(NEW YORK, NEW YORK)— In the past few months, the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) is one of the many mundane bureaucracies to take the back seat as local politicians try to contain COVID, mitigate economic fallout, re-balance the city’s budget, and grapple with months long protests condemning the racist violence of America’s police forces and calling to defund the NYPD. With New York recently past Stage 3 of reopening and anticipating Stage 4, many developers are saying that it is now time to focus on restarting the ULURP process so that their projects can proceed. They claim that the new projects will create jobs and help restart the economy.
ULURP has been suspended since late March, in direct response to the COVID-19 panic. ULURP is the bureaucratic bane of many developers, stalling projects by many months while rarely actually denying developer demands, much to the outrage of many local activists. The lengthy process requires the City Council, the City Planning Commission, the Borough President of the affected borough, and the mayor to convene multiple times to discuss the plans and vote. There are also mandatory public hearings. Any meetings in the near future would likely have to be remote.
With limited time to devote to ULURP at the moment, Vicki Been, deputy mayor for housing and economic development, has outlined the criteria to determine which projects will receive priority consideration, The City reports. Been’s demands orient around the considerations: “Does this project provide services, infrastructure, housing in a neighborhood disproportionately affected by COVID? Does it bring infrastructure that can help the city recover? Does it bring jobs and what kind of jobs and to what neighborhoods?” These considerations are particularly important at this sensitive time when racial tensions are high. Rezoning decisions that tout new jobs also often speed up gentrification and push out low income residents, pitting developers against locals.
Already the prioritized projects have attracted controversy. Using the criteria outlined by Been, the city selected the Gowanus rezoning as one of its first priorities. It has also already ignited a predictable spat between local advocates, who are demanding more commitments to neighborhood improvement before supporting the rezoning request, and developers, who, this time, find themselves aided by local “YIMBY” activists. These roiling contentions can neither be resolved nor even given public hearing until ULURP begins again, which is perhaps best illustration of why developers feel that ULURP hearings must be restarted soon.