The “issues forums” schedule just announced by the New York City Charter Revision Commission will limit public review of any proposed changes to ULURP, the city’s land use process.
This schedule needs to be scrapped.
The commission’s “issues forums,” calendared between May 25 and June 24, will generate charter proposals that won’t even be made public until July — when most New Yorkers have started their vacations, and community boards have gone on summer break.
July and August vacation schedules could stop many New Yorkers from attending public hearings and will undermine the ability of community boards to get public input before commenting on the commission’s proposals, which must be submitted to the City Clerk by September 2 in order to get on November’s ballot.
Like it or not, summer is when many New Yorkers head out of town. That’s why the current city charter calls for the city’s 59 community boards to meet except during July and August. The charter framers didn’t want the boards to be holding public hearings on land use and other significant city issues when many New Yorkers are not around to attend them. Otherwise, major changes could slip through without adequate public review.
But that is precisely what the 2010 charter revision commission seems to be trying to do right now.
By delaying Land Use — its most complicated agenda item — until June 24th, the commission is giving itself as much time as possible to plan its own land use strategy. But this delay will shift community board review into July, when boards will be hard-pressed to satisfy their own charter mandate to hold public hearings before voting on any of the commission’s proposed changes to ULURP, or to its companion environmental review procedure, CEQR.
One charter commissioner, Stephen Fiala, recently intoned about the public’s obligation to get involved in charter revision. And commission chairman Matthew Goldstein repeatedly has announced that it is the commission’s goal to make the 2010 charter revision process as open as possible. The current charter commission schedule will sharply limit such involvement.
The commission should make Land Use the first issue on its issues forums calendar, or decide to remove land use from its 2010 ballot agenda. Land use changes are too important to relegate to the “sleepy time” of summer.