Monthly Archives: June 2010

Matthew Goldstein: NYC Needs Real Estate Development

Matthew Goldstein

Chairman Matthew Goldstein used a discussion about community benefits agreements (CBAs) at the charter revision commission’s June 24 Land Use forum in Queens to voice his conviction that real estate development and growth are essential to New York City’s economic future. He did not use the session to reveal which issues his commission will place on November’s ballot.

CBAs are “side deals” by which a real estate developer may agree to provide a public benefit to a community group, e.g., jobs, loans, unrelated contracts, in return for its support of a project. They are unregulated private agreements, negotiated by private parties outside of the ULURP framework, and can substantially increase a project’s cost. Continue reading

Charter Revision: Hints of What’s to Come

Matthew Goldstein

Past practice suggests that charter revision chair Matthew Goldstein will use the commission’s June 24 forum on Land Use to signal what his panel will focus on as it moves into summer.

We — and others — have criticized the NYC Charter Revision Commission’s calendar, which delays publication of land use proposals until July. This is too late for most community boards to draw residents to public hearings to comment on any proposed changes. The commission must submit its final proposals to the City Clerk by Labor Day to get them on November’s ballot. Continue reading

Community Boards: A Vicious Circle

Ira B. Harkavy

Ira Harkavy, Florence Nathanson, Esther Lopato and Helen Henkin were community board members back in the day when board membership meant more than echoing the mayor’s priorities or being ignored.

The three women are gone; Harkavy, who quit as chairman of Brooklyn Community Board 14 to run for the bench, is retired from a long and respected judicial career during which he inspired a Hollywood film by sentencing a landlord to live in his own tenement.

All of them were “plugged in” (Harkavy, for example, concurrently led CB14, the Madison Jewish Center, the Brooklyn College campus foundation and alumni association, the Brooklyn College Hillel House, and the Midwood Development Corporation); all adhered to the highest ethical standards; all commanded respect and all used their formidable intellectual and moral powers to ensure that City Hall paid attention to the needs of Flatbush and Midwood, the neighborhoods their board comprised. Continue reading

Brad Hoylman Responds

Brad Hoylman

Brad Hoylman took the time to phone us to explain his June 10 Charter Revision Commission invited testimony. He asked why we oppose his proposal — indistinguishable from that of Manhattan BP Scott Stringer — to force each community board to hire a planner to provide technical support on land use, transportation, liquor license, or sidewalk café issues.

Hoylman said having such a planner on staff would give community boards “teeth” — in our view, an overstatement — and would help boards “inhibit new development” as well as support it. Taking his assertions at face value, we tried to explain our concerns. Continue reading

Who is Brad Hoylman?

Brad Hoylman

The strongest push to hobble NYC’s community boards by forcing them to hire dedicated planners and revert to a narrower “planning board” role (an idea we strongly oppose) came not from Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, but from the former chairman of Manhattan Community Board 2, Brad Hoylman, who was one of five invited “experts” who spoke at the Charter Revision Commission’s June 10 session on Government Structure in Staten Island. Why the commission chose Hoylman as a featured guest became evident upon examination of his credentials. Continue reading

How to Restructure City Government

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio

Does it really make sense to cast separate ballots for a mayor and the official who succeeds him in event of mayoral disability (right now, the public advocate)? Or should the charter be revised so voters can cast a single ballot for a team, as they do for President and Vice-President, or for New York State’s governor and lieutenant governor?

One female Democratic district leader in Brooklyn who asked to remain unidentified thinks the team idea makes sense: “Two peas in a pod works fine for 60 days. Right now, it’s the public advocate until the special election, and if he doesn’t know what’s going on with the mayor, you have chaos.” Continue reading

Charter Revision: Speaking Truth to Power

Father Richard Gorman

It took four hours until anyone — expert witnesses, charter commission members, or one of the evening’s 21 informal speakers — finally zeroed in on why voter participation has plummeted in NYC over the last two decades:

“Maybe the reason why people don’t vote is they don’t think it’s worth the trouble of going to vote for a government that increasingly shuts them out.”

The speaker was Father Richard Gorman, chairman of Community Board 12 in The Bronx. Unfortunately, by the time he spoke, at 10:05 PM, the panelists, half the commissioners, and almost all the main-stream press, had deserted the Lehman College auditorium. The few audience members who lingered were mayoral aides or one-issue advocates for non-partisan elections. Continue reading