Anyone who cares about New York City governance is now closely following the latest effort to update our local constitution, known as the Charter of the City of New York. A series of hearings in each of the five boroughs will soon be held where the public is welcome to participate in this important task. The Charter Revision Commission is an invaluable tool to implement new reforms to local government and, if properly utilized, can foster New York City’s growth and prosperity.
In fact, the Charter Revision Commissions holds a special place for me personally – it was the 1989 Charter Revision Commission, which abolished the Board of Estimate, and redefined the City Council, that inspired me to pursue an opportunity with the new Council early in my career. Years later, I had the privilege of serving as Vice Chair of the 2010 Charter Revision Commission.
Last month, the Real Estate Board of New York offered our testimony to the Charter Commission with specific ways to improve city government. REBNY recommends that the reforms include empowering the City Planning Commission (CPC), streamlining special permit processes and reorganizing Community Boards to better serve the city.
The Charter Commission should consider mandating a year-round schedule for Community Boards. A year-round meeting schedule would ensure that these Boards meet once a month with no summer recess. Community Boards are an essential lifeblood in our city, and extended periods without meeting can delay land use decisions and other business-related applications that are essential to driving economic growth. It is simply too important of a responsibility to take the summers off.
Second, empowering the CPC makes sense because it has always been an advocate for smart, sustainable growth and development. The Charter Commission should restore CPC’s ability to develop a capital budget, as was the case prior to 1977. CPC should also be empowered to make final determinations on all administrative land-use permits, which can include certifications, authorizations and special permits. This would allow for an expedited and more contextual process that would benefit the whole city – a win-win.
New York must redesign the way in which it designates landmarks and historic districts. The current process is burdensome, convoluted and an impediment to housing production in these designated areas. Of course, historic preservation itself is an important contribution to the quality of city life, however, the way this process is currently structured has curtailed the development of affordable housing. It has even contributed to economic segregation in certain neighborhoods where historic preservation has occurred.
These undesirable outcomes are the result of making landmark decisions in isolation from other public policy needs – but the Commission can fix that. REBNY recommends that the Landmark Preservation Commission should become a division of the Department of City Planning to ensure that preservation occurs in the context of broader citywide needs.
These common-sense solutions would significantly streamline various processes and empower critical committees to make decisions in the best interest of New York.
We appreciate the Commission’s thoughtful decision to defer the more complex proposed changes to the City Charter and allow for more time to give all proposals appropriate consideration. My own personal experience with the Charter Commission has had a big impact on my life and I want to thank the members of this year’s Commission for the time and dedication they are devoting towards improving our local government.
In Other REBNY News
Learn from Vickey Barron of The Vickey Barron Team, ranked #2 in Manhattan and #8 in the country, at our Residential Brokerage Breakfast Club Seminar: Vickey Barron’s Toolkit – Creating a Referral Machine on Tuesday, August 14th from 9:30 to 11:00 a.m. at the Bernard H. Mendik Education Center. Vickey will share best practices for optimizing and customizing your pipeline of referrals (94% of Vickey’s business came from referrals in 2017). Each participant will walk away with a year’s worth of custom marketing materials and a calendar for implementation, learn best practices for creating their brand from someone with over 20 years of expertise in the field, and refine their own referral strategies. Register now at go.rebny.com/VickeyBarron.
This summer, REBNY is collaborating with the Coalition for the Homeless, the nation’s largest advocacy and direct service organization helping homeless men, women, and children. Help us make a difference by donating t-shirts (large sizes preferred), socks, and jeans. Even the smallest effort can provide comfort to those in need. Drop-off your donations for our 10th Annual Summer Donation Drive at 570 Lexington Avenue, Lower Level Mailroom, Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. To make a monetary donation, please email ResidentialBrokerage@rebny.com.
REBNY Residential Brokerage Division Members: Review your sales and rental transactions for the Residential Brokerage Division’s Deal of the Year Contest, and nominate your outstanding colleagues for their professional achievements. Award submissions are due on Friday, September 14th by 5:00 p.m. All awards will be presented at the 30th Annual Residential Brokerage Deal of the Year Charity and Awards Gala on Tuesday, October 30th at the Plaza Hotel. Buy your tickets now. Email ResidentialBrokerage@rebny.com to purchase a table of 10 at a discounted rate and/or to learn about gala sponsorship opportunities. Event proceeds support the REBNY Member in Need Fund, which provides grants to residential agents who have experienced unexpected illness or financial hardship.
REBNY’s Annual Fall Luncheon is moving to the Ziegfeld Ballroom in Midtown. Join more than 500 commercial real estate professionals on Tuesday, October 23rd for another powerhouse panel discussion and invaluable networking at one of NYC’s top, up-and-coming venues. Don’t miss out! Mark your calendar and look out for updates on event content. Email CommercialBrokerage@rebny.com for sponsorship opportunities and more information.