Last Thursday morning, A/E/C professionals from all over New York City gathered at the CUNY Graduate Center in midtown to hear all about NYC’s Future Development Zones. Representatives from the City Council, NYCEDC, Department of City Planning, LIC Core Neighborhood Study, and Jerome Avenue Study joined Mitch Korbey, Partner at Herrick, Feinstein LLP, to discuss details of the various rezoning and redevelopment plans for all five boroughs.
Following a networking breakfast, the program started with an introduction of the plans—highlighting the strategies, drivers, and major benefits of each—then venturing into a conversation about stakeholder involvement—delving into demographics, diversity, socio-economic issues, and even environmental concerns.
Some surprising stats were offered throughout. For instance, did you know that there are no building height limits in Long Island City, except those imposed by the FAA? And that Staten Island alone has a population larger than Miami and Pittsburgh while boasting the highest median income of all the boroughs? That Gowanus was the first planned industrial waterway in the United States? That the Bronx has over 60 distinct neighborhoods in a 43 square-mile radius? That the 7,000 people in the Queensbridge complex represent the nation’s largest concentrated public housing population? Or that the supertall tower at One Vanderbilt will provide over 220 million dollars to Grand Central for transportation infrastructure improvements?
Meanwhile, we learned, NYC is at its population peak of over 8.4 million people, and the city needs real solutions that will balance economic growth with community support and benefits for existing residents. Advocacy groups become immediately concerned when they see rezoning plans, and often with good reason. Neighborhood residents are worried about plans for development along Jerome Avenue because they see similarities to East New York. “There is a sincere lack of trust,” said James Rausse, Director of Planning & Development for the Bronx. “They see rezoning as leading to gentrification leading to them being pushed out. But Jerome Avenue is different than East New York, which is different from East Harlem. Trust and communication is key. ” Thus, the goal is to get the narrative out that new development in the area will include affordable housing, preservation, and a mandatory sustainable development policy. “Is it the right thing,” he continued, “to keep the neighborhood the same? Should we remain the ‘poor Bronx’? We want stable communities where people stay even when they do well.”
Similarly, City Council Member Dan Gorodnick, in discussing the East Midtown Rezoning plan, asserted, “Early stakeholder engagement is pretty important, and if you don’t have it, you’re toast.” In contrast to the current plan, the early proposal for East Midtown was first described to the public in a State of the City address by then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg in January 2012. “There had been no stakeholder involvement,” explained Gorodnick, “and therefore, the community reacted poorly.” This time around, he said, they started fresh, with a 9-month process organized by a task force that represented diverse interests. The Department of City Planning adopted it, and it passed unanimously through the City Council.
Korbey later opened up the discussion to questions from the audience, and they responded with queries about the Amazon Headquarters bid, how to avoid overcapacity, and the repurposing of older building stock—and the answers provided even further insight into the nature of redevelopment in the five boroughs. John Yong, Director of the Queens Office for the LIC Core Neighborhood Study, offered this gem: “[Estimating need] is more of an art than a science; plans need to remain flexible and adaptable. What’s so exciting about planning in New York City is that it’s constantly reinventing itself.”
Check out our image gallery from this Client Panel here!
Still on the fence about attending similar programs? Know that in addition to providing valuable information about new opportunities that you can bring back to your firm, SMPS programs also offer a chance to touch elbows with some of the most influential figures in NYC’s building industry. Speakers typically stick around after the program to shake hands, answer additional questions, and exchange business cards with attendees. With this in mind, imagine the level of access you’ll gain by attending the Annual Principal’s Breakfast, presented by SMPS-NY and PWC on March 13!