Wednesday, February 20, 2008

AIA Kills Drive for Zoning Text Amendments

February 20, 2008

AIA Kills Drive for Zoning Text Amendments
The American Institute of Architects has withdrawn "from formal consideration" its proposed zoning text amendments, according to a post on Queens Crap. The AIA's push for the amendments—which would've increased lot coverage on smaller lots and allowed taller maximum base heights for some buildings in R6 through R10 zones—were criticized by some (most vocally, Queens Councilman Tony Avella) on the grounds that the tweaks hadn't gotten enough of a public airing. In a letter to Planning Chair Amanda Burden, AIA's past and present NYC presidents wrote that they "regret that these suggestions will not come to public hearing at the Commission or at City Council, but strongly urge that efforts go forward to identify and correct inconsistencies and deficiencies in the Zoning Resolution."
Posted by Gabby at 10:34 AM Comments (23) Categories: Zoning
This proposal brought up a number of questions:
What is the role of civic organizations in the NYC public policy discourse? When should they be allowed to speak?

What is the role of community review in proposed changes to public policy? Are statutory provisions enough?

How do you reconcile city-wide needs with individual community needs?
Why is Tony Avella so angry?

What is the new role of the preservationist movement in NYC: staunch supporter of the status quo, or neo-conservative reactionary?

Will architects ever be able to transcend the Scaranno effect?
Posted by:
guest at February 20, 2008 10:57 AM

The comments by 10:57 are probably the most intelligent ones I've seen during the whole back-and-forth. I read the response by the HDC and it was as brief and unilluminating as the material from the AIA. If we're (the royal "we") not capable of a comprehensive conversation about changes to the zoning resolution, does it matter that there wasn't greater public discourse?
Or are we going to develop the zoning code based on fear and other ill-informed emotional responses. So far the latter, to my disappointment.
Posted by:
guest at February 20, 2008 11:20 AM

"Or are we going to develop the zoning code based on fear and other ill-informed emotional responses. So far the latter, to my disappointment."

You may blame that on the non-transparent way the AIA went about this entire charade.
IF they had wanted to truly improve the text for the benefit of all of NYC, then all of NYC should have been able to be better educated by the AIA, not left in the dark.

Knee-jerk reactions form CBOs, Community Boards and City Council were due to the lack of public review that normal zoning changes go through.

Shame on the AIA and DCP for even allowing this to proceed past the drawing board stage without review from outside their insular lobbying group.

Nice of them to withdraw the application. Now let's see how they handle a better informed public whom have many questions and criticisms.
Posted by:
Action Jackson at February 20, 2008 11:58 AM

"Knee-jerk reactions form CBOs, Community Boards and City Council were due to the lack of public review that normal zoning changes go through."

The review process was the same 60 day review that is statutorily required by ULURP. All this language describing the proposal as a behind the scenes effort and "sneaky" was just a red herring from community activists that were too lazy to try and understand the substance of the proposals.

If additional review is necessary then change the statute that requires a 60 day period after a project is certified or referred by the CPC to CBs. But lets be honest and quit trying to make out like the AIA had some affirmative obligation to reach out to you and your cousins 11:58. Thats just wrong.

Now practically, speaking, 10:57 raises a good point "are the statutory provisions enough?" Practically speaking, it doesn't seem like it. The AIA might have had a better reception had they done some pre-application outreach. Its certainly not required, but it might have helped. Then again, most CBs didn't take the time to understand the project in the 60+ days they had. Whos to say they would have tried with more time? Its much easier to assume the worst case scenario and just vote against it because your sick of new buildings in your neighborhood.
Posted by:
guest at February 20, 2008 12:08 PM

You couldn't be more wrong about the CB's involvement, or at least my CB, which voted it down.The AIA came to our CB and gave a detailed explanation, point by point of the plan.We asked the AIA rep detailed questions about the proposal and on each and every point they had it wrong (save the bulkhead and rear dormer provisions, which might have been OK).You can blog and generalize all you want about how uninformed and biased you think the CB's are ... but that's all in your ltd. imagination and under your own preconceived bias.

Plain and simple, the AIA proposals left a LOT of room for unscrupulous developers and architects, of which NYC has a proven stock of, to cheat their way to overdevelop neighborhoods and reverse many changes that the community fought hard to win thru successful rezonings.

If you want to talk about it in details (and not sweeping generalizations) then by all means, go at it.
Posted by: guest at February 20, 2008 12:57 PM

12:08 stole my thunder. (Some of the phraseology even reads like I write; it's kind of spooky.) The review of the AIA-sponsored text amendment followed the same process as the recent yard and street tree amendments proposed by the Department of City Planning. I didn't hear any howling about "process" then, which suggests that it's a false argument now.

As a former member of a community board, and someone who still attends many community board meetings, I can state without equivication that, in general, community boards are poorly informed and frequently biased, often in ways they don't even see.
Posted by:
guest at February 20, 2008 1:22 PM
12:57PM, thank you.

Not only did the AIA present to our Board CB7 in Bklyn), which has several architects and tradesmen on committees (so stuff it! 12:08), I also attended the Brooklyn Boro Board meeting as saw the FIRST presentation.

Both places the AIA members (the lead guy at the Boro Board meeting) could not answer basic questions and were completely defensive.

Basic questions were asked by layman and tradesmen alike, and the AIA had no answers.

Ultimately (and the only honest thing they did) was to admit to the fact the text changes would allow their customers (developers) greater flexibility in maxing FAR (not increasing, maxing) and avoid the costly and time consuming process of going before the BSA. Period, end of story.

The fact that they listened to CBOs, our CB and City Council is a good thing, but too little to late.
I give them credit for withdrawing the application, but that was only after they came under severe pressure and scrutiny. That tells me something was wriong from Day 1.

And to add to 12:08's BS post, zoning text changes do not go through normal ULURP review, that was part of the issue. CBs and BPs are not required to hold public hearings like normal ULURPS, thank God our did (and others in the City).

Just by the fact the AIA was attempting to skate by without due process or review (regardless the application type) was the reason CB7 voted it down on principle, not even going into the detailed flaws of the text changes.

Do a wee-bit of research before you make accusations that CB's (heck BPs) were ill informed and CBOs had no right to weigh in. If I still remember correctly, this is still a democracy were under...for better or worse.
Posted by:
guest at February 20, 2008 1:26 PM

I forgot to add above (to my 1:26pm post) I (and my CBO and CB) were proud to stand beside CM Avella, HDC, MAS and other CBs against this trojan horse. Glad it did not have a change to get through the gates of CPC.
Posted by:
guest at February 20, 2008 1:28 PM

12:57 and 1:26 are obviously the same person. Just another reactionary NIMBY member of the "community" that hates new housing and development, and opposed the proposal based on fear of more "change".

I hope City Planning does the right thing and pushes the proposal forward. A minority of anti--everythings should not dictate the face of the city against the wishes of the majority.
Posted by:
guest at February 20, 2008 3:02 PM

"I hope City Planning does the right thing and pushes the proposal forward"
Uh, have you not read the post? It has been withdrawn. At least us supposed nimbys can read, jeese.

And no, I'm not both 12:57 and 1:26, just like minded.

And who said anything about hating change or new development.
I think you are confusing issues 3:02pm
Posted by:
guest at February 20, 2008 3:09 PM

CCGH, you are hilarious. It's obvious you haven't bothered to read the letter, nor do you have any background knowledge of the situation.

The reality is that City Planning is getting heat from the anti-everythings, so they are backing off for now.

Here's the relevent letter exerpts for the NIMBYs:
Regarding the withdrawal,"We do so at the specific suggestion of City Planning Department staff, to allow for more time for public discussion of the portions of the Zoning Resolution which limit the ability of architects to create good design."

Translation: City Planning is revisiting this in the near future.
Posted by:
guest at February 20, 2008 3:23 PM

12:57 and 1:26, right on. 12:08 is an ignorant hack.
3:02 loses to Godwin's Law by crying NIMBY! NIMBY! NIMBY!!!!!!!!!1!!!ONE!!
I'm so goddamn sick of that crybaby whine.
Posted by: guest at February 20, 2008 3:35 PM

Translation: AIA got such heat from Community Boards and City Council, Recommendations from Borough Boards to change the text, pressure from CBOs and Preservation Organizations (who are also for intelligent design in the City) that City Planning felt forced to ask them to withdraw the application.

I don't know I would add 18 Community Boards, several City Councilmembers, the Brooklyn Borough president, Historic Districts Council, Municipal Arts Society, Queens Civic Congress...etc. in with nimby's who "hate everything."

While I do find myself funny at times, I'm not sure you realize who's doing the laughing now.
Posted by:
guest at February 20, 2008 3:36 PM

CCGH: Of course you are laughing. You live for this. NIMBYs like yourself have no lives and get pleasure out of blocking things and preventing buildings from being built.

I love your laundry list of "talking points", as if the QCC or HDC is influential, representative of the public, or has ever supported anything having to do with design or good government.
You are lying about MAS. They are not in opposition.

18 Community Boards? That means 41 Community Boards did not sign up for your crusade. One Borough President? That means four did not sign up for your crusade. Community Boards are not representative of their communities; they are Boss Tweed zones for political hacks, with a few senior citizens thrown in for good measure. The Bushwick board, for example (Vito's board), is dominated by an ethnicity that departed forty years ago.

The fact that a few "community" groups have the ear of Tony Avella means that there will be further delays, and the issue won't be put to a vote until there is more "community" consultation, which means many months of "reaching out" and appeasing voting members of the council.

Once this consultation ends, the plan will be passed in modified format, and you can commence your crying about more "consultation" and "input", because of course you think we need machine Commnity Board hacks, not architects or planners, to guide the city's zoning text and built form.
Posted by:
guest at February 20, 2008 4:04 PM

Wrong as usual ccgh. See section § 201 of the City Charter.
"Applications for changes in the zoning resolution may be filed by any taxpayer, community board," etc... and "the commission prior to taking action upon any such application shall refer it to the affected community boards or borough boards for a public hearing and recommendation."

The AIA brought it to you and about 30 other CBs to review pursuant to the due process described in the charter and you denied it because they didn't bring it to you sooner. But more importantly you denied it because your a MORON!
Posted by:
guest at February 20, 2008 4:05 PM

The Brooklyn Borough Board voted 16 yea, 6 nay, 3 abstentions to approve the text amendments with modifications. Not quite sure who exactly "ccgh" is referring to.
Posted by:
guest at February 20, 2008 4:07 PM

A. that zoning reso does not apply to text changes. I checked. With the BP's office and DCP.

B. the Borough Board did vote YES, with substantial recommendations on all 6 of the texts.

C. AIA made presentations to 18, not 30 CBs and only after the CBs asked for them. They did not do it voluntarily. I was there.

D. again, this was not a typical ULURP so they were not required to bring it to the CBs, nor did the CB's Land Use Committee have to take it up. Again, check that reso again.

Enough back and forth. We all know they screwed up, could have handled it better and now have withdrawn the app. Hopefully they will have listened to the BP's recommendations and those from the CBs and CBOs.

If so, then they might actually be doing the City a service , and not just their clients. And that's the bottom line here folks. $$$
Posted by:
guest at February 20, 2008 4:51 PM

re: item C ^above^
-and DCP didn't volunteer to make presentations on the yard and street tree text amendments, so your point here is...?
Posted by:
guest at February 20, 2008 5:26 PM

"DCP didn't volunteer to make presentations on the yard and street tree text amendments"
That is the point. text amendments are not full ULURPs.
Thank you for clarifying what I was saying.
Posted by:
guest at February 20, 2008 5:54 PM

Queens Civic Congress is the foremost community group in Queens and proves rather effective at building coalitions. Some of the foremost activists enjoy leadership roles there.
Posted by:
guest at February 21, 2008 12:38 AM

Posted by:
guest at February 21, 2008 8:19 AM

Ew, cut me to the quick with your anonymous comments. Roll and burn shmucks. This proposal screwed the pooch for community-based planning.
Windsor Terrizen
Posted by:
guest at February 21, 2008 8:40 AM

Increasig lot coverage was a bad idea but facade height alignment is a good idea.
Most noteable is R6b, which has a maximum 40ft streetwall - used by DCP to be in context with brownstones. However, most brownstone facades are 42ft-46ft so the infil development is out of character.
Posted by:
guest at February 21, 2008 10:03 AM

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