committed to working hard and is serious about fully understanding all of the issues involved in all three projects. We are organizing working groups to study all aspects of the applications. We will hold public hearings to ensure that the community has the opportunity to tell us their concerns. We will develop priorities and use them to formulate our response. We will work closely with our elected officials to enlist their support for our positions. And we will articulate with the strongest voice possible our resolutions to the city, to the very end of the process.

But C.B. 2 cannot do any of this without your input and support. We can only win the battles, and the war, if the board and community work together and stand together to protect our historic neighborhoods.

Hamilton is chairperson, Community Board 2

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